Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All the Little Pieces

The other day, Melissa commented on my post Reblocking = Rethinking that "a great story is made up of X,000 perfect words in the perfect order." At the time, I thought that was quite brilliant. Last night, my family and I were watching our collective favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually, and I realized that the reason I love that movie is that it doesn't just have one, two, or three great moments. No, it has a ton of moments where I end up saying, "Oh, I love this part," or "this is such a good moment," or "ooh, I love this bit."

The truly great stories aren't one absolutely amazing bit. They're made up of x,ooo really good moments in a succession. For one fabulous moment, I'll read the book once and occasionally pick it up and flip right to that chapter. For a ton of good moments, I'll reread the entire book over and over again, because all of it's good and all of it feels worth it.

To sum up: You don't have to create a scene that is so absolutely fantastic that people read it and go, "oh, heavens to hopscotch, I'm never going to be that good - I should just give up." It's better to have a lot of little great moments over and over again. Tiny moments that tug at heart strings or inspire smiles and laughter or make me want to read that bit aloud to a friend total up to a book that moves someone, makes someone laugh every time they read it, and they want to give it to friends. 100 one-pointers is better than 1 ten-pointer.

Thoughts? Are there stories you love that are just a lot of good moments? What are you better at, little moments or big scenes?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Books, Books, and Books

Once upon a time (read: January), I posted my New Year's Resolutions on the blog. While some of them (such as my resolution to post five times a day), didn't last until the end of the year, others actually made it through. The one that actually surprised me was reading 50 books this year. I felt reasonably sure I'd be holing up on New Year's Eve to finish the last few, but I actually rounded that one out back in October. Made me feel accomplished.

When I finished 'em up, I told myself I'd do a post about it here on the blog. Well, this should be an indication about my fantastic capability to procrastinate. But here goes my efforts:

Names that appeared multiple times on my list (yes, there was a list) :
  • Rick Riordan
  • Ally Carter
  • Julia Quinn
  • Lisa Kleypas
  • Simone Elkeles
In hindsight, all of these books contained some manner of a romantic plot, and they all featured something resembling a happy ending. So, I think we now know what sort of story I enjoy reading. And I would personally recommend just about any book written by any of these authors. I haven't read everything they've ever written, but I've enjoyed what I've read.

Biggest surprise on my list: Mauprat by George Bernard Sand. I felt pretty nerdy for reading a French novel. Plus, it's a love story with a happy ending, and I think we know how I feel about love stories with happy endings.
Favorite Debut: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White I loved that this book turned prior tropes on their heads. I think I took a strange amount of joy in the fact that I've followed this woman's blog for more than a year, so I'd heard a lot about the book before it came out. Totally psyched me up for the book. Definitely worth all the hype.
Biggest Surprise: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson I picked this up at the library, because I saw a movie based on it. I thought it would be dry and boring, because it's old. (I stereotype like that. I'm heinous. Truly heinous.) Then again, there are pirates, and I'd enjoyed the movie I saw, so I had some hope. I actually enjoyed it. Plenty of good plot, even if they don't seem to include in it English classes these days. Surprisingly kid friendly, by the by.

How have your goals been going? What have you read this year? What have you particularly enjoyed? What's your sort of book?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reblocking = Rethinking

Once upon a time -- by which I mean last month -- I teched a play. One night, near the end of the run, an actor did something that made every techie watching the scene say, "Woah!" Because at the end of the scene where the couple fights, maybe the lights didn't dim quickly enough, maybe he needed more time in the wings, or maybe he just felt it, but the actor just got up and walked off stage.

Normally, blocking changes didn't freak us out so much. But this one had the effect of somehow altering the feel of the entire moment. At the end of the fight, instead of just staring at his wife until the lights dimmed, he just walked off. So, instead of their ending as some sort of truce, it looked like it had ended with his pretty much fed up.

This got me thinking. Somehow, with one change, it seemed like the actor had entirely changed the emotions of that one scene, which changed the manner in which he went into the following scene. So, in theory, with a single sentence, one could change a character's motivations, actions, and emotions.

When editing, consider every change, every new avenue to alter and shift the situation. It doesn't take much, not a whole scene, not a whole rewrite to alter the course of a character or plot arc. Just an action. Just a sentence. Just a single revision on your part.

Are you up to it?

How's your writing going? Any revising going on? What makes you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where's My Head At?

The honest answer is, I don't know. Seriously, you know you're far gone when you think you got everything done at night then, in the morning, you're moseying along and suddenly you remember, "Oh, right, I have a blog." I'm sorry, my lovelies/minions/Merry Men. Somehow, I gapped on this sight. My abject apologies.

In the thread of things I somehow gapped out, I received a blog award a while ago and neglected to pay it forward. That shall be remedied now.

I received the Irresistible Blogger Award from the lovely Lola Sharp.

So, now, I don't know quite how this works, so I'm just going to hand this out to blogs that make me smile. Sound good?

Roni Loren @ Fiction Groupie
Kiersten White @ Kiersten Writes
Natalie Whipple @ Between Fact and Fiction
Elana Johnson @ Elana Johnson
Lisa and Laura @ Laura and Lisa Write
Susan Mills @ A Walk in My Shoes
Hannah Moskowitz @ Invincible Summer

Also, for you enjoyment, I bring you Fly Like It's Quidditch.
I hadn't heard the song Fly Like a G6 before my friend made me so I could understand what they were pardoying, but as far as I'm concerned, if you haven't, this video is still fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We Made It!

Congratulations, my lovlies. NaNoWriMo 2010 is over! We've made it to the end with your sanity (mostly) intact, and hopefully with some more story written. I suggest a massive communal happy dance, followed by some well deserved sleep.

I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but I won NaNoWriMo. This makes me feel epic, espec
ially because I never thought I'd actually get a chance to do one, let alone win it. November isn't a month when I have abundant spare time.Okay, so I feel like a bit of a jerk for putting in the sticker, but I'm really jazzed about making it through.

I did feel really good about this story though. I feel like I really knew my MC and Leading Man really well going in, and I think I had a firm idea of what was happening when, which really helped smooth things along.

How'd your NaNoWriMo go? Or your November in general? I can see a few of my writing buddies are NaNoWinners. A tip of my hat to anyone who won, because I recognize your epicness. Heck, a tip of the hat to anyone who got a lot done in November, no matter what. Take this moment to give yourself a pat on the back. Please do. You deserve it.

Also, a special notice to any Jewish readers. Happy Hanukkah.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wrapping It Up

First of all, Happy Belated Thanksgiving. Somehow, going to see my family, not really sleeping, spending too much time on trains, I forgot to wish you all a happy holiday. I hope my American readers -- and any non-American readers who celebrated the holiday anyway -- had a great time. I did.

