Character Connection (17)
Read about Judy Plum and other great characters
in this week's Character Connection!
It's about time I did one of these again, aye? I thought I might as well close 2010 properly.
In a recent discussion of the Harry Potter series, I remarked that I tend to like J.K. Rowling's supporting characters much more than her leads: that, in fact, my least favourite of her characters are Harry himself and Professor Dumbledore. =P But I think most writers with a love of ensemble casts have a real gift for creating supporting characters. (No comment on the leads.) So today I feature a very minor character (or so we think) from one of my favourite YA novels of all time. I do like the heroine of this one, but I confess I like him much, much more.
The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman
by Louise Plummer
"Midgely always makes me think of Dylan Thomas," I said. "I don't know if he did this with you guys, but he spent weeks on Thomas' poetry last year--and we were supposed to be studying American lit."
Richard nodded. "'The Force That Through the Green Fuse--'"
"'Drives the Flower,'" I finished with him.
"Did he make you memorise the whole thing?" Richard asked.
"All twenty-two lines."
"I miss him already."
This book, as the hilarious, nerdy narrator admits, is a Christmas-set "Category Romance" novel; and since she is an English geek with a passion for linguistics and a healthy sense of genre, she makes sure her story both subverts and revels in all the expected cliches. Awkward, slightly lonely heroine: check. Tall, gorgeous hero: check. Sexy blonde rival: check. Romantic scene in a winter wonderland setting: check. But there is nothing conventional about Midgely, her beloved junior English teacher, whose passionate, poetry-filled life seems to be coming to an end in the middle of the most beautiful Christmas she has ever known.
Nevertheless . . . Midgely fits. He belongs in this story as much as any of the characters, even if he is too sick to take part in any of the action. Memories of his English class--and his tennis lessons--crop up again and again, like a rich recurring theme.
"Comedies end in marriage, but tragedies frequently begin with marriage," he once told his students. "But it's the tragedy that makes life rich . . . Worth living."
And it is something that has seemingly nothing to do with this tangled comedy of relationships--with its young, squabbling newlyweds; its older, wiser but still silly married couple; its own shy and uncertain hero and heroine; its needy femme fatale; and its cynical single girl who'd rather spend Christmas with strangers than attend her mother's sixth wedding--I repeat, it is
As our heroine muses: "I have been surprised as I write this how often Midgley is mentioned on these pages. How often I quote him. I have made him a minor character in this novel without meaning to. His influence has altered who I am in nearly imperceptible ways. I'm barely recognising it now."
But this is just the first draft of the novel. In her last page of "Revision Notes", our heroine/narrator decides Midgely doesn't fit: "Reality is not appropriate to the genre. I've just read a couple of Harlequins, and I've got to edit out some of the reality in the novel as it is. I've got to cut Midgely and the cancer . . ."
Ah, irony . . . But I'll just bet that when she gets around to all that editing, she'll find that Midgely is the kind of character who does not go gently into the dark night.
Image Source: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer