My Favorite Characters Part 3: Happy-Go-Lucky

>> Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh, I like this character. I have several of them in my own work and I almost have more fun with this kind of character than any other.

This kind of character appears to be a care for nobody, often handling every situation with a joke. They frequently manage to keep their equilibrium no matter what nasty situation they face. They're flip and cocky, usually talented and well aware of their skills, but they lack ambition. They don't want to be rich or have power. They just want to do what they do best without a care in the world.

Of course, life isn't like that and they usually end up caring about people and getting responsibilities they didn't bargain for, but they handle it like all the other trials that come their way. Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H is an example of this sort of person, with perhaps an emphasis on the caring, but there are others.

I not only love reading about characters like this--they almost always make the story more entertaining if not hilarious. My hero in my first finished novel is like that and I have one of these characters as a side or a lead in nearly every long novel I write. Here's a bit of Tander:

Layla stared at the still twitching corpse with suddenly terrified eyes. Without a word, she turned to the approaching Jenri, relaying an order in a hissing whisper. Tander couldn’t hear her words, but he heard unhappy mutterings. “Now!” she hissed. “Send them!”

“Send who?” Tander asked.

“You and the other men must return. Whoever we hunt can kill the husbands, instantly. I knew but I didn’t appreciate until now how powerless we are to protect you. You must go.”

Tander glanced behind him as if to see whom she was addressing. “To whom are you speaking?”

“Tander, this is not funny.”

“You’re damned right, it’s not.”

“You have to go. For your own protection.”

Tander raised an eyebrow at this wife, his jaw jutting stubbornly. “Be damned if I do. I’m staying.”

“You can’t!”

“Just who do you think you’re talking to? I’m not a water boy, no squire to be sent from harm’s way. I’m Tander, damn it, a warrior, and I don’t make a habit of running out on my wife when danger comes calling.”

“This is not the time for pride.”

“By Bastor’s black heart, it’s precisely the time for pride.”

“Tander, please!”


“Tander, do not argue with me on this. I could not bear to see you as I see Carent.”

“I am no familiar to take orders either, Layla. I promised Glendana that I would watch your back. I cannot see it from the camp.”

“This is no time for amusement. You could be killed!”

And familiars do not take orders, one of Tander’s stowaways reminded gently.

“I am not amused. I will not go back to watch and worry. If you move forward, I go with you.”

“Other men return. You must join them.”

Tander glanced at the other clustered Jenri. Of the forty odd men who’d come, fourteen other men stood undaunted with woodenly stubborn expressions on their faces. Tander nodded to them. “Perhaps their wives are not carrying their seed. You will not go forward without me.”

Layla’s eyes reflected her fear but they couldn’t hide her pride. She turned and moved into the tiny clearing, her glistening sword held high in one hand, a throwing dagger in the other. Tander, his sword also ready, followed easily. Behind them, nearly eighty Jenri and mates lost themselves in the trees. An ambush can be reversed.


  • Jeff King

    nice work, and i agree i like those kind of chars in my stories as well... one ide note, i think there is a typo here *
    (Tander raised an eyebrow at *this* wife, his jaw jutting stubbornly. “Be damned if I do. I’m staying.”)
    should it not be *his* wife... maybe i am wrong and don't get it, but fig i would bring it up just incase...

  • Stephanie B

    Good catch.

  • The Mother

    I take it in this world the women are the alphas? Interesting.

    I love this character, too. I usually think that the flippant behavior and jokes are there to cover emotional turmoil, which is always a good story.

    Hawkeye, of course, was very unhappy in Korea. His joking exterior masked the pain as patients died around him, not for lack of skill, but for lack of drugs, time, and of course, humanity.

    The fact that he also buried this frustration in meaningless sex was another fun part of his character.

  • Stephanie B

    The Mother, the fictional world is paternalist, but this specific pocket of that world is not. That's part of the conflict. I like to play with stereotypes and a paternalist vs. maternalistic society is one of my favorites.

    Hawkeye is, in many ways, the extreme of the happy-go-lucky, capable person faced with the extremes of hardship. Promiscuity is a common outlet in times of stress, often for both genders, but I would think for men more. I've always found it ironic that Alan Alda did such a good job of playing the field in M*A*S*H when he was such a devoted family man off-screen.

  • Shakespeare

    The Mother picks up one key element of the flippancy--a desire to cover over what is painful. Makes me think of the gravedigger in HAMLET... funniest person in the play, but he had to be to deal with the death he saw every single day as part of his job. ER and EMS people often have the same kind of humor.

  • Stephanie B

    Since I write a lot of sword and sorcery (violent stuff), it fits, I think.

  • The Mother

    As a pathologist, I'm very familiar with the so-called "morbid humor."

    Most docs are pretty good at it. The ones who aren't usually have ulcers and shrinks.

    Those of us who spend our professional lives in morgues are probably a bit better than others.

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