Okay, this post might feel a little random. It's because I'm totally cracked. I'm blaming NaNo. Not that it's really NaNo's fault, but it's just so convenient.

Speaking of NaNo, it's actually going pretty well. I made 48.8k on Sunday. It's looking good for winning this year! (That's not a jinx, I think, because at this point, I'm ready to give up all sleep to make it happen.) True, I won't be done with the story the same time I'm done NaNo (I'm envisioning at least 5k more words here), but just because you've hit a goal word count is no reason to stop writing. You can always cut and trim and shave later. The original word count goal is more of a guideline than an actual rule. (See that POTC reference? I make those because they make me smile.)

I'm a little amped as I write this, because I'm listening to the soundtrack of Next to Normal, which is awesome. I saw it this weekend with my family. The Other One and I loved it. Captain Film Major said it was okay. My parents split between us. But, since I'm the one writing this post, my view's the one that gets reiterated (notice my blatant abuse of my power? I thought you might): Next to Normal rocked. Definitely worth seeing.

I will note one thing about the show. Captain Film Major and my father expressed the view that it's hard to pinpoint the exact main character of the piece. This is true. I think of it as more of an ensemble piece that a story with an MC -- though their is one character whose actions drive the plot.

This makes me wonder, can books be ensemble pieces? I've seen and worked on ensemble plays. However, I'm not sure I've read a book that I would call an ensemble book. Usually, in my experience, books have a single MC whose actions pull the story forward. However, I'm ready to believe I'm wrong about this or have just read books differently than others might have.

How's your NaNo going? Almost there? How's that feel?

How do you feel about ensemble stories? Single MC stories? Which to you write? Which do you read? To ensemble books exist?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moving Forward

This weekend, I discovered one of the more interesting effects of NaNoWriMo.

One thing NaNo does is force you to move forward. You can't hit the delete button. You've got hit the word count. 50k in 30 days. Go. This means that things happen fast, maybe even things you hadn't thought about or anticipated. Sometimes, this will take you to places you didn't anticipate going, or it'll make you think of all the things you didn't think of.

Somewhere in my mind, I had thoughts about what was going to happen next in my book. MC and friends were going to NYC, and pretty darn soon if I had anything t say about it. Then it occurred to me, because of how I'd been moving my characters along, not giving them much time to cool their heels, I'd ended up with a lot of down time. If I wanted them in NYC when I original plan kicked in, they'd have to chill for the better part of a week. Who chills for almost a week when they've got Intra-Galactic Intrigue to get involved in?

Thinking about this, I started coming up with new plans. I cycled through a couple ideas (a lot of which involved postponing this issue until revisions -- I know, I'm a bum. I like to procrastinate fixing things). After some thought, it occurred to me that if I bump up their time frame, it makes them upset. It massively inconveniences them and means they have to revamp their plan ASAP. Tension! Barriers! Fun (for me at least)!

This is what's great about NaNo. It forces you to think on your face. You'll come up with new ideas, great ideas sometimes. When you write, there will always come a time when your original plan needs to be tweaked, no matter how perfect the plan is. In real life, a lot of people let this stop them. They freeze when they need to adjust. But NaNo gives you the boost to push past that 'Oh, my original plan isn't working, and now the world will end' freak-out so that you can get on with your story.

I'm enjoying this new direction. I think it'll really amp up the conflict in both my plots. NaNo for the win!

How's your NaNo going? Have your stories ever pushed you in a new direction because of how the story was turning out? How did that work out for you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to Reality

Hi all.

I have successfully reclaimed my brain. Sorry, I'd hoped to do it by Monday, but my brain was farther gone than I thought. How do we know this? Not only did I forget to blog on Monday, I also forgot entirely about the concept of NaNoWriMo until about 1am Tuesday morning. How did that happen? I have no idea. I knew until 3pm, when I was away from my computer, and then, until 1am, that thought went off goodness knows where. Yes, my mind, was woohoo.

But, as I say, I'm back! It's good to be. How have you all been? How was your weekend? In the general vein, how's your NaNo been going? (Shameless Self-Promotion: In case you've forgotten, my NaNo name is Dominique_En_Violet, and you should come see me.)

Aside from my mind-gap moment of brain-missing-ness (and thank you Scott Westerfeld for bringing that word into my life) my NaNo's been going pretty well. I'm almost 28k into the story, and tomorrow my MC's life's about to get much worse. Not harder, because I've already plopped her into her difficult situation, but I'm about to deprive her of something she really wants. Why? Because I'm a sick, twisted person. 8D

And you, my lovelies? Playing the sick, twisted, cruel god of a universe? I certainly hope so.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Continued Uselessness

Desperate apologies. Sometime, maybe next Wednesday, if sleeps been able to occur on Tuesday, my life will not be meeting at an intersection of Work That Needs Doing, NaNo, and Theater. It'll just be Work That Needs Doing and NaNo. Much more reasonable. And then -- after some much needed sleep -- I will have my brain back. And when I get my brain back, there will be more interesting blog postings going on.

Terribly sorry, my lovelies.

In the interval, I'd like to introduce you to Truth or Fail, youtube's only game show, and the hands down best time vampire known to man. It's quite simple, Hank Green reads off a list of facts and factoids. You pick the right one, or you fail. Lots of fun.

In fact, I endorses it so much, I'm embedding one of my favorite ones right below. Enjoy!

Hope you have a great weekend!

How've you been?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Bad

Hi guys. I'm terribly sorry, but I'm about to be an utterly useless blogger. NaNo's been kicking me while I'm down lately, because it's overlapping with a bunch of other stuff in my life. I'm keeping up with the NaNo-ing, but it's absorbing most of my non-real-world time, and it's totally zapped my creative powers for the moment. So, sadly, I have little to offer you today.

In trade, I offer you this image. It's not super funny, and I was originally hoping to let you off with a laugh, but the second I saw it, it struck me.

First of all, it's visually clever, and I like that. Second, it's so charmingly succinct. Third, it totally calls to mind the situation of my MC and Male Lead from my NaNo project. If there were stars math equations going on in the background, it would be perfect, actually.

Ever happen to you? You're moseying through life, see something, and think, "MC would love that," or "that totally describes MC's situation"? Doesn't always happen to be, but when it does, I think it's really cool.

Now, since I've been talking about me for a while, tell me, how have you been doing? How are your projects coming along, NaNo or otherwise? Anyone up to anything interesting?

Also, since I feel bad for robbing you of the funny, here's another comic. And this one has math. :) (Only time I've ever said that with joy.)Enjoy ...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Writing in Public

This weekend, I did something I've never done before and, to a certain extent, thought I'd never do -- I went to a write-in.

Now, I never had anything against the idea of write-ins. Actually, I thought they sounded quite fun. I loved the idea of meeting other writers and feeding inspiration off each other.

My issue: I can't write in public.

