I don’t know what it is about Wednesday’s, but I’ve been posting authorly stuff on Wednesdays. This isn’t by design, it just seems to work out that way.
I’ve written a fair number of characters at this point in my career. I’m not claiming to be an expert at anything, but I get compliments on my characters. Part of my secret is observation. I observe not just real people, but characters of other writers too. This includes performances by actors. I admit to being a little bit jealous of Carol Peletier.
If you don’t know the character, it’s because her last name is never used. I had to Google it myself. This is Carol from The Walking Dead television show. The comic book version had a different arc, and she is dead now.
TWD is a love/hate show. People seem to fall into one camp or the other. I’m going to beg the indulgence of any who don’t like the show, particularly the writers among the crowd. Carol is one of the best characters of all time. Let’s meet her.
Here she is; mousy, weak, worst haircut of all time. She is an abused wife, and mother to a daughter who needs protecting from Carol’s husband. She is portrayed by a wonderful actress named Melissa McBride.
I think it’s really cool that she’s mid to late 40’s. This isn’t Scarlet Johannsen, or Milla Jovovich. Now I love those super babes from the movies, but Carol breaks that mold. (How old was Bilbo Baggins when he set out from the Shire?)
This is a good thing. It adds some believability to an unbelievable setting. I figured Carol was cast to be someone emotional and eventually to become meat for zombies. (What’s known as a redshirt.)
Carol starts off cooking, doing laundry, and being the mommie to the survivors. Nobody is safe on this show, and she lost her husband. This was a good thing. She also lost her daughter, and this was bad. So we started with an underdog and put her through the ringer.
Humans live an almost tribal existence. There are no hospitals, jails, fire departments, or nursing homes in this environment. Some groups of people are bad, and others are in a similar situation to the main cast. Any single mistake could be your last mistake post appocolypse.
When the main cast finds a friendly place, it’s Carol who becomes the welcoming committee. This is who she wants to be. Doesn’t she look sweet? Almost grandmotherly. (Thank God hair continues to grow during the Zombie appocolypse.)
She pitches right in with the new people and plans barbecues. She checks on the sick and serves as a liaison to new friendships.
But Carol has been through some crap. She’s seen her daughter become a zombie, and watched as a friend killed her. She’s been attacked and had to defend herself. She learned to use weapons, because she had to. She also learned what she could about medicines and treats the sick.
In one segment there was a disease going around. When it became obvious that two people were not going to survive, it was Carol who delivered the mercy killings. This was out of mercy, and out of caution for those who were not yet sick. It’s an impossible world, but Carol seems to be the one capable of making impossible decisions.
That’s a great character. She has an arc, and manages to change to survive in a world gone mad. She even manages to save a little bit of grandmotherly Carol in the process. Why I love her is that she’s an even bigger character than that. You see this is Carol too:
Carol is a killing machine. There is a bit of the psychotic in her makeup. She isn’t completely psycho, because she is emotional about it. She simply reserves those emotions until trouble has ended. There isn’t a bit of emotion when she’s killing zombies or humans who really deserve it.
There is one episode, called The Grove. It’s so powerful it spawned a thousand internet memes. At this point in the program, Carol had adopted two girls. The story line took a bit of an Of Mice and Men turn, only it was one of the girls who wasn’t right. (+/- 12 years old.)
The older girl, Lizzie, wasn’t right. She killed her younger sister and said it would be okay, because she would come back. (They always come back, but as zombies.) Carol and another character, Tyrese, we’re looking for the main group. They both have responsibilities, like finding food. Plus there was a baby to care for. Lizzie couldn’t be left alone with the baby, ever.
Carol decided that Lizzie couldn’t be around other people. Remember there are no counsellors, or care facilities available. Check it out for yourselves:
I think this is one of the most powerful bits of film I’ve ever seen. It ranks right up there with the burning of Atlanta, and the shower scene in psycho.
This program is full of testosterone driven moments, and there are plenty of macho characters too. For me, it’s Carol that is the standout character. She doesn’t want to be this person. Circumstances force her to be what she is. Even if you disagree with her decisions, she has a logic behind every action.
Carol continues to get stronger and stronger. She doesn’t do ninja backflips. She doesn’t high kick her way out of trouble, or play the sex kitten. She doesn’t have some asinine catchphrase. She doesn’t try to stand behind the throne and manipulate power. She’s just Carol, trying to survive and make sure her friends survive too.
This week during what amounted to a Viking style raid by some other group, it was Carol who found the weapons and protected the innocent while the main support was afield. And she did it all in about as cold blooded fashion as I’ve ever seen.
Carol has evolved from mousey redshirt into a capable, even dangerous, survivor. She’s capable of making decisions others cannot, and never once asked to be in charge. That’s a great character arc, and I wish I’d have invented her first.
Authors need to be creative thieves. Stock Carol in your memory. Maybe some small piece of her can help you with your next character.