Chances are, dear readers, you have a vague idea who the two cartoon princesses are in the photo collage above. If not, a hint: Anna and Elsa, stars of Disney’s massive hit FROZEN.
FROZEN is a movie loved by many and its songs are ones you can probably hum along with even if you haven’t seen the movie or bumped into a five-year-old singing “Let it Go” at the top of her lungs in the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
But what you may not have noticed—at least I didn’t until I saw this post on Tumblr—was that Anna and Elsa haven’t done themselves many favors in critical thought department.
The above collage has the caption: “These two run a country.”
Yes, they run a tiny kingdom, but they are constantly, painfully saying, “What?” “Wait?” and combinations of those and other “I’m really confused and don’t understand what you’re saying” expressions.
Obviously, many people saw that movie and never noticed these princesses’ penchant for speaking before thinking. I sure didn’t.
BUT, fill a whole book with conversations where your character is constantly exclaiming, “Wait, what?” and you likely won’t have your reader thinking the character is nearly as smart or interesting or worthy of any sort of praise whatsoever.
Case in point: I once read a manuscript blind for someone where the main character was supposed to be this special person with knowledge that could save an empire (yes, it was dystopian). But this main character was constantly and I mean CONSTANTLY having things explained to her. She never was able to put two and two together. Even worse, it was always men in this world explaining things. Not exactly what many young girls would want to read, even though this would-be author was aiming it straight at the high school set.
After reading probably a thousand variations of “Wait, what?” I knew there was no way I was ever truly going to trust that this character could save her people or was worth any of the praise dripped on her. And I wanted to like her. I really did. But there was no way we were going to be friends. And I felt disappointed with the whole manuscript.
So, this is a challenge to you. When you’re revising, see how many times you rely on a crutch such as “Wait, what?” to get to the heart of whatever information needs to be discovered in a scene. You might surprise yourself at how easily you let your character get away with something completely against his or her character.