Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#133) -- Pulps Needs Character

Why is (or isn't) characterization important in pulp fiction? 
And how much character development is too much?

Character development is important in any kind of fiction. Period. Now, the question after that becomes to what extent do you want to develop your characters? And that depends on how you want your readers to react to the characters.

Let's take an example.

Any pulp fan knows that Doc Savage is a good guy with upstanding morals and great power.

In some cases, all a reader needs to know is that Doc Savage is a morally good guy with powers beyond that of average men. In other cases, you might want to get your readers' attention by putting Doc Savage in a situation where he is forced to choose between two immoral choices to save the day and face the outcomes of his choice. To me, that makes a more compelling story than just good guy beats bad guy.

I admit it. I'm a jaded and cynical reader. I like my layers of good and evil, and I like them to mix. (Call it a belief in original sin if you must.)

I believe that the best stories are those in which any character, including pulp classics, are faced with situations that cause them to grow as individuals. Either that, or they risk (a) becoming mere setting within their own stories while more interesting, malleable characters take center stage away from them, or (b) their stories become no longer stories but mere by the numbers plots.