Characters We Love to Hate

Rainbow Layer CakeThe week started out last Sunday with a family birthday gathering. My daughter’s 19th birthday was the week before, and my brother’s was this past week, so we always celebrate them together. When I asked my daughter what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she said “something fruity–maybe one of those Jello cakes.” When I found this Rainbow Layer Cake online, I couldn’t resist, and since my brother also likes fruit-flavored cakes, I knew it would be perfect. Sure enough, it was easy to make, and a big hit after our cookout.

A couple days later, our daughter left for GenCon (a gaming convention, for those not in the know), so it’s been quiet around here. She leaves to go back to school next weekend, so time to get used to it. DH and I ate out several times, and he got a lot of work done in the garage, while I did a lot of reading–and a lot of writing.

MASQUERADEWhat I read this week: We’ve all seen them on TV, and maybe read them in books: the character who’s totally self-centered, manipulative, and who goes through life without a care for anyone but him/herself. There is nothing about this character we relate to or sympathize with. We love to watch to see this character get her come-uppance, or if a criminal, be brought to justice, and be triumphed over by the characters we do like and root for.

In my case, this is seldom a main character–I don’t want to spend that much time with someone I’d so despise in real life. That’s especially true for a novel, where we’re talking several hours, rather than 40 minutes or so (not counting commercials), or maybe two hours for a movie. But this week, it was exactly that kind of character that pulled me in, in Masquerade, by Maria McKenzie.

I don’t know why this book sat on my virtual to-be-read shelf for so longMasquerade is historical fiction and a family saga, set in my favorite time period, the turn of the twentieth century. I loved both of McKenzie’s prior books, one of which was Escape, the prequel to Masquerade. Maybe it was because Lavinia, the main character in Masquerade, was introduced in Escape, and we already saw how manipulative she was when she convinced a wealthy theater owner to marry her. He was smitten by her beauty, but she was only interested in his money and connections, to start the career she craved in acting.

I couldn’t find any sympathy for this woman. And I couldn’t put the book down. After thinking about it, I realized I found her so intriguing because she had a secret vulnerability: Lavinia was “passing”–meaning she appeared white, but had African ancestry (her mother was black, an escaped slave). This secret would destroy her career if found out. I’ve found it intriguing to learn that “passing” was not all that unusual in the early 20th century–a surprising number of yesteryear’s stars we always thought of as white actually had African or Asian ancestry, as noted on McKenzie’s blog–and fascinating fodder for her book. Revelation, the third installment of the trilogy, just came out a couple weeks ago, and I know this one won’t wait on my TBR pile for long!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal this week was to finish the ending scene for my work-in-progress, and I did! It ended up being much longer than I thought–actually, it was two scenes, to the tune of 4,300 words, more than I’ve written in one week in a long time. But most importantly, they both got written, so I’m very happy about that. One thing to note, I’m saying “finish the ending scene” rather than “finish the first draft” because I know there are several scenes to add in. Normally I write in order, but the romance plot just wasn’t gelling for me early on in the book, so I wrote around it. On the plane on the way to Puerto Rico in April, I realized what the romantic conflict was (the change I mentioned that would require massive work to implement, but would make the book so, so much better). So now it’s time to work that in. My goal: List the scenes, and write the first one, where the couple meet.

Fun fact about Isis: sometimes DH fluffs her pillow. No, our dog is not spoiled at all. :D

Fun fact about Isis: sometimes DH fluffs her pillow. No, our dog is not spoiled at all. :D

What about you–made any cool new recipes lately? Who are some characters you loved to hate, either in books or TV/movies? Were you familiar with the idea of “passing?” If you’re participating in ROW80–or even if you’re not, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, KoboiTunes, and more.

7 Responses to \

  1. Characters I love to hate? For me it’s the portrayal of Lex Luther on “Smallville.” They make him such a complex character, someone wavering between good and evil and trying to fend off the darkness inside of himself, that even though you know he ends up a super-villain, you’re still hoping he’ll choose the side of good. But ultimately, he ends up Clark Kent’s enemy, so you do hate who he becomes.

    I haven’t read any of Maria McKenzie’s books; thanks for sharing your take. I will look into them.

    Have a great week!
    Denise D. Young recently posted..Writing experiments and a Midweek ROW80 check-inMy Profile

  2. That cake looks good… we used to have a bakery that made “rainbow” cakes.

    Do you remember the TV show “Close to Home,” with Jennifer Finnigan? She was a district attorney in Indianapolis, and regularly ran up against a defense attorney named Doug Hellmann (played by Bruce Davison). I really hated him, but the show would have sucked without a character like him, and he turned out to be a pretty good guy. Others are Lt. Tragg and Hamilton Burger in “Perry Mason,” Mic Brumby in “JAG,” Iand nspector Lestrade in the Sherlock Holmes stories. They’re like antagonistic protagonists. Know what I’m saying?

    We had a friend who was mixed-race. She was whiter than I was, and I’m Irish pale. She passed for white, black, or Hispanic, depending on the situation.

    Good on ya for finishing those two scenes. Don’t worry, you’ll figure out how to wedge them in…

    One other thing… any reason I can’t use the arrow keys when I type in comments here?
    John Holton recently posted..An utterly diabolical idea… let’s try it!My Profile

  3. You are a woman of many talents Jennette! Look at that colorful cake! And then to write 4500 words this last week? You go girl! You’re an inspiration. The husband fluffs the dog’s pillow? Naw, Isis isn’t spoiled. You think? lol. Too funny. Thanks for sharing that one! :)
    Karen McFarland recently posted..Some Like It HotMy Profile

  4. OMG – I fluff my dogs pillow as well. He’s old and I want him to be as comfy as possible.

    I like that you kept reading a book despite your misgivings. I’ve done that as well, sometimes not liking many of the characters but the story was good or the time period and historical accounting was fun to read about.

    Fun stuff, Jennette. Keep up the good work.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt
    Patricia recently posted..Heading North by Cruise ShipMy Profile

  5. That cake! It’s so impressive, and, judging from the look on your daughter’s face, it tastes great, too.

    If an author lets drop, bit by bit, the reasons for a character’s difficult personality, I’m on board.

    Isis! Of course your husband fluffs her pillow. You mean you don’t?
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..Wild ThingsMy Profile