A disappointing character, or characters, can form through many different channels. Underdevelopment, acting contrarily to their constitution, lacking sympathetic qualities, and sometimes just fizzling out because of plot. Whether a character is the protagonist or antagonist, it can sometimes bring comfort to pinpoint why they disappointed us, and many factors can come into play. Here are a few of those factors, and coping mechanisms for moving on or at least moving past a disappointing character.
Is the disappointment purposeful?
Were we meant to be disappointed for the sake of the story, or for the sake of other characters? Did our fixation (the character) lift others with their disappointing end? Perhaps this is not a disappointment after all; perhaps our ideal character blinded us to the fact that they were not meant to fulfill our idea of how a story or events played out. This can be remedied by a re-read, and an alternative, sobering experience of the contents of a book.
Is the author spiting you?
When a book takes you through so many twists and turns and you don’t know if you can grasp the olive branch that is your favorite character for much longer, you may start to wonder if the writer wrote said book for the sake of twisting and mangling your mind by way of creating a character so dynamic you don’t know when to turn your back or further reach out your hand. You can’t be mad at this author, because this is a book written for you, the reader (how thoughtful!), but you can be mad because how will you ever trust anything again? You know you will return to this author for the thrill, but you also know it will be a harrowing ride. This is the coping mechanism: your skin gets increasingly tough. You have to go through this roller coaster again and again to be able to strengthen your relationship with these darting characters, and, alas! gain strength over the author. Until they write again and your trust and love is tested once more. This is the most hurtful, but most wonderful route to disappointment: the thrill overrides the blasé personas within the book.
The character doesn’t work as hard as you do to connect.
This disappointment makes a story drudge along. No matter which character you or the author wants to focus affection on, there just isn’t enough…facets? realism? plot development or depth? something…to hold the affection and your attention to anything else beyond how disappointed you are. The author could be a newly published writer, or a classic writer with a plethora of beautiful novels in their repertoire; sometimes the characters just fall disappointingly flat regardless of how much you want to be satisfied by them.
Is it you?
No, it can’t be, you’re the reader after all! The book and its characters should be working for you! Except of course, if you’re not reading deeply enough, or being attentive to the words and subjects on the pages. So maybe it is just you. Maybe you’re not trying hard enough to dig deeply into the character, or maybe you’ve had a terrible day where nothing is going right so before you even open a book your mind is already in a negative place in which everything is disappointing. Remedy this by reading an old favorite novel, one that never disappoints. Those characters you can always count on, no matter how many others let you down.