[New Chapter Posted!] Adam Can Be a Jerk

One of the most difficult narrative choices I’ve found for writing a POV character is how to balance how much of an aspirational figure they should be, and how flawed they’re allowed to be. One shouldn’t write to pander to the least perceptive of readers, since the very least perceptive of readers will need every single detail spoonfed to them, and that makes the overall writing quality suffer. When I was a teenager, I used to be such a reader, and I got better at reading, and likely, understanding writing, by reading books “above my pay grade,” so to speak.

At the same time, one needs to expect that if you write with any kind of subtlety at all, a number of readers won’t pick up on a few things. Partially due to my love of unraveling mysteries and partially due to my own flaws as a writer, I write with a love of subtlety. A fair amount of my writing isn’t subtle, but I try to be subtle in certain places, and I’m hoping a good few mysteries are both introduced and developed in this month’s chapter of Consequences.

One of the more difficult subtleties, I’ve found, are when the protagonist or POV character has an inner thought which comes from a place of questionable morals. Anything from jamais vu or mild rudeness to outright cruelty, possibly, might come across to a reader as either what the author thinks is good morals, or what the reader will sympathize with. This can become problematic, since Adam is a teenager that, let’s face it, gets a lot of stuff handed to him on a silver platter, especially in grade ten. He can be a bit of a jerk.

I’ve wrestled with this topic before. How do you balance having a protagonist act like a jerk without allowing this attitude to be advertised to your readers? One strategy is to trust readers to parse the difference, though I find difficulty in this. Number one, my own biases and prejudices come through the page at times. I don’t find I can fully trust myself, and I’ve gotten enough supportive comments from anti-feminists who applaud how Being More Social tastelessly deals with an overly militant feminist character, and make particularly awful suggestions as to how the plot deals with her. Clearly, bad morals will be applauded by some, no matter what. Number two, to thrust this responsibility onto readers is to wash my own hands of the responsibility. It seems like a coward’s way out.

Another strategy is to make everything painfully obvious; to wink at the audience and make some sort of meta-commentary about how terrible this moral decision I’m writing about is. I accidentally do it enough as it is, and it rather seems emblematic of bad writing. I think my readers deserve subtlety. Even if not every reader can understand what I’m attempting to do, if I reveal every decision to my audience, I’m effectively telling the audience not only that I don’t trust them, but that they don’t deserve to come to their own conclusions about my characters. My writing is no longer a conversation between writer and reader; it’s a dictation, a piece telling the reader exactly what to think and feel. In my opinion, writing is at its best when the reader is actively involved and gets to cast their own judgment on the situation. Sometimes I present morally grey problems with no solution for this exact reason.

Finally, the strategy I’ve mostly used as a crutch is to make there be consequences for actions. Cause and effect. Adam does something bad, it’ll bite him in the ass… mostly. In this chapter, Adam makes a few selfish and downright rude decisions, and he doesn’t and will not face consequences, at least direct consequences, for all of them. Certainly not for every little rude thought that pops into his head. At the same time, that doesn’t mean I’m going to scrub his head of all rude thoughts just because it doesn’t all lead to satisfying effects.

I ultimately have come to the decision that Adam is a teenager and needs to act like one. As well, if a reader unflinchingly accepts all of Adam’s actions and thoughts and thinks of them as normal, that is on them, and perhaps a reflection they’ll need to consider when many of Adam’s own choices inevitably backfire on him. The title of this blog is a double entendre – not only is Adam sometimes a jerk, but Adam is also narratively allowed to be a jerk. It’s not a narratively bad thing if he is one. It just needs to be handled with grace, and I will do my best.

While writing Chapter Six, I also wrote two commissions, neither of which I’ve posted, as you may notice. One of them was commissioned to be private, so unless they give express permission (or ever try to claim the piece as their own), I will never post it here. The other one, which will hopefully go up at one point, has been sent to the commissioner for approval, and they gave not gotten back to me in a few weeks. (I took too long to finish the commission in the first place, so I do not take issue with the wait at all; they’ve earned the right.) The protagonist in that story is clearly rude upfront, and one of the things about writing a rude person that sounds so obvious when you say it out loud but isn’t apparent when you’re writing them is that they have no idea they’re rude. They may not care if you point it out, but they’ll never think of a single interaction they have as particularly rude. they see it as justified or even normal. That was an interesting challenge, and I’m hoping, that also helped me write cocky grade ten Adam a little better. We shall see.

By the way, my computer keyboard is currently wonky. Everything else works well, but the A and D key are a little stuck. The mechanical system is a little stuck and it takes a little extra effort to fully push them down. It makes sense; I’ve had this keyboard for nearly a decade. It’s fine when I’m consciously aware but I write very quickly when I’m ‘in the moment.’ So, if you see more spelling errors than usual, particularly with A and D words, that and possibly autocorrect doing guesswork are the culprits. If anyone wished to point them out, I’d be very grateful, but there’s zero obligation there. I hope you enjoyed this blog, and I’ll talk to you all next week.

One thought on “[New Chapter Posted!] Adam Can Be a Jerk

  1. I don’t know what selfish / rude decision you’re talking about here. That means that either you’re a good and subtle writer, or I’m as selfish as Adam and see nothing overly wrong with his actions.

    There are two scenes in this chapter that you could be referencing: the one with Sabrina could come across as pushy, but she was also very verbal with consent after intial hesitations. The second option is with Zelda; Adam’s inquiries are exceptionally rude but even many adults don’t have the emotional maturity to let that go. As a reader, I think no more or less of Adam for his actions in this chapter, I think you’ve written it outstandingly.

    Regarding the anti-feminist points, I’m going to go against the grain and say I preferred BMS’s first draft version of events for Jenna. I thought the original was nuanced, whereas the rework to have Nicole scold Adam seemed a bit forced (sorry). In the context of the story, Nicole had recently admitted she was too forgiving to Adam, then a few chapters later, Adam kicks Jenna whilst she’s down – it was the most heinious thing you’ve written Adam to do, with zero nuance. Adam was simply a twat. Yet Nicole scolds him for a bit and then never mentions it again.

    I get that the rework drives home that Jenna isn’t a bad person though, and it silences the misogynistic folk that got the wrong impression. It was probably best you shut down the possibility of getting those kind of readers. Sorry for the rant, just passionate about your stories

    Liked by 1 person

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