Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her

Do you know what's not a good way to create drama and excitement in your novel? Having a bunch of people scream and cry and curse and slap each other around for no particular reason.

I keep reading variations on the ur-text known to archaeologists as Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her. (Weepy Girl was originally an ancient Sumerian drama, hence the play format.)


WEEPY GIRL: Good morning, Abe!

ABE USEUR: YOU FUCKING BITCH! (throws pot of boiling hot coffee on Weepy)

WEEPY GIRL: (weeping) What are you doing? Why don't you like me? I just want to be your friend, Abe!

ABE USEUR: FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT! (he beats Weepy with the glass coffee carafe until it shatters, cutting and bruising Weepy in the process)

WEEPY GIRL: (weeps harder) Why don't you like me? (runs away, finds an isolated corner, sits there to weep) I just want to be his friend!

VIV SCHUSS: Weepy! You've been beaten horribly! What happened?

WEEPY GIRL: (weeping) Abe beat me, and...and...why doesn't he like me, Viv? I just want to be his friend!

VIV SCHUSS: Why doesn't Abe like you? Because you're a worthless, evil, hideous piece of shit, that's why!

WEEPY GIRL: (weeps harder) Why don't you like me, Viv? I just want to be your friend!

This continues for, oh, 400, 500 pages....


OK. See the problem here? There's a lot of violence and screaming and crying and "drama," but guess what's missing? Sympathetic characters.

Unless you're a psychopath, you aren't going to sympathize with Abe and Viv. They are thoroughly evil and impossible to like. A reader can take them in small doses (think Harry Potter's adoptive family), but no one is going to want to spend lot of time with them. And if you're trying to present some kind of arc with those characters, that's going to be a lost cause--I don't think anyone with any life experience is going to be happy to see Weepy reconcile with Abe, because we all know it's just a matter of time before he beats the crap out of her again.

What about Weepy? You know the writer is trying so hard here to make her sympathetic--she suffers and suffers and weeps and weeps. And it just fails. Why? She has no spine. It's not just that she's weeping all the time (which, yes, she may have no other options), it's that she wants to be friends with her abusers. She doesn't resent them, she's not eager to leave the situation, she's not plotting her revenge, she doesn't even think that they are doing something bad. Unless Weepy is a child under the age of 10, and Viv and Abe are her parents (and maybe not even then), that's just not a realistic portrayal.