Hello hello, long time no see. I've been doing a lot of writing lately, and I keep having these observations I'd like to share, so might as well dust off the old blog.
Today's observation has to do with the snarky hero. How much snarkiness do you want? How much real terror? How do you find the right balance?
I see this as a spectrum ranging from characters like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden on one end, spit-talking and cracking jokes not only in the face of death, but in the face of utter world annihilation, over to on the other end, characters like the hapless protagonists of bad horror movies, capable of little but screaming in terror.
Should your character be awed and disgusted and terrified by the dangers and horrors she sees? Or should she face it with a brave smile, cracking jokes to keep her spirits up (and to keep the reader amused)?
As in many cases, I think the correct path is the middle one. Characters without spine and spirit are no fun, either to write or to watch. And persistent action scenes can get boring if there aren't some jokes to spice them up. Yet at the same time, you don't want your character to be so insenitive to the violence and danger that the reader doesn't care either.
I think probably the ideal--at least for me at this time--is to strive for landing closer on the snarky end of the spectrum, maybe about 80% snarky, 20% real. This way, the 80% snarky keeps it fun and makes the character strong-willed enough to be interesting. Furthermore, saving the real reactions for the most crucial times will help bring power to those moments.
It's all about contrasts, right? If the character screams at every spook, then there's no difference between the zombie that lurches around a corner or the Cthulhic Old One that rises from the deeps. But if the character faces horror after horror without blinking, then that one time she does drop her jaw and run really tells you something!
What do you think? Post in the comments below!