Well, it's not that I can't so much as it makes me really uncomfortable, twitchy uncomfortable. I've found trains to be a really productive place to write. Enclosed space with nowhere to go and not much to do but work. Definitely a Butt In Chair situation. But when other people sit next to me, I get uncomfortable. I always get this strange feeling that they're going to look over my shoulder, see what I'm doing, and think I'm crazy. I guess it's an unfortunate side effect of growing up with siblings, you're always preparing for someone to look over your shoulder.

But I really enjoyed the write-in. I met a bunch of writers really close to where I live. Good fun, good jokes. Besides, despite my twitchy feeling that someone might see what I was doing, I got a hecka lot of words written for NaNoWriMo. So, write-ins are definitely successful. Plus, meeting a goal is a lot of more fun when there are other people around to join in the happy-dancing.

So, if you can, I recommend attending any write-ins in your area. Maybe you can even start one if there aren't any nearby. Ours wasn't an official NaNo event, just a bunch of NaNoers in proximity to each other who wanted to do a write-in. Write-ins rock. Writers rock. We are awesomeness.

Rock on!

Have you ever participated in a write-in? Why/why not? Are there any places you don't feel comfortable writing?

Friday, November 5, 2010


(Warning: I may have already told this story before. However, I'm not sure, and I couldn't find any evidence that I might have. So I'm running with it again. And you can't stop me. Muahahaha.)

Once upon a time, a teacher told my class, "You have to be a sick, twisted person to be a writer. You can't help it. Because writers have to torture their characters." He wasn't kidding. Basically, to be a writer, you need to create characters. Give birth to them. Learn them. Love them. Then you need to kick them in the stomach on a regular basis.

I can't help but agree. We're twisted.

I have a special feeling for each of my characters, especially my MCs. I know their histories, their wishes, what makes them tick. We're close. And then I do awful, awful things to them. For Amira, I know her history, what she wants most, what she hates and fears the most. What else have I done to her? Well, her grandfather gets murdered, she's almost executed, she's exiled, she goes to war, she's almost murdered too. And I'm not done yet. I'm planning on amping this up in the next round of revisions.

You're the same way. Admit it. You know your MCs, probably back to front and inside-out, and you put them in dangerous situations, untenable situations, risky situations. You find out what they want and put as many roadblocks between them as you possibly can.

That's perfectly okay. It's what writers do.

Practice this sentence with me: "I am a genius of tremendous and remarkable power and evil. I am out to control my universe. Muahahahaha." (Yes, the evil laugh is obligatory.)

I know you love your characters. I'm sure you do. But, that doesn't mean you don't have to make them suffer. Think of it this way, it'll just make it all the sweeter for them when everything comes 'round right.

How goes your malicious wickedness, fellow genius of remarkable evil and power? Have you ever experienced difficulty working acts of evil against your characters? Is that hard for you?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Importance of Sitting Down

Hello, all. I hope you all had a fantastic election day and remembered to vote. I'm still smarting over the election results in my district, but I won't bore/annoy you with the details. On an upside, maybe my party will stop sending my letters reminding me to mail in my ballot. They send me more spam that ad sponsors.

For some election day humor, I bring you this excerpt from The West Wing. To lighten your day:

Now, on to my thesis for the day.

I recently had to read a very long biography of an author that was released 266 years ago. I'll spare you the name, because it was just that bad. For most of the biography, I wanted to slap the author. I'll skip the laundry list, but one of his more annoying qualities was that he never seemed to finish anything. Most of the biography was a litany of his plans to do work, most of which never even got through a first draft.

This makes me think of all the stuff people say about the importance of getting a draft written. I really agree with that, the idea that one of the biggest winnowers between People with Ideas and Authors is the Writing a Draft stage. I know, writing a full draft is hard. It takes time, effort, and dedication. And did I mention time? It's hard.

You know what comes in handy doing this? Putting your butt in a chair and writing something. You'll have heard of this. The Butt In Chair philosophy of writing. It's pretty common, and I'm something of a fan. Doing something every day, it helps get stuff done.

To me, it sort of seems that this is what NaNiWriMo is about. I know i've found myself doing it so far. I do reach a point where I might otherwise have stopped but, because of NaNo, I keep my butt in my chair and keep on writing. I'm already feeling more productive. (I just hope I can keep going.) NaNo's about getting 50k out there in 30 days. That's not going to work without behinds in chairs.

Good luck!

How's the writing going, NaNoers and non-NaNoers alike? How do you feel about the Butt in Chair philosophy?

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo On!

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo! Who's with me?

I feel like we should be breaking out into Pirates of the Caribbean references. I don't know. That just makes me think of Jack Sparrow saying "Drinks all around." (And, I've a feeling, by the end of NaNoWriMo, we'll all be having drinks all around for one reason or another.)

Barring any other useful POTC reference I'm inserting this video which highly amused me. Because, quite frankly, we could all do with a laugh. Hope it amuses you.

Hey, if you're doing NaNo too, or if you just feel like stalking me, NaNo buddy me: Dominique_En_Violet.
(And we can all take this moment to be in awe of the awesome creativity demonstrated by my handle. Mad skills.) If you're doing NaNo be sure to leave me your name in the comments so I can follow you. :-)

Whatever, McKinley can do her dance of joy that she's finally escaping my head and appearing on paper. It's about time, I guess, since she's been queuing for about a year.Anyway, I'm already 100 words into my new WIP. That makes me feel so productive. A whole .2% of the way done. Woohoo. That probably means I should sleep more, but it's NaNo, so that's not going to happen. (Note how I pretend the inside of my mind is a neat and orderly system when, let's face it, we all know it isn't. Joy.)

How are you all doing? Psyched for NaNoWriMo/NaNoRevisMo/NaNoReadMo/NaNoBreatheMo or whatever it is you're doing? I hope so. How's the writing going?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Victory Dance

Okay, this is going to sound highly preliminary, because that's the sort of thing one might say after NaNiWriMo is over, and it hasn't even started yet, but I'm doing on anyway.

I just finished my first draft of Cordamant's Heir.

**Victory Dance**

It's awesome. It feels so great you can even join in if you want to. In fact, I highly encourage it.

This was challenging. This was, by far, the longest draft I've ever done. Heck, I'll go so far as to say this is the longest thing I've ever written in my entire life. It weighs in at an shocking 103.5k. As far as I'm concerned, that's hecca long. Not Lord of the Rings 1 long, but definitely longer than Harry Potter 1. Somewhere between the two, really.

It's definitely long for me. (1.5x the length of Thief Book Draft 1. 2x the length of the Massive Revisions of Thief Book. 2x the length of Miss Snitch. 2.5x the length of my first book.) Yeah, for me, it's mad long.

Now do we understand the victory dancing?

I'm feeling mad awesome. How about you?

