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reading tiger

a short thought on passive characters

Back in the day when I was at the beginning of my writing career and still attending a lot of workshops, I was often criticized for having passive characters. Characters who didn't do enough; they were just buffeted by circumstance.

It was (and is) a fair comment. I will also note that the characters who received this criticism most sharply were all female.

For the record, I mostly ignored this sort of critique except to be annoyed by it. But it nags at me once in a while.

I was thinking about this the other day when contemplating The Lion King.

I mean, talk about a character who just kind of goes with the flow. Who has things happen to him rather than doing things. At least for 90% of the movie! At the very end he does finally take some decisive action, and I guess you can argue that this is his growth arc completed. Nonetheless. I'm just noting that it must be more complicated than "passive characters, ew." I think I've pretty clearly indicated what I think is really going on. Feel free to discuss.

Comments

I would only add that female writers may be part of the mix as well, as I've gotten a fair share of flack for it when my characters tend to be male.

I am not as tough as you about it: I have gone into decades-long tailspins over it where I was convinced that nothing I ever wrote would be of interest to anybody other than myself because my characters were not muscular enough, or something. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm actually on to something and fooey on them.

Sorry for the descent into childish language, but I'm rushing out the house at the moment and can't think of a better way to say it. Probably I'll come back and edit this later if lj lets me.
Yes, I think you're very right about the identity of the writer being a factor as well.
Frodo Baggins is pretty much exemplified by the phrase "when I regained consciousness…"
:)