Some time ago, I wrote a short story about a guy named Danny, a guy who goes to his 40th high school reunion mostly to see who else made as big a mess of life as he has. Danny's divorced, out of a job, caught in a quagmire of his own misfortunes. He's at the end of his rope, figuring he might as well off himself. (Just in case I ever publish this story, I'm not telling what happens.)
Danny is more of a loser than he'll ever know, poor sod. He's been shredded in my writers' groups and soundly rejected by half a dozen lit magazines. Even my agent spurned him. For the longest time, I couldn't understand why no one wants anything to do with Danny or the world he rode in on.
Well, here it it: he's a loser. Danny sits around taking all the shit life throws at him and never does anything more than whine about it.
He might be very much like more than a few people in real life, but he's not the material of real fiction. I wanted readers to like Danny, or at least sympathize with his plight. Instead, they hated him. One person even called him a "fucktard."
I still like Danny, in spite of his faults, and someday I'll figure out how to tell his story. For now, however, I've learned that fiction needs to be about people who do things, who face their demons, who suck up their mistakes and move forward. It seems that lesson also applied to writing.