This week's question:
Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?
I'm usually drawn to weird and eccentric characters in life — they're often much more fun than the bland and boring! — so I'm usually quite happy reading about them.
And, it can be fun, sometimes, to exist vicariously though characters who show more intellect, daring, nerve, talent and just all-round general gorgeousness than we may do ourselves: that's fiction for you!
What makes eccentric characters irritating is when they are badly drawn and totally unconvincing, and when you can't believe in them.
I have to whinge, therefore, about the utterly, utterly ridiculous character of Claire in Diana Gabaldon's hit, Outlander. She's a nineteen-forties military nurse (and unbelievably sexually liberated) who is suddenly whisked back in time to the 1740s; she's married (in her own time) but still falls in love with a brutish eighteenth-century lout; marries him as well; lets him beat the living daylights out of her and then says, meekly, 'Well, I supposed I deserved it really!' At that point, that book hit the bedroom wall. It's actually one I am ashamed to say I even started.
More recently, I was outraged by the character of Ali in Yasmin Crowther's Saffron Kitchen. He's a simple peasant boy living in an Iranian village way beyond the black stump in the 1960s and '70s, and yet he teaches himself English by listening to the radio with a dictionary — presumably Farsi-English — on his lap. And, to cap it off, he spouts Matthew Arnold!