Almost There

Okay, so, yesterday wasn't my day. I woke up an hour and a half past when my alarm should've gone off. It didn't go off so much as turn itself off. Not the desired result.

My body: Yay!
My mind: Frick! I'm late!

It wasn't good. And, to make matters worse, I gapped on another meeting later that afternoon and missed it pretty much entirely. Yeah... Moral of the story: I can never remove my schedule from the wall next to my door. I didn't put it up this week, and it's not been brilliant. Other moral: Sleep more. Because, really, I should do that.

Anyway, in happier news, I'm closing in on the end of Cordamant's Heir. I'm so close to the end I can taste it. Now I just need to put words on paper. Should be done by the end of the weekend. Then, on to my final prep notes and NaNoWriMo. Yep, I'm doing it this year. Probably because I have some sort of death wish. Joys.

How about you? What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Story Telling Ticks

I'm starting to think I have a story telling tick. Not a word I fall back on, not a sort of story I like to write, not a theme, just one character element that appears in everything I write. This thing: Mathletes.

Hear me out. In Miss Snitch, my MC was a Mathlete. In the script I wrote for my screenwriting class this summer, my MC was a Mathlete. In the story I'm outlining for NaNoWriMo, my MC -- and the Male Lead -- is a Mathlete. That's a lot of Mathletes.

To this, I can only say, what the cherry tomatoes? I was not a Mathlete in high school. Okay, I was a Mathlete in Junior High and for freshman year of High School, until I got bored being on a team where the only scores that counted were those of the Seniors in Honors Calculus. Plus I wasn't too good at maths. That might have been a problem too. Anyway, I was a thespian, not a Mathlete.

So why are there Mathletes all over everything I do? Seriously, if it's contemporary, they just show up. Is there an advertising sign in my brain, Only Math Geeks Need Apply? I'm starting to wonder.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I'm not saying it's a good thing. Near as I can tell, it's just the way my mind seems to work. I'm sure some day someone will be able to tell me what's going on in my messed up head to put math people all over everything like salt on french fries, but until that day, I'm going to be thinking a lot about math.

How about you? Is there any element that appears in your stories a lot? For no explicable reason? For a reason? What?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Character Movement

I feel like I've been on a character kick lately, but at least this time I'm taking it in a different direction.

(Note: Captain Film Major would like it noted that he believes one should like the MC from Fargo because she's nice. I feel like he believes that, but it wasn't part of the conversation I referenced. Still, Captain Film Major remains adamant a clarification of his stance was required. I cede on the clarification front, but not on rewatching that movie.)

To proceed to my point...

This weekend, I attended a mini-lecture on movement, mostly how movement and how people carry themselves relate to the characters. It was a very though-provoking idea. I enjoyed the lecture. (Note: We will not be discussing my physical experiences during the lecture, because that probably wasn't pretty. Anyone who's seen me attempt yoga knows that.)

This made me think about how my characters carry themselves. Mostly, about how Amira, from Cordamant's Heir, moves. The first time I conceptualized her character, I imagined her a lot more graceful than she really is. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because ideas are so light and fluffy in my head. But, like a lot of the assumptions we make about our characters, we're not always right. (If you want to hear some more brilliant thoughts on this, click here to be redirected to Natalie Whipple's blog.)

I now realize that she's a little more awkward on her feet sometimes. She's not as good a dancer as her mother would like her to be, or really as good as she'd like to be, since she's not a fan of being bad at things. She does better with a weapon in her hand, but dancing while holding a sword is often considered bad form, even where she lives. It gets better, but she's not the best. And if I think about it more, I can think why she moves the way she does, why she's better with swords than dance steps.

I like that about her, but it's not the sort of thing I'd recognized about her when I first started writing, because I didn't think about it. Now, though, I'm starting to think that I should think about movement more. Movement comes from who the character is, and by thinking about it, we can get a gateway into who they are and how they live. I might have to add movement to my Character Charts.

How do your characters move? Why? What does it say about them?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Loving and Cheating

To return to the film that inspired this week's posts (in case you didn't know I've been building on a theme), I don't feel bonded to the MCs of Fargo. During one of our perennial debates about this movie, Captain Film Major said to me, "How can you not feel something for her? She's pregnant and investigating a murder, which is dangerous."

To such an argument, all I can say is, "CHEAT!" (Or, to quote Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, "Cheat! Cheat! Cheat! I hope you die!" But I try not to take Fargo that seriously.)

As far as I'm concerned, telling me that I should like a character because they're pregnant is cheating. So is telling me I should like them because they're left handed, have three eyes, or happen to look like my sister. Really, telling me that I should like them for any other reason than that they are a likable person is a cheat.

Much like showing me that your villain is a bad guy by having him kick a dog (and we all know that's a bad idea, right?), it's not okay to tell me that I should like your MC just because he's playing with a dog in the first scene. It's too easy. Maybe he's an ax murderer who happens to own a dog. In which case, you've a decent villain, not a likable hero.

Writing is hard work. I understand that. But there are reasons it's hard, and one of those reasons is that when you slack off, it shows. Really shows. I mean, everyone knows. They know, and when they put down the book, they talk about you. "Can you believe it? So-and-so didn't even bother to characterize the MC. All So-and-so ever says is that the MC really likes puppies. But come on, everyone likes puppies. Lame." **I do not promise that the dialogue will always look exactly like that**

But, here's the deal, most people like puppies and kittens. Most people like babies. Most people feel some empathy for pregnant women, people with disabilities or diseases, and/or people in untenable positions over which they have little control. However, none of these qualities or states of being, should your character possess them and/or be in them, actually constitute a likable person. After all, if you write a serial killer who gets picked on for having three eyes, I'm probably going say, "He's a serial killer. Who cares?"

Therefore, if you say, "You should feel sympathy/empathy/deep personal concern/love for my MC just because she's pregnant/he's in the unfortunate situation of having three arms/dogs love my MC," I'm going to call you a cheat. Most people, I think, would agree with me. Because those aren't likable characters. They're just people I usually feel something for.

I do not have an obligatory Harry Potter reference for this post. Why? Because I don't recall J.K. Rowling ever doing something like this. Good work, J.K. Rowling.

To sum up this week: You want the reader to love your characters. To do this, you'll have to give them something in the character to love. And this something better be something real about the character, not a stock sympathetic attribute, or it will not have the desired effect.

Have you ever run across characters that were more sympathetic type than actually sympathetic? Did this work on you? How did you feel about the character? Did your feelings about this character effect your view of the work as a whole?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Somehow, I Love You

In the comments of Monday's post, Melissa brought up the point that Malfoy does have lovable qualities as the series progresses. This is true. As the series progressed, I definitely felt some love for Malfoy. Besides that, I've definitely seen some fanfiction writers (yes, I do read that on occasion), who've made him and a few of the more dastardly characters very lovable without sacrificing much of the back story and basic personality of the characters. Thus, we have proof, it can be done.

