Thursday, May 19, 2011

Characters Who Grow on You

Blog7When I first took my now-14 year old son to kindergarten, I didn’t completely understand the elementary school carpool line. Actually, I didn’t understand it at all. And there seemed to be a lot of rules that I wasn’t aware of—where to turn in, which entrance was for what grade, where it was acceptable to drop off your child, where it wasn’t.

My very first day in the carpool line, I pulled up to the curb by the sidewalk that led into the school. But I didn’t pull up at the right place. As my son got out of the car, the teaching assistant—a stern-looking older lady—bent to look through my passenger window and fussed, “Excuse me! You’ll need to pull up allllll the way up here in your car. That way more cars can pull up behind you! We don’t have all day to unload!”

She was very indignant at my carpooling ineptitude. I was indignant, too. Here I was, a kindergarten parent with a baby in the backseat….how the heck was I supposed to know how the crazy carpool line worked?

We’ll just say that I started off with a negative impression of this teacher.

Over the years, though, I learned a lot more about the teacher from volunteering at the school. She has an old-fashioned way of phrasing sentences and a dry, sharp wit. She’s extremely well-read and sometimes makes obscure literary references that perfectly match whatever situation we’re in.

She’s now one of my favorite teachers at the school—and I think I like her even better than some other teachers because I so thoroughly disliked her at the beginning.

As a reader, I’ve felt the same way about characters that have grown on me. Particularly if the protagonist and I both share the negative opinion of the supporting character.

I remember, as a kid, thinking that Ben, the gardener in The Secret Garden was a total grouch. Then, as I reader, I found out with Mary that Ben was friends with a robin, was a real lover of nature, and was excited for Mary to start gardening.

Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series was another character that I detested at first, but then found really grew on me.

So I’m not really talking about a character that changes and becomes more likeable, I’m talking about one who stays the same, but has characteristics that make readers eventually, maybe grudgingly, like them.

I was thinking about this the other day in the carpool line, realizing I wanted to write some more characters that a reader can grow to like…because I’ve enjoyed reading them so much that I’d love to try my hand at writing one.

Have you read any characters that grew on you? As a writer, have you written any?