Don’t Let Your Characters Engage in Group-Think

Certain types of novels easily lend themselves to cardboard characters.  Think good vs evil.  Think epic struggle for survival.

This weekend, I finished reading Epitaph Road by David Patneaude.  This post-apocalyptic novel takes place some thirty years after a virus wipes out 95% of the male population.  Not surprisingly, women take over the roles formerly held by men.  In short, they remake society.  When schools teach history, they teach about the horrors brought to earth not by humanity but by men.  Students learn how much better the world is under the reign of women.

See where it would be easy for Patneaude to create cardboard characters? Evil, wicked barbaric men and women who finally have the freedom to live.  Or, equally cardboard, downtrodden men, barely hanging on to their humanity, and domineering, vindictive women.

Fortunately for the world of literature, Pateaude does much better than this.  You’ll find the full range of characters in each gender — from the truly good to the remarkably wicked and even the determinedly bovine.  Where he could have easily let one gender be good and the other bad, or at least one the victors and one the victims, Pateaude instead creates characters all along the scale.

This novel is a good study in how to create both villains with good points and flawed heroes.

Now off to apply a bit of what I’ve learned.