Even the most unlovable seeming character can garner the love and sympathy of the reader. Here's how: Give the reader something to love.

That sounds simplistic, but it's true. In the midst of all the bad and wicked, give the reader a nice quality, a good trait, a relatable aspect, something for the reader to grasp on to.

Think of it this way: Most people in the world are not wholly good or wholly evil. You know how good guys have those nice things called flaws and weaknesses that make them human? Well bad guys have these nice things called redeeming qualities that do basically the same thing.

Redeeming qualities can be a lot of things. Maybe your villain has a habit of killing off the henchmen who fail to serve him badly. That's not lovable. But maybe he also loves dogs and has a habit of taking care of any strays he finds. People love people who loves dogs. Or maybe your anti-hero loves his mother and visits her every weekend. It's a lot harder to hate a guy who's nice to his mama.

The Obligatory Harry Potter Reference (Because the bit about Malfoy earlier was simply not sufficient): Snape. In a large way, it would be easy very to hate on Snape. After all, in the beginning of the first book, he picks on Harry just because Harry's James's kid. In the second book, Snape desperately tries to get Harry and Ron expelled after the Wamping Willow thing, and then he tries to get Harry kicked off the Quidditch team. Really, you could go on and on. Or, if you don't want to think too hard, just listen to what Harry and Ron say about him for most of the series. If the heroes don't like him, he must be evil, right?

But, alternatively, Snape was really in love with Lily Evans, even after she married the guy who used to beat him up in school. In the first book, Snape saved Harry's life. In the second book, Snape brewed the Mandrake Restorative that revived Hermione. When you look at Snape in that light, it's a lot harder to hate him. Don't you love him just a little bit? I do.

Have there ever been characters you hated even though everyone loved them? Why'd you like 'em so much?

Monday, October 18, 2010

You Want My Love

Well, not you specifically. But your character wants it. Or, at least, they should. Here's why.

Okay, obligatory statement of the obvious: Captain Film Major and I disagree on movies. (I know. You're all having heart attacks and dying from that surprise.) But, to bother being specific in this case, we disagree about the movie Fargo.

I highly anticipate that some of you are going to disagree with me about this one, and you can feel free to express that. But, basically, Captain Film Major loves that movie. Me, well, when he made me watch it, I contemplated violence against myself to escape. Nothing serious, just that feeling of, 'Hey, if I stab myself in the eye, can I stop watching now?'

Here's my deal with Fargo: I don't give a flying flamingo about any of the characters. Not one of them. There was no one in the movie to whom I felt an emotional connection. So, though this film is considered a cinema classic, I never want to see it again. It bored the living daylights outta me.

Why? Because when I'm watching a film/reading a book/hearing a story about people I don't care about do things I thereby don't care about, I tend to get bored.

In my experience, most people are the same way. Ever been stuck on a train with a stranger who wants to tell you about their second cousin's root canal? And you're just sitting there thinking, "And I care about this why? I hope this person gets off at the next stop. Please, Whatever Higher Power Happens to Be Listening, please let them get off at the next stop." Whereas, if it's your best friend telling you about their grueling trip to your dentist, you'll probably care more. People tend not to care about the doings and feelings of those to whom they have no connection.

Those rules that apply to strangers on a train apply to characters. If the reader feels no emotional connection to the character, no love, then they're not going to care about the character or anything that happens to him or her. Whereas, if you've made the reader fall in love with/feel great love for the character, then the reader will feel their joy and pain. That's what you're going for. Make the reader suffer, so they can enjoy the success.

Think of it this way: Harry Potter. Harry's a nice, down-trodden kid who gets picked on. So you're rooting for him when he gets to leave. Then he's taken and put into a situation where he's inexperienced and doesn't have a clue what to do, so he's got to maneuver in unfamiliar territory where not everyone is friendly, even though you know that since he's nice and down-trodden, this is all really unfair. So you're rooting for him when he makes friends and figuring it all out. (Quidditch!) Then he has to save the world, which is really, really hard, and he's doing his best. So you're rooting for him when he tries. Harry's a nice guy doing his best in a hard situation, so you like him.

Instead, now, picture Draco Malfoy in his place.
Draco's an annoying, arrogant jerk. So you don't care about his feelings when Harry tells him to shove off. Then he goes to a school where he's already accorded some respect for being a pure-blood and, by virtue of his blood and wealth, already has some power and friends. So you don't care about any struggles he has at school, since they don't seem that back. Then he wants to get in the way of someone trying to save the world. So you really wish Ron and Harry could push him off a glacier and make it look like an accident.

Getting the reader to love the character's important. So, you're going to have to make the character lovable. Once you've got the reader to love the character, you can lead the reader through the ups and downs of the fascinating story, and the reader will stay interested. Because they care about what happens to the character.

Your characters feeling the love?

How's your writing going? Do you ever have trouble getting readers to love your characters? Have you ever run along characters you just can't care for? How did this effect your reading/viewing/listening experience?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Revisions, Revisions

Sadly -- or happily, I can never make up my mind -- I'm not doing revisions right now. However, I recently agreed to move chairs and things for a local show. (It's a nice gig, actually. Great people, light work, and I get to see the one-acts several times for nothing. Have I mentioned lately I really like theater?) I worked the dress rehearsal, and thus heard the script for the first time. One of cast members said, "You're going to see a completely different show tomorrow." I didn't know if that could be as different as she made it sound, but with a challenge like that, you better believe I paid attention the next night.

Massively different show.

The second night, about two pages of script I hadn't heard before suddenly appeared. (Hey, things happen at dress rehearsal. And if I didn't notice it missing, it means they must have carried it off well. They're quite good.) Changed so much. Suddenly, the relationship between two characters became radically different. This effected the relationship these characters had with a mutual friend, also a part of the show. And a how lot about one of the character's back story became apparent. Totally changed the way I looked at him.

What does this have to do with revisions?

Well, the differences between the versions I saw made me think of different drafts of a book. Between version one and version two, character motivations may change, you might become aware of back story you hadn't previously known, or minor -- maybe even major -- characters might meet with a sudden, untimely death by way of a red pen. Things happen. Things change.

I remember writing the Thief Book. Between versions one and three, nine characters fled into the night never to be seen again, at least in that MS. One new bloke appeared on the screen, and one girl's part grew to subplot sized.

The long and short of it is, in between drafts, things change. Lots of things. Sometimes big things. Huge, colossal, size of a small town with mid-sized populous things. We must accept this. Our stories are not carved in stone. No, they are forged in metal. Thus, they can be taken apart, melted down, reforged, remade, cut off, reaffixed, and otherwise altered. Nothing's perfect, and nothing's permanent.

Things change. Life happens. Roll with it.

