Sunday, January 07, 2007

Writing Lessons From Jack in the Box

A Fascinating Thing happened at Jack in the Box the other day. I sat down for lunch near a rather loud female type of young age. She went on about how difficult a job interview was for "a stinking $12 an hour job" and how the questions seemed like they were targeted at a corporate CEO. What's fascinating is not the whiny nature of this person and what that says about American youth. My interest is also not piqued by the singular perspective on today's job market. No, what is fascinating is the fact that a sniveling, ungrateful, future loser like her never seems to be the main character in a novel. I've read Clancy, Grisham, Koontz, and King and none of their main characters act or talk of think the way this person does.

Why? Most likely it's because she is simply not heroic. Who wants to read about her pedestrian travels through a world that she will always think is stacked against her. Now if there is change of some sort, which is what all stories lead to, then you might have something. But I think any reader would never make it past the first couple of pages. This character type does end up as a minor character and I remember a bit of writing advice from somewhere that states 'every minor character thinks they are the hero' but my bet is that she would not work out as that either.

Jack in the Box can be useful for a few things after all.


Seren said...

You seem to have typecast the poor girl already. 'Snivelling, ungrateful, etc' - isn't that a tad harsh? Are you sure there isn't even a tiny mote of heroism somewhere in her wretched bosom? Perhaps there's a reservoir of talen hidden underneath that whiny exterior. Perhaps she was just having a bad day.

Stick her in another context/situation and you might change your opinon. Now there's a challenge!

Scriptorius Rex said...

Typecasting is my speciality.

seren said...

You quote Koontz, Grisham, Clancy, King - all male, all hero oriented. I can't really imagine such a character existing in one of their tales.

So how would a female writer use this character?

No doubt Jane Austen would use her to excellent effect as an empty-headed, vain and foolish character in contrast to the witty, intelligent, sensitive heroine. Our anti-heroine would probably be the one to elope with the unsuitable male and come to a sticky end raising hordes of children in a hovel when her man cops out of child rearing and ditches her for a younger model; in other words a thoroughly unpleasant end awaits her as an unsuitable role model for other wimmin.