02-23-19 – Best Selling Author and RTG Alumni: Christy Carlyle

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ebenezer Scrooge -- Defying the Rules of Good Writing?

By Robin Weaver

Say “Ebenezer Scrooge,” and odds are most folks will immediately envision a selfish, miserly old man with no appreciation for fun or kindness. One-hundred-seventy-two years after his creation, the main character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is not only instantly recognizable, but almost universally hated, evidenced by our society’s continued use of the term “Scrooge” to describe a miserable penny pincher.
Which makes me wonder why we continue to read after page one. According to the guidelines of good writing, the hero must be someone to whom we can relate, a person we can envision being. Thank goodness no one told Charles Dickens the main character had to be likeable.
Clearly we don’t like Scrooge, so why does Ebenezer work as the main character?
**Does Scrooge work because Tiny Tim is introduced early in the manuscript?  Ask anyone in advertising--babies and puppies sell. If you want a story to tug at the old heart strings, insert a spunky handicapped child. Works almost as well as a cute little Maltese (even when that child is played by Mary Lou Retton).
**Perhaps Dickens’ self-promotion contributed to the success of A Christmas Carol. Charlie was the first famous writer to read his work in public (at least, he was the first one according to my research).  And our self-promotion guru didn’t just read, he performed, creating a special version of history just for public recitation—with stage directions scribbled all over his script. Dickens dressed for the occasion as well, always wearing full evening dress, with a bright buttonhole, a purple waistcoat and a glittering watch-chain. And you thought creating a trailer was hard work. J
**Some might say A Christmas Carol works because. Ebenezer grows and changes. It’s fairly easy to identify the stages of The Hero’s Journey in Dickens’ tale. Only does Scrooge really change? Our hero only “sees the light” after some imaginary ghosts scare the Dickens out of him. Scrooge “changes” to save his own hide so is that really changing?  Sounds like a new version of selfish to me.  Furthermore, we all know how the story ends, but do we ever think of the “made-over” Scrooge? Nope, he’s the old miser who won’t say “Happy Christmas” to little Timmy Cratchit.
**Or maybe, just maybe—the main character doesn’t have to be likeable. Let’s face it, we American’s like our dirty Christmas stockings.  How else can we explain our fascination with the Sopranos, America’s Most Wanted and Keeping up with Kardashians (etc., etc.).  Let’s be honest, there’s a bit of self-righteous appeal in being morally superior—even it that superiority is graded on the curve.
Whatever the reason for the enduring popularity of A Christmas Carol, Dickens (in this blog author’s humble opinion) illustrates that of all the rules of writing, only one universally applies: If you tell a good story, you can break all the rules.

My Holiday Release....
Katarina Snodgrass believes she can get her life back on track. If she can regain her title as the Christmas Tree Contest champion and re-snare the man of her dreams. Too bad soap-opera star, Tripp Anthony, isn’t interested—at least he’s indifferent until Hunter Montgomery arrives and convinces Katrina she needs to make her former flame jealous.The plan succeeds, but Katrina finds herself equally attracted to Tripp and Hunter, the man she loves to hate. Her heart is torn, but can she truly choose either man while she guards a horrible secret?

Ebook available via Amazon November 30.
Print version available now at The Wild Rose Press.


Sarah Raplee said...

Maybe we relate to Scrooge because we've all known someone like him! I don't think he changes just to save himself. He realizes how his behavior has harmed others and also himself, leaving him without friends or family.

Great post!

Linda Lovely said...

As always, Robin, your posts make me think. I've been on a bit of a rant lately about books I've read for my book club that have despicable or unlikable heroes/heroines. I want to root for somebody. And, when I think about it, Scrooge was never at the top of my list of favorite holiday tales. But the fact that he changed did help make up for his initial miserliness. Think you hit the nail on the head though. There's no such thing as a writing rule that can't be broken and bring success.

Ann Chaney said...

Robin, I agree with Linda, you make me think! You also make me laugh at your outside of the box take on the classic tale. Loved your asides about social media. You crack me up! Of course, my first memory of A Christmas Carol was Mister Magoo as the wretched miser in a cartoon!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I recently read A Christmas Carol with a class, and we found it to be really well-written, maybe in spite of the sentimentality. Scrooge's change does make him more likable at the end.

Judith Ashley said...

Robin, your ability to see what I don't helps me no end. I just may reread "A Christmas Carol" with this post in mind! "Full Contact Decorating" looks like a fun read! Or is it more serious as in a Romantic Suspense?