How's your writing coming? Revisions? Things changing? Big changes? Small changes? What's the biggest change you've ever made to an MS in between drafts?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some Laughs

Okay, I'm terribly sorry about this. I'm usually not so useless at the whole blogging thing (as some of you who've been around a while can attest). However, I somehow used my whole store of creative thought working on my Positive Pranking.

No, it did not look like this....

I said Positive, remember. Nah, I kicked it old-school (which, I guess, is about two weeks old), and ran around putting Tootsie Pops on doors. Then I did a little dance of glee. :-)

I highly recommend this Positive Pranking. It's tons of fun.

Now, in reference to my previous post about references (as I pause and take too much glee in the preceding phrase and in my use of the word glee), and in recognition of the fact that I've been listening to this series on CD lately, I'll leave you with this.

Because, really, if you don't know this series, you're missing out.

Have a rocking day. :-)

How have you been doing lately?

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Which I Reference Things No One's Seen

When I'm living in the same general vicinity of Captain Film Major, my life develops a refrain: "Are you serious? You haven't seen it? Why haven't you seen anything?" Not necessarily in that order or using those exact words every time, but it happens a lot. In his version of reality, I live in a bubble and have never seen any movies.

When I'm living in the actual world, I end up saying something very strange. Namely, "Are you serious? You haven't seen it? Why haven't you seen anything?" Usually not in that order or using those exact words every time, but it happens often enough and something along those lines.

This might be because, while I haven't watched a lot of TV or movies, and the books I've read aren't always the most mainstream (I hid from Twilight for more than a year), but that's never stopped me from referencing them. I make a lot of references, as it turns out. It's gotten to the point where some of my friends have told me, "If you're about to say, 'have you watched...' or 'have you read...' just assume the answer's no."

This makes me wonder, what references can we really expect people to get? Because, quite frankly, I don't expect everyone else on the planet to understand my insane quoting of West Wing (doesn't mean I don't think everyone should watch it, by the by), and I'm coming to terms with the fact that people don't run around quoting Shakespeare (though every time I realize that I get a little sad inside), but there are some things, I think, should be universally understood.

There are some things that we all walk around expecting people to have a working knowledge of. The plots of classics, such as Romeo and Juliet (though I swear I've seen someone screw that one up). The Bible. Major historical figures. (While kids are more likely to recognize Ronald McDonald than George Washington, I think we're all agreed you should know who he is.)

Then there are some things we don't classify as "important knowledge" but everyone has and you'll be surprised if someone doesn't. For example, Harry Potter. I'm not kidding. If you're not conversant in Harry Potter (and by conversant, I don't mean my level of creepy, quote-spouting fandom, I mean knowing the plot and characters), you will be missing things in American culture. How can I prove this? I heard someone reference it on the radio yesterday, fulling expecting to be understood by all listeners. And you know what, I feel very sure he was. (I, personally, think there will be a bullet-note in History classes on the 1990-2010 mentioning the phenomenon that was Harry Potter. But that's a story for another time.)

Then there are other things, like the stuff I go on about, that you might think people should know about but won't know about when you reference them. For example, when I say, "Men and women can never be friends, because the sex thing inevitably gets in the way," I, despite my disappointment, have to accept that most people won't understand that I mean When Harry Met Sally. (And, by the way, you need to go watch that movie. It's fabulous.)

I've a whole list of references I could make that no one in the world will get. I think we all do. Inside jokes with friends. Old movies and books we've seen and read that most people haven't. Songs by indie bands that never escaped our hometowns. They're great references, I'm sure.

We just can't make 'em. Or, really, we can. But at the right times and places. Which, often, aren't our books. References that aren't dated and we can expect any reasonable person to get are definitely fair game. Any other reference, if it's too obscure, will either need to be explained, which takes a long time, or it will go over everyone's head. Either way, it defeats the point.

There are exceptions to this, of course. If you're familiar with the show NCIS (catch that reference there), one of the characters, Tony, is a film buff, and he's constantly referencing films. But, for them to pull it off, it's done in a very specific way. First of all, they make it clear that this is something specific to that character. He's the only one running around making film references. Second of all, the references are almost all explained so that the viewer can understand the reference and why it's important.

References, though, outside of context to explain their importance or made by characters who wouldn't ordinarily be able to make that reference (ie: girl who never, ever, ever watches movies making a sudden, inexplicable Cary Grant reference) won't work. They'll be missed or they'll come off as strange. And not in a good, I'm-so-fascinated way. In the what-in-the-name-of-tortilla-chips is this person doing, this makes to no sense sort of way. Not the goal.

Trust, me, I've been the girl who gets people saying what-the-tortilla-chips, I'm that girl a lot, and it usually requires more time to explain than I want to devote words in an MS to pulling off. Making references people won't be able to understand is not the best use of our time.

By the by, we have some new members with us today. Hello, all! Nice to have you here. I'm sure you'll like it. I know I do. Anway, guys, this'll be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Do you often make references people don't understand? What's your thing(s) you reference that people don't get and you wish they would? How is your knowledge of Harry Potter, When Harry Met Sally, and Cary Grant films?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Some General Randomness

First off, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind every citizen of the US who is of age and eligible to register to vote. If you won't be in your area on election day, register to vote absentee. Just to remember, we live in what's pretty much a democracy. (Sort of a democracy. Sort of a republic. Trust me, I've heard of people expound on this. I won't.) Remember, as Shaw said, “Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” Or, more to the point, to quote H.L. Mencken, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." So, let's vote people. Register, and vote!

Moving on...

I wanted to share two pieces of video phenomenon.

First: Positive Pranking.

I'd like to help this concept spread, and I've already got some wonderful plans to positive prank my local area. Hope you can spread the love in your area. :-)

Also: A new concept -- A Book.

I've recently received the One Lovely Blog Award from Carolyn Snow Abiad. Thanks so much for thinking of me, Carolyn.

  • Acknowledge the blogger who gave it to you
  • Pass it on to 15 bloggers you have recently met.
My list comes in no particular order, but I'd highly advise checking 'em out.

  1. Kate Coursey @ Weaving Colors
  2. Jenna Wallace @ Writing in the Dream State
  3. Karen Amanda Hooper @ * Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind *
  4. Roni Loren @ Fiction Groupie
  5. Tawna Fenske @ Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing
  6. Hannah Moskowitz @ Invincible Summer
  7. Stephanie Thornton @ Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel
  8. Genie of the Shell @ The Magic Nutshell
  9. Creepy Query Girl @ Creepy Query Girl
  10. Jennifer Daiker @ unedited
  11. Jayne Ferst @ A Novice Novelist
  12. Tere Kirkland @ The Lesser Key
  13. Talei Loto @ The Lady Doth Scribe
  14. Mia @ Literary Toast and Jam
  15. Lola Sharp @ Sharp Pen/ Dull Sword
I hope you all have an absolutely fabulous weekend. =)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October PSAs

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One year, when I was in high school, one of the organizations put up signs that said, "Support Breast Cancer." I think we can all realize that they meant "Support Breast Cancer Research" but really it felt like one of those occasions when the jokes made themselves. "Really," my friends and I would say, "you want to support a disease that kills millions of women? Not sure we can get behind that."

