‘You’re so sensible,’ laughed my aunt, at my sensible-ness, many years ago. She was right, and she didn’t mean it as a compliment. It was kind of interesting, I thought, because I’d never considered my cautious ways to be sensible, exactly. And the aunt was an in-law, which presumably is why she could see this, where the blood aunts would never have stopped to analyse my behaviour.
I’m still so cautiously sensible, almost all the time, but as an adult I at least understand where I’m coming from. I’m me.
So when characters in novels do really stupid things I want to scream. I have learned that they must do it, or there would be nothing a bit bad to sort of ‘come back’ from in the plot. Even I recognise that if all fictional characters went round behaving like me, there’d not be much of a story.
I’ve pondered whether these characters are meant to be like their readers – unless that reader is me. But more recently I developed a new theory. Even quite impulsive and daring readers might be meant to see how reckless the character is being. And then we can explore together how they can be seen to discover this and how things are – mostly – sorted out.
At the weekend I marvelled at the sheer stupidity of the teen girl in Icelandic Trapped on television. Putting herself in such danger when the corpses are piling up, and to agree to meet ‘the bad guy’ in the cemetery… I mean, really!
I’ve been reading a book where the heroine seems even more stupid than normal, to the extent that the main adult character questions her behaviour, when she seems unable to accept advice or to even listen to immediate orders to be quiet, or not to move, move faster, or whatever, just to stay alive and not endanger the others.
But I’m sure things will be fine.