5 Reasons to Write Rebels

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!


11 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Write Rebels”

  1. I love that you mentioned my favorite book. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. It was the first PD James I ever read, and immediately bought The Skull Beneath the Skin. Much as I loved Adam Dagleish I did want to see more Cordelia.

    Rebels give so much structure to a story and provide inherent conflict. Great post.


  2. I totally agree! Action makes mysteries interesting. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is on my to-reread shelf. (Not sure I’ll ever get there with all the TBRs…)


  3. There always has to be somebody who doesn’t want to fit the mold and somebody who is grumpy. Adds interest to the story.


  4. Such a great post, Sue! And I too love Cordelia Gray.

    Mary H., smiling about the “somebody who is grumpy” comment. There ARE a lot of curmudgeons in the books I’ve read. Have to say, I think they are very fun to write too. 😉


  5. Sue, you made me so happy with this post for so many reasons. I’ll explain – as you know, when you get reviews (heck when you get rejections from agents and editors and when you get feedback, etc.) there are often two completely opposite opinions on your book, on your characters, etc.
    Most of my readers see GG as a rebel (yay!) which is how I see her – fearless, not afraid to confront evil for a greater cause, etc., so I absolutely cringe inside when I see a review that mistakes her rebel spirit for being foolish or foolhardy. I guess for me, I can totally see someone jumping into a dangerous situation for the right reasons, but for some other people, it seems like a dumb move. Thanks for seeing GG as I do! xo


  6. Love that grump!

    Kristina, I agree. Fictional characters speak to our inner selves that we don’t often let loose.

    Kristi, so glad you’re happy! GG is one of the most fearless fictional characters I’ve ever met!


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