Rebels make great fictional characters because they resist tradition or authority. They come in all types, from young to old, and their reasons for rebelling are just as varied. Stories that include rebels are usually the most interesting and memorable stories for me. Here are 5 reasons why I find rebels useful:
1. Rebels are instigators of story. Stories are about a character in a setting with a problem, and rebels, by their very nature, invite many problems. A Mysterista alumna, Kristi Belcamino, writes about crime reporter Gabriella Giovanni, whom I would tag as a rebel. In Blessed Are the Dead Gabriella persists on the story she’s following, despite her opposition. And oh boy, the complications!
2. Rebels make good suspects. If rebels go their own way and resist authority, then they might be capable of committing the crime, right? For example, the hippie characters in Elly Griffiths’ The Crossing Places protest the archeology dig in the saltmarsh of northeastern England. To what lengths will they go?
3. Rebels lure the story into danger. In another archeology story—Susanna Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses—there is an archeologist character who is flamboyantly at odds with his peers (a rebel!) but so charismatic that he draws the protagonist into the dangerous setting of his dig.
4. Rebels (if understood by reader) are sympathetic characters. The title says it all in one of my favorite books, P.D. James’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. The heroine, Cordelia Gray, struggles against convention when she inherits a detective agency, and the reader roots for her to win.
5. Rebels (if not understood by fellow characters) provide entertaining conflict. Take, for example, Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files, where the protagonist P.I. does background checks on her boyfriends.
Did I mention that I love rebels in stories? I use two of them—a balky teen and cranky Gramps—in my Nell Letterly mystery series. And there are plenty more reasons for using rebels. I’d love to hear your ideas!