Friday, March 2, 2012

Truth: How Gray Can Characters Get?

Hey everyone! Welcome to another revealing day at Friday The Thirteeners. I couldn't help but tackle this interesting truth from Kayla, so here goes:



Thanks again, Kayla, for offering such an interesting question! Please feel free to mention other "gray" books or characters in comments. It's so fun to explore the spectrum out there.

Keep submitting those truths & dares, everyone, and have a lovely weekend!
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Natalie Whipple is a YA writer and card-carrying nerd. Her favorite areas of the nerd realm include anime, Korean dramas, good cheese, and playing mmorpgs with her family. She takes pride in writing the weirdest books she can think of, and her novel, TRANSPARENT, will be out Summer 2013 from HarperTeen.

16 comments:

  1. Love this, Natalie! The Curse Worker series is an awesome example of gray areas. Graceling and Blood Red Road are some of my favorite gray characters. Those are definitely the most interesting ones! Heard a great quote last night: "Happy people make for short books." I'd say the same about characters who are either all good or all bad.

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    1. YES! Saba from BLOOD RED ROAD was fantastic. Same for Katsa in GRACELING.

      Some of my favorites include Brimstone (DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE), Eldest (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE + series...his motives become more clear in time), and while he seems all good for the first 4 or 5 books, I have to throw out Dumbledore. Towards the end of the Harry Potter series we learn a lot of things about him that let us see him as a man, not just an invincible wizard. He has a dark past, and even how he uses Harry to accomplish a very necessary good is plagued by shades of gray.

      Great post, Natalie. Really awesome topic.

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    2. Oh totally agree on Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Loved the gray of so many of her characters there! Loved it!

      And awesome post, Natalie!!!! You did good.

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  2. I love this! Thank you for going into depth about this subject and providing many awesome examples. I hate it when the protagonist is too white and the antagonist is too black. Gray is our friend!

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  3. Most characters (and people) think they're doing the right thing. That doesn't mean they are. Like you pointed out with Katniss, we see from the MC's perspective, and that makes us think they ARE doing the right thing.

    In BEHEMOTH, Deryn betrays and lies to people who trust her repeatedly, and it's my favorite book in the series.

    This is off topic, but you look stunning in that picture. :o)

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    1. Aw, thanks, Myrna! And it's true—in YA it often LOOKS like people are doing the right thing because it's so often written in first person. We're more easily convinced of the MCs thinking that way.

      And I love the LEVIATHAN series! Great example!

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  4. So many awesome examples! I really need a few more hours in my day for extra reading time... :)

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  5. I love how you used some of your favourite reads to illustrate your point, Natalie! All interesting characters are both good and bad. Great post!

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  6. You are so right about Castle. He's in a *gang*.
    On the Hunger Games subject, I'd also say President Coin. She's almost as freaky as Snow. *shivers* (Though the fact that her breath smells like breath helps her case...)
    The first character that comes to mind for me is Cadan in Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton. His motives become a little more clear in Wings of the Wicked, but he's still pretty grey. And I love him. =D

    Grey characters are the best. Without them, the book is just you waiting to see how long it'll take for good to triumph. But if there's no good and bad guy, just two grey characters, then there's more there.

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  7. I'm reading Gone With The Wind right now, for the 2nd time, and Scarlett O'Hara is the grayest of the gray. I kind of hate her, mostly. And I kind of admire her. And it's beautiful. I'll take Scarlett's greed and selfishness over a wholesome, flawless character any day, hands down, no question (with the one exception of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.)

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  8. For really, REALLY amazing examples of "gray" characters, I HIGHLY recommend Battlestar Galactica. Everyone is all over the board -- but in a REAL way, not a soap opera way -- and it's AMAZING.

    As for YA books, I would recommend The Sky Is Everywhere for a "gray" protagonist (and lovely writing) as well as The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

    I do think there's a difference between making bad choices and being really and truly GRAY. Katniss, for example, is always driven by a core of "good"-ness and never acts with the intention to cause harm against anyone who is also "good." But the characters in Wuthering Heights, The English Patient, Battlestar, etc... their heroes and heroines consciously decide to do "bad" things to "good" people at times. It's very compelling, and very human.

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    1. Battlestar G! I totally agree. And Wuthering Heights--Heathcliff is just, well, EVIL, really. And yet...I'm in. I'm so in.

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    2. I do agree, Kristan, but I also recall Katniss choosing to use Peeta as comfort during her nightmare fits in Book 2, despite the fact that it could hurt him or mislead him. She does have many good intentions, but I don't think good intentions exempt a character from being gray. It only reveals what they value. A person can have high values and yet do questionable things to uphold those values.

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  9. Loved this post! I've been reading the Song of Ice & Fire series over the last few months, and I'd consider a lot of those characters to be "grey" characters. No one is wholly good or wholly bad, and I think that's what makes them so compelling to read about.

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  10. Great post! I don't think gray characters are homework at all. They always have my full attention because you just never know what their reaction to something will be. I agree that Katniss is a gray character. To this day I still don't know how I feel about her :-)

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