I haven’t cried from a book for a long time, but recently I did, from Tender Morsels. Margo Lanagan mixed beauty and horror with such finesse, she left me speechless in the end.
Tender Morsels isn’t a novel for everyone, the prose is dialect-heavy and it jumps from one POV to the next. And it explores very difficult subjects, including rape, incest, and other uncomfortable cruelties. I read readers’ reviews of the book, they either love or hate it with a passion.
Well, I love twisted fairytales and this one, I could not put down.
It is odd that the most moving part of the book for me is the bears. That bit when First Bear tries to speak to Liga just claws at my heart like nothing ever did. And later too, when one of the boys loses his she-bear and they discuss about the horrors of real life, as opposed to the beauty and simplicity of bear lives. Of course there are other parts that squeezed tears out of me the way one would shirts after a rainstorm, but gosh, I never read anyone handle the minds of animals so vividly and beautifully like Margo Lanagan did.
Okay, Richard Adams did an impressive job with Watership Down. His rabbits are charming, especially Bigwig.
I don’t know what it is with animal characters. I’m far more easily moved by them than human ones. I remember bawling my eyes out watching Benji and Lassie as a kid. Same with Babe, White Fang, and Charlotte’s Web. I didn’t care much about Robert Neville’s predicament in I Am Legend… until his dog dies.
This makes me think about characterization in general. What is it that makes animal characters so moving? Can we apply the same principles to human characters and gain the same effect?
1) Character complexity
We love complex characters, those with layers and depths and various shades of greys. I look at animal characters, they are… simple. They look at the world a certain way, interpret things just as they are. So why do we fall in love with them? I think their complexity is in the simplicity itself (err… right, bordering to philosophical rubbish here). Because they’re simple, the world becomes much bigger for them, everything unpredictable. So we worry, because we can foresee so many things against them in a situation straight-forward in their eyes. I remember holding my breath when Bigwig tests the iron road with such confidence and careless abandon. It’s because I know, at any moment, a car may whoosh by and crush him. Can you think of ways to use simplicity to draw complexity in human characters?
2) Character devotion
Those who have/have had pets must know how they wag their tails at the sight of you, meow by the door when you come home, snuggle with you when you’re upset. These are behaviours suggesting absolute love and devotion to those important to them. Can you think of ways to use fierce and undying devotion in human characters without making them sound/look dim and obsessive?
3) They’re adorable
Well, I think all animals are anyway, and adorable characters are easier to fall in love with. They always do funny things that make you go aww… In human characters, ‘Aww’ behaviours don’t always work for me, you could end up with something childish or cheesy. Now why is that? Because humans don’t have furry faces? Because humans are expected to be witty and charming a different way? What do you think about ‘aw’ moments/behaviour?
On a completely unrelated matter, I finished another Faziel digital art today. I’m not sure I’m happy with the one previous (he looked too pretty, lol) so I tried again and got the below. What do you think? Does he look more fearsome? I like that there’s more action in this one, but I think I prefer the eyes in the previous one. Hmm… anyway, I’ll keep trying.
Till later, peeps!