An Arrogant Character
Around age 13, I decided to become an Electrical Engineer. Engineers are logical, smart and confident. We work in offices with (usually) pleasant office-minded people. Having no other foundation, it’s easy to understand how my work culture became a core writing value.
One of my characters is an Electrical Engineer. He loves to solve problems, tell people about his solutions and hates it when they cannot appreciate his brilliance. In addition, he is a model office employee who strongly avoids confrontation.
Offices are odd places. People have extreme conversations on important topics with forced pleasantries. However, coworkers are still people and negative actions get scornfully remembered for years. A single disapproving conversation can be just as devastating as a bloody fistfight. Of course, outside of the office, these rules do not apply. People yell, confront and fight without holding back.
Unfortunately, my editor pointed out that my main character is an arrogant know-it-all. This comes from the two aspects of his personality. He is smart and avoids confrontation until he has no choice.
Is my character realistic? Engineers must maintain an element of arrogance in order to do their job. Otherwise, projects would take forever. In my particular book, he only becomes arrogant when he knows he is correct which leads to overcompensation. From my experience, his level of arrogance is below normal. However, I now see that my lightly arrogant creation is far worse than the typical person. Unfortunately, this means that not everybody will appreciate him.
When creating a character, an author tries to create something new, but they have preconceptions. I I intended to develop somebody substantially different from myself. In retrospect, I should have made this character a patent attorney, doctor or business executive.
My reaction to this criticism is, “Stop embracing stereotypes! Engineers are great people. They only appear arrogant.” However, I see the problems and I will have to make corrections. On my next editing pass, I will tone down his reactions, give him more human qualities, turn off some of his engineering mind and make him more relatable.
Not an impossible task, but it will not be a fun task to town down his brilliance. I like it when people use their minds. It appears I need to un-engineer an engineer. Is un-engineer a real term? I will have to engineer it into the dictionary.
You’re the best -Bill
January 08, 2020
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