Within two years, two women I love found lumps in their breasts. They're both better now, but it's scary. It's one of those things you don't think is going to happen to you or people you know. But it can, and early detection is incredibly helpful in the treatment and cure of cancer. So get mammograms and perform regular self-screenings. (Guys who might be reading this post, this goes for you too. A Y-chromosome does not except you from breast cancer. Sorry.) Combat breast cancer!

Or, as one friend used to say, "Save the ta-tas!"

October is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month.

While I could seize this opportunity to go discuss ad nauseum various members of the LGBT community who have done great things for history, culture, literature, etc, I won't. (Even though my love for Oscar Wilde knows few bounds). Instead, I want to link to this youtube channel.

This is the channel for the It Gets Better Project, which was started by Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller started in memory of Billy Lucas, who committed suicide at the age of 15 because of the sexual-orientation related bullying he endured.

It want to say this to anyone on this site enduring bullying and harassment right now. Life might suck right now. I remember when life sucked in high school. Trust me, I know what that harassment looks like and sounds like, and I know what it can do to a person. I also know it gets better. I think my friends who got harassed in high school would agree with me that it gets better. You'll go out in the world, and you'll find people who love you and accept you for you are. People who can love like that do exist. You've just got to hold on until you find them. Because it gets better, and you should be there to see it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Original Thought and Why It's Magic

I don't know why, but it seems that most shows I like watching air on USA. Either that, or the marathons of shows I like air on USA, which is good enough. As a result of this, I've seen my share of television show marathons on USA and more than my share of advertisements of marathons on USA. This has resulted in one opinion in my mind: I want to find the person who makes the marathon ads for USA and slap them. Why? They reuse the same stuff over and over again. The ads are just cannibalized material from the old ads.

(I'm probably the only person who gets this worked up about ads, but I'll judge the advertisement for anything, even a product I don't consume, so judging a marathon commercial is no stretch for me.)

When I say these ads are all the same, I mean that for any marathon of a specific show, it will use the same specific clips and make the same specific jokes. I can tell you which clip and/or joke per show too. (I should probably be more embarrassed about that for myself, but right now I'm channeling that into being frustrated about them. Moving on...)

This gets old.

It's the same with books. Now, I'm not talking about book trailer cliches, because I don't think people have been making book trailers long enough for their to be book trailer cliches, but in books in general, there's the same risk these marathon trailers run.

There are cliches in genres. That character that shows up in every book. That plot that shows up in every book. That object that shows up in every book. And they get old. Eventually, people familiar with the genre tend to roll their heads when these people/places/plots show up.

Not everyone will mind. People not familiar with the genre won't see the glaringly cliche quality of the idea in question. It'll see new to them. Just like, I'm sure, the people who never watch USA marathons won't recognize that clip as appearing in every ad, these people won't recognize that "plot twist" as occurring in every story. Whereas, if you watch a lot of marathons/ read a lot in that genre, you just think "Oh, cherry tomatoes, not that again."

New ideas are nice, because they keep things interesting, especially for the people who've been around the block before. When you write, you've got to accept that the people who'll probably buy your book are going to be people who read, and probably people who read a lot, probably in that genre, which means they'll have seen it all before, so they'll notice the cliches. (And, even if all the readers aren't huge fans of the genre enough to notice, an agent will probably have read enough books to see the repetitions and rehashes for what they are.)

Original storylines, characters, and conflicts keep things interesting for readers, especially those who've been around the block a time or twenty. Let's keep it fresh. :)

Do you often find yourself coming across plots/settings/characters/conflicts that you feel like you've seen and read before? How did it make you feel? Would you stop reading a book if it felt too cliched?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Banned Book Review

The Rejectionist and Tahereh suggested that the perfect way to celebrate Banned Books Week would be to post a review of a great Banned Book. I like this idea. In fact, I like it so much, I've decided to do it. (Didn't see that coming, did you. ;))

Introducing: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Quick Intro:
Jonas was born into the perfect world. Here, couples are matched by the government for a perfect balance, careers are given out by the government for the perfect match, and death and birth are arranged by the government for perfect timing. But when Jonas turns 12 and is assigned the role of Receiver of Memories, he learns that his world isn't as perfect as it seemed.

My thoughts:
By the time I'd left grade school, I'd probably read this book three times. Most of my grade had read it, too. (I know at least one teacher assigned it.) Quotes from this book were actually an inside joke in my classroom.
I think of this book as dystopia-light, intro reading for the kids who'll grow up to adore 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and other books on the Banned Books list. Moreover, it's got a male MC and a gender neutral plot, doesn't involve too much violence or sexuality, and the diction is not overly advanced, so this book is appropriate for anyone 10+. Actually, I don't think I've ever met someone who didn't enjoy the book. (Though, I could be repressing the opinions of some of my 6th grade class. Can't remember all of those.)

Other thoughts:
A West Wing quote about book banning: "He banned Fahrenheit 451 which is about banning books." I'd like to take this moment to appreciate the irony (and irony makes the world go 'round) of the fact that many books people like to ban either involve banning books or involve worlds where there are no disseminated books. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, etc.

In other news: Talei, thank you for giving me the award. As I've previously received it, I'll simply link to that post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Hello, hello, fellow denizens of the Universe En Violet. I understand we have some new friends with us this week. Glad to see you all. Nice to have you with us. ^_^ Sit down, take a load off, stay a while. I'd offer you cookies and milk, but I've been given to understand that offering people internet cookies is considered poor form in many circles. At any rate, there's some cyber-milk (good for your cyber-bones) to my left. Enjoy.

Now, because my regular posting schedule is about to be interrupted by a blogfest, this Wednesday post is going to be lighter fair, Some Things Of Interest (STOI -- for those of you who missed my creating of that acronym) and linkaging. Enjoy.

First, some Ranting and Raving:
I've done my share of ranting and raving on this site, and I'm sure there's more to come somewhere. But, until that time, these two women have done it so excellently that I've decided to share their words.

Kiersten White does a great post on the importance on owning one's genre and not being ashamed of it. Right on, girl!

And Tara Maya's post on the self-imposed deadlines (they do exist!) is awesome and imbued with plenty of fire.

Some Other Things: Justine Dell is having a contest to celebrate having 250+ followers. Go over and say hi! :-)

Also,a while back, Vicki gave me the Versatile Blogger Award, and I've been remiss in thanking her for that. It was very sweet of you to think of my, Vicki.
(As I have already participated in this Award previously, I think I'll skip posting the seven secrets again, but if you really want 'em -- can't say I blame you, it's an interesting list --, here's the link to my original list.)

