The Highly Improbable

August 24, 2010 at 5:23 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Alice recently tried to do six impossible things before breakfast and no one accused her of being too pessimistic in labelling them impossible.

Impossible seems to be a big no-no at the moment. It seems by pointing out that something is impossible you are being overly negative.

It may not seem like a nice thing to do but sometimes pointing out the highly improbably nature of certain outcomes can be a kindness. Of course it can also be tactless, mean, cruel and spiteful. I guess it all comes down to motivation behind the statement and the delivery.

But whether or not you like the word impossible, do your characters? Are they the negative type who likes to think that doors are closing everywhere around them when in point of fact they have millions of unrealised opportunities? Or are they optimistic to the point of insanity? Somewhere inbetween perhaps?

When people discuss character they talk about motivation and they talk about appearance and goals and all of these other sorts of things but the idea of them being an optomist or pessimist doesn’t seem to come up. The basic underlying personality that should motivate most of what they do.

I’ve actually been trying to figure this out for a character from one of my WIP’s that I’ve been playing with lately. The character is inconsistent at the best of times but I’m starting to see an underlying logic in her actions. She’s ridiculously optimistic. Her erratic actions and seemingly illogical behaviour actually come down to the fact that she genuinely believes that things will work out okay so you might as well jump. Now that I know where she’s coming from I can probably clear up some of her more bewildering actions and make it all kind of work out okay.

How about your characters? Optimists or pessimists?



  1. RaShelle said,

    This is an interesting topic. I really need to think about this. Printing now. Thanks for the post. =D

  2. Alex Willging said,

    It’s a fair question. I suppose, for my characters, it comes down to whether you’re referring to their view on other people or their view on what they’re trying to achieve. Some characters of mine are pessimistic about people and optimistic about what they want to do, or vice versa, while others are more consistent. My current WIP has a main character who’s quite cynical about human behavior, yet more than willing to throw caution to the wind and give the impossible a try.

  3. Tooty Nolan said,

    Pessimism: A rare commodity in my stories. Even the miserable old gits tend to look on the bright side of life. It bit like their author.

  4. Little Scribbler said,

    I guess my MC would be a bit of a pessimist. She never has faith in the sidekick’s daring plans. Other than that, I’ve never put much thought into it.

  5. AlexJ said,

    My main character is optimistic regarding his abilities and skills, pessimistic when it comes to other characters.

  6. Jemi Fraser said,

    Good question. I have one of each – although their attitudes do fluctuate throughout the book 🙂

  7. Lynn Rush said,

    Oh, neat post.

    I’d say I usually have one of each in each of my novels. My main character is usually a pessimist but their friends or roomie or someone is there to encourage them on. I love when a character starts out all dark and down then we get to watch him/her morph into something different (more positive). Those kind of stories are my fav.

    Thanks for this post. Have a great day!

  8. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    I have not looked at my characters specifically analyzing their optimistic or pessimistic views. I would have to think about that. All of the characters in the only novel I have written are acting under extreme duress.

  9. Hart said,

    I am optimistic, so the majority of my characters are, too, though I’ve been known to mess with them situationally, and things change there. I think optimists are easier to work with, as optimists ACT. Pessimists are largely debilitated by negative thinking, and so can only REact. That just isn’t quite as interesting, at least not for the main MC.

  10. elisajeglin said,

    I intentionally made my male mc a pessmist and my female an optimist…then I made her a demon and him an angel. I really like the way it’s working out so far ;p

  11. Lua said,

    I think the way we feel about the word “impossible” tells a lot about ourselves and of course this goes for our characters too. Personally, I enjoy writing pessimist characters more than writing optimistic ones.

  12. Agatha82 said,

    In one novel, the main character is a positive character and on the second one…well, I’d say he is a pessimist for sure…

    They say nothing is impossible but of course, some things are. If I sit here wishing I’d turned into a cat that’s never going to happen lol

  13. Miss Rosemary said,

    Usually optimists. Unless the pessimist serves as comedy or foreshadowing.

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