Thursday, July 12, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, July 12, 2012 10 comments
I've noticed something of an opposite trend to Mary Sue characters recently, especially in YA and MG books published in the past 5 years. I guess I'd call them Poison Polly characters. The ones who have no friends, fight with their families and are generally miserable all the time. They're so negative, their lives are such an unending suck-fest, I really don't want to spend 200+ pages with them. Throwing them into dangerous situations doesn't make them more likable. You keep hoping the villains will put them out of their misery.


Have you come across some Poison Pollys? Am I being too harsh, or do you think I'm on to something?


This was a response to Nicole's post Mary Sue, I can't stand you

10 comments:

  1. Negative characters in fiction -- just like in real life -- make it difficult to want to spend time with them. Writers want to influence readers. Unfortunately, that means readers tend to adopt the views of the people they're reading about during the duration of the story.

    I don't read much YA or MG. In my regular reading, I have yet to encounter a Poison Polly, though I am charmed by the nickname.

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    1. Having read a few Roald Dahl stories, I think he might actually be the inventor, though his Poision Pollys and Pauls are usually presented in a droll manner, kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that's absent in recent incarnations of tormented orphans with no friends and nasty relatives.

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  2. I love the nickname too. I'm okay with a bit of negativity characters, as long as they have redeeming qualities. But if they start whining--ugh. I hate whining and usually will set the book aside.

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    1. I think there's a line between flawed, suffering characters and abject misery. Your suffering character needs to have at least ONE person in their lives who love them and care. I'm reminded of Jess in Bridge to Terabithia, whose little sister idolized him, even though he was bullied at school and by his father.

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  3. Thanks for linking my blog post, Laurel! Looking forward to reading other people's perceptions and opinions regarding Poison Polly.

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    1. After commenting on your great post, I thought it would be fun to carry on a discussion about Poison Polly and Paul.

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  4. Like Connie, I can work with a little negativity, especially if they have legitimate reasons for it. But not too much. Especially not for the entire book.

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    1. Absolutely. When a character is entirely alienated from everyone, I tells me there's something innately unlikable about him/her. Every character needs to have at least one ally, even if it's a pet.

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  5. I'm okay with characters like that if they have some dimensionality and their growth through the story is authentic. If they are just whiners and wallowers it gets real irritating.

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  6. I have trouble getting past the opening chapters if a character has no positive spark, even if it's just a sense of longing for something better, or poignant memory of something good that's been lost.

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