Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

We have a crop of baby hummingbirds coming to our feeders right now, a summer crop. At the same time, we have an influx of yellow jackets who also like our hummingbird feeders. The sweet scent attracts them and they’re able to wiggle through the holes to the sugar water. Of course they can’t get back out, but in the meantime, the little villains drive off the hummers.
I haven’t been able to get a picture of the fights, but the yellow jackets win. The hummers have to wait till they have a clear shot, and now they don’t sit peacefully on the outer ring as they occasionally used to—when they aren’t driving off each other. They’re not big on sharing.
In the end, the insects drown, so you could say the hummers win. In this photo, you can see the deceased floating in the water. This is not the hummers’ favorite feeder, but you can’t see into the better ones (as in the first picture).
This conflict is a bit like my goals in fiction. I care about the hummers and want them to win, but the outcome is often in doubt. The yellow jackets win many of the battles, and I want to intervene for the hungry babies. Instead I have to wait and see who wins this time.
I’d prefer a more clear-cut victory for my characters, but the element of real doubt creates suspense. This only works if you care about the characters though. But how to create such people? That’s another blog.
How important is it for you to like or care about the characters before you can enjoy a story? If you don't care, are you still drawn in to anxiously await the final outcome?


Polly said...

I definitely have to like the main characters in a book. Who wants to read about people you wouldn't spend time with in the real world? I'll even go as far to say that I'll read a book I'm not crazy about if I love the character/s. Unfortunately, there aren't many series' characters I feel that way about.

I've only seen one yellow jacket/humming bird duel, and you're right. The bee won. But the hummer are like smart protagonists--they time things just right, have their meals, and zoom on their ways.

Star said...

Yes, I have to become engaged with the characters. I wouldn't necessarily say like. I'm reading a book at the moment called 'Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name' by Vida Vendela. I think I've got that right. I don't like her character very much, mainly because she has a giant chip on her shoulder and is not kind to people or animals because of it. However, I am very caught up in her story, which is a search for her father in the land of the midnight sun.
I love all the characters in my own books because to me they are like members of the family.

Ellis Vidler said...

Polly and Star,
I started a book recently but put it down after three chapters because I didn't like any of the characters and didn't care what happened to them. I finished the next one, but I didn't much like the characters in it either. However, as Star said, I did get caught up in her dilemma (could everything really be that bad?) and went on to the end. I won't be quick to read that author again though.
I have to love my own. They're my friends and constant companions for ages. I just hope others find them likable too.

Nancy Lauzon said...

You're lucky to have hummers, I love them but they don't come that often, which makes changing the solution in the feeder every 3 days a lot of work for little reward. Occasionally one will check out my honeysuckle vine =)

Ellis Vidler said...

Nancy, we used to have a lot more. For the last two years there've been very few. I wonder, since they fly across the Gulf, if the smoke and fumes from the 2010 BP oil spill affected them.

Darla said...

When reading, I do have to either like one of the main characters or, at the very least, be able to identify with his/her journey or dilemma.

When writing, I connect with all of my characters on some level, and most of them I love and want to help them figure out how to improve their lives.