I don’t know if this will become a regular feature, but here’s a quick thought I’m having today:
What happens when the quirky best friend becomes the main character?
I was thinking about this a few days ago when I revisited the paltry amount I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2008. I, myself, actually preferred my narrator’s best friends to the narrator herself. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, maybe I should write THAT book – about those people.
I then thought about books with characters who really tugged at my heart. It’s a convention in video games that the main character should be rather non-descript. This makes it easier for players to identify with him or her (almost always him, in games). This is why it’s funny when you get people talking about which video game character is most like them and the’ll say "I’m just like so-and-so!" and all I can think is, "So you have a mysterious past and terrible tragedy and no personality traits?"
It feels natural to me that books should operate the same way, and I think one of the reasons the Twilight series is so popular is that Bella is (at least in the first one) average and non-descript. She has average hair and average intelligence, she’s averagely pretty and can’t figure out why anybody would think she’s special, but she IS special… etc. (I haven’t read any except Twilight so I’m basing all statements on that.)
So for my NaNo I wrote that girl – completely lacking in personality except that she was sometimes sullen but also loved her parents very much (something any girl with good parents can relate to, I think). But her best friend had loads of personality – wild hair, funny clothes, was a band kid, etc.
And she interested me SO MUCH MORE. My favorite characters in all of kidlit/YA are probably Lola Cep from Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Cyd Charisse from Gingerbread. These are both distinctive characters, dramatic and alternachick. Lola’s friend Ella is absolutely every-girl, and I like her quite well but I don’t find her interesting. (I haven’t read the book about her.)
Anyway. I guess those of us who consider ourselves a bit weird need characters that reflect us, which is why we do get those quirky kids as main characters sometimes, too.