How are you all doing today?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books, a Blogfest, and Good Advice

Banned Books Week kicked in on Sept. 25h. Since we all know how I feel about banning books (if you're desperate to hear it, click here or here. I wouldn't fault you. I like my posts.) I'll spare you another rant/diatribe/epic poem on my feelings on the issue. Instead, I'll tell you a story.

(Unfortunately, I'm too far away from any of my old diaries to participate in the Public Humiliation Uncontest, this story can suffice for that moment too. Except I think of it more as fun than humiliating.)

When I was in high school, I was a member of the debate team. (This should not be construed as a representation that my friends and I were any good at it. But we had a lot of fun.) For my first and second years of high school, Debate Club was sort of a Geek Collective. Even the team captain admitted that you had to be something of a geek to want in.

Anyway, if you've ever participated in something called Cross-Examination Debate, like our captain did, then you'll know that Cross-Ex debaters travel with what we called Debate Boxes. They contained the deep knowledge of the universe, and all the information you might need to combat any argument made by the opposing side, ever. That too.

If you're like just about every single other person in the world, you've probably never made a thorough examination of one of these boxes. But it can be a long trip to a meet, and those were some pretty interesting boxes. Now, in one of the boxes, there was something called the Porn is Good file.

Before you scream at me and threaten to call the FCC, Google, The Hidden League of Blog Controllers, or whoever moderates blogs these days, I'm going to remind you that this box contained any argument needed to block any point your opposition could ever make. So, if you tried to shut down an opponent by saying they were destroying free speech, they'd say that the free speech is secretly bad, citing pornography, and thus you needed to defend pornography.

My friends and I spent some time debating the merits of this file and its counter file, the Porn is Bad file. (Oh, Debate Club, I miss you.) This led to some interesting conversations between my friends, me, and the Debate Captain (who once sold me his soul for a water bottle, but that's a different story).

(It should be noted, to protect the innocents, that nothing said during a real or mock debate cannot be assumed to be that person's actual views. You flipped a coin to see who defended what side, so you could easily win a debate saying something you firmly believed to be false. Anything said on the bus, likewise, was an intellectual exercise and shouldn't be held against a person. (Note: unless you're running for office. In that case, everything from debates, press statements, and shoe size will be held against you in the court of public opinion.))

Debate Captain: So, you see, pornography will lead men to think about women in a sexualized way. Therefore, we must ban it.

The Other One: But, don't romance novels cause women to think about men in a sexualized manner? Do we have to ban those too?

Debate Captain: You are absolutely right. **He points to a sticker on the Debate Box that states READ BANNED BOOKS.**

So, in the spirit of my Debate Captain and Banned Books Week, I'd like to urge you to take some time this week and, you guessed it, read a banned book. (If you're looking for suggestions, click here.) Me, I'm working my way through 1984 by George Orwell. So far, plusgood ;).

How are you guys celebrating Banned Books Week? Anyone else participating in a blogfest at the moment? Anyone else a debater in H.S.? Or a member of any other geeky clubs?

Also, while this post might have anything to do with writing or banned books, her advice is both useful and important, so I strongly urge everyone click read Kiertsen White's post on ectopic pregnancy. It could save your life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Character Roots

As I hop down from my censorship soapbox, I jumped on the bandwagon and doing a post today about writing compelling characters.

I think most people will agree with me when I say that compelling characters must be fully realized, rounded out characters. They have to be, otherwise there'd be nothing in them to relate to, and then no one would care about what happens to them. If you've ever read a book/watched a movie/seen a play/listened to a radio show where the characters are really just cardboard cutouts chilling in the story while the plot does its thing, then you know that can get old fast. After all, what's the point of watching people you don't care about do stuff, since you won't care if they succeed?

One thing that most fully realized and rounded out characters have are personality traits. You know, they have likes and dislikes, favorite things, things that scare them so much they scream like little girls as the sight/sound/taste of them.

Now, here's the kicker about personality traits: they can't be completely random.

Why? They'll make no sense, and they'll look like you put them there to make the character appear rounded out, and the audience will be able to smell it.

Story time: A while ago, Captain Film Major and I were discussing an old kid's movie, and he pointed out that the MC, a girl of about nine, I believe, had a big thing for Elvis. Captain Film Major's response to this was something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing, dude, so if you see this, chill), "It would've been great if they'd explained that at all, instead of just chucking it out there so that it made no sense." (Okay, so, I paraphrased a lot. Probably should've written the exact wording down. Note for next time.)

Much as it pains me to admit that Captain Film Major might have point about a movie, he had a point. Most nine-year-olds I've met aren't Elvis fans. Most probably couldn't tell you who The King is. So how did this character know? They don't say. They just say she likes Elvis. Now, if she'd said, "He was my dad's favorite... before he died. He used to sing along to the CDs when he did the dishes... drove Mom crazy," it would have had meaning. Because now we know how she developed this knowledge and interest, and we know a bit more about her character as a result.

Here's the deal: If you're character is anything like just about every human being I've ever met (and I've met a fair number of human beings), likes, dislikes, favorites, and phobias come about for some reason. There's often something in someone's background that led to that reaction.

Story time: I love Irish music. I listen to it all the time. Captain Film Major hates it. He listens to it never. He blames his dislike on having to listen to it all them time when we were kids. I blame my love on having to listen to it all the time when we were kids. Both of our responses to that music are not random but the result of things in our past.

Obligatory Harry Potter reference: (Contains SPOILERS!) (And, seriously, if you haven't read all 7 Harry Potter books, stop reading this post now and get on it.) (No, I'm not kidding. It's much more important. Go.) Severus Snape considered himself the Half Blood Prince, because he preferred to associate himself with his mother's side of the family, because he didn't like his Muggle father, because his dad beat his mom. See how that relates to his life. Snape wasn't a fan of really any Muggles, because his dad beat his mom, which is how he could so easily fall in with Death Eaters. Severus Snape loved Lily Evans (later Lily Potter), so he betrayed the Death Eaters, joined the Order of the Phoenix, fought against Voldemort, and did everything he could to keep Harry alive. See how that relates to his history?

(Okay, so that was several Harry Potter references, but I think I made my point.)

To create compelling characters, they have to be fully formed individuals, and they aren't going to be fully formed by being hashed together bits of randomness. Follow the random to the history that made them who they are, and follow the history you have to the everyday things that will present themselves in your character's life.

Have you ever come across a character seemingly composed of unrelated bits? How did you feel about that? Could you still relate to the character? How much time do you put into your characters' histories? Have you ever learned something about a character by looking for the cause of a seemingly random aspect of their personality?