Archive for March, 2014

On Characters and How to Make Them…

Posted in Grumblings on March 28, 2014 by chemiclord

I tend to cringe at the idea of offering writing and creativity advice; mostly because its hard to overcome the feeling that the only thing I’m good at is pigheaded tenacity to simply not quit when any rational human being would have, and that any successful creation is an accident more than design.  Any revelation into my “method” will reveal the heinous reality that I’m a hack and a fraud, and so it’s best to just maintain this sage like aura of detachment.  But as people keep slapping me about… I need to reach out and be engaging, no matter how much I’d rather just sit in the corner and do my work and let everyone come to me.

I’m told this whole creating professionally thing works like that.  Who knew?

So, I think what I’ll do instead is just throw out some of ideas I’ve developed over the years and maybe it might give people something to think about.

I’m trying here okay?  Chatty-content stuff is hard.

 

There’s No Such Thing as a Likeable Character

In that, I mean there is no way to guarantee that your audience will like any character, no matter how you try.  Designing a story around the concept of your audience becoming emotionally invested in Character A is a risky proposition.  If it gamble works, great.  But if it doesn’t… the impact your hoping for could likely wind up the exact opposite, assuming your audience sticks around for what you hope the payoff is.

There’s No Way to Write a [x] Character

One of my guilty pleasure movies is “As Good as it Gets.”  Not because I think it’s good (it really isn’t all that), but because it mercilessly tortures the “rules of writing”, and I find that endlessly fun.

Like this particular exchange:

“How do you write women so well?”

“I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.”

Now that’s obviously not true, or even remotely close to good advice, and that’s the point really.

So What IS the Point?

You aren’t writing characters.  You’re not writing a “likeable” character.  You’re not writing a “female” character, or a “male” character, or a “gay” character, or whatever label you attach as a prefix.

You are writing a person.  Who happens to be female, or male, or gay, or black, or white, or with downs syndrome, or in a wheelchair, or with six eyes and scales, etc… (I think you get the picture here, right?).  As much as people in real life identify with their traits, ironically enough I have found that the most well-rounded characters are the ones that are built with the traits tertiary.  You need to pare it down to the core first, because really at the end of the day, there are so many different people who behave so many different ways that as long as the person is internally consistent, the traits fall into place around that.  Much like how I think people really develop.  The identity builds around the person… the person doesn’t build around the identity.

So that would be my advice when you sit down to make your character.  Start from scratch.  Don’t come into the process with any preconceptions as to what you want that character to be, then start filling it in, and see what comes out of it.

 

Any other concepts you want to pick my brain on?  Ask away… I might actually answer.

 

 

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On Casting Different Light…

Posted in Grumblings on March 6, 2014 by chemiclord

(via Exiern)

One theme I wanted to play with in this story is how a person’s actions can be interpreted very differently based on preconceptions or prior influence.

This is one such payoff for me; what many characters took as a demeaning action to try and put a strong woman out of sight and out of mind turned out quite differently once the full reasons were revealed; but I’d like to think that hints that things weren’t like they seemed even at the time I set the stage.

For example; on this page, it’s noted that the fishing grounds was an area that could lend itself easily to an attack.  Denver’s little friend commented that it had been a concern, but not anymore.  Now we know exactly why, and that rather than a demeaning post (for a culture that values hunting one of the highest and important duties), it was in truth a post that was granted to Diana because she was only one that Wyll-Line felt could do the job right, to keep a level head and not do something foolish just in case the pleas for peace from their old enemies was a ruse.

A further subtle hint that things might not be how they seemed was the authority Diana projected here.  Knowing what we do now, does it look like a woman upset at her station?  She’s fully in control, she knows she has the authority to speak for the chieftain, attempting to negotiate a “smaller weir” to use for fishing.

To go even further on Wyll-Line’s intentionally poor lighting, starting here, when he puts Tiffany’s companions to work.  I intentionally cast the scene to make the chieftain’s actions quite insulting… now think of it this way;

Sending Niels to work with the senior men of the camp, who he hoped wouldn’t be dumb enough to pick a fight with the armored bear (and they managed to avoid that)…

Peonie wound up “working” right under his own roof…

And Denver was sent where Diana could keep an eye on him.

Yes… this is the sort of stuff that runs through my head as I plan out stories.

No… I’m not normal.