I've seen a lot of discussion about how to generate and flesh out new characters for books, and I've dutifully worked my way through a variety of questionnaires designed to help me get to know my fledgling heroes and heroines better. Which seemed like a good idea in principle, but in practice turned out to not especially helpful, at least for me.

However, Editor Extraordinaire Cheryl Klein has a nifty Create-a-Character exercise, based on a workshop she just gave at an SCBWI conference, which incorporates not just the external "What does your character look like / Where does he or she live" questions I'm used to seeing, but also poses some questions related to the character's internal life and place in the narrative that look really fascinating and useful. In particular:

ACTION
1. Desire: What the character wants

2. Attitude/Energy: The attitude the character brings to the situation in which s/he finds him- or herself

3. Action: What they will do within the novel; the result of Desire plus Attitude

To me, those questions of desire, attitude and action are the really crucial ones in the formation of a character, not whether said character's hair is brown or black or what their favorite food might be. Of course the smaller details are important to making a character fully real, but they can always be added in later; whereas the questions of Action are the ones that actually determine the shape and character of the whole story, and if you get those wrong you may end up not really having a good story at all. Think of all the manuscripts that get rejected not because they're poorly written in terms of mechanics, but because the MC seems to have no clear goal or desire, or because they fail to take any action to push the story forward.

Anyway, the whole post/questionnaire is worth reading, so check it out.

What about you? What techniques have you found useful in developing characters for your writing? Or if you're a reader rather than a writer, what makes a character "real" to you?
I've been really struggling with Touching Indigo the last couple of weeks -- I seem to have lost the groove as far as outlining is concerned, and now I really have to figure out precisely which method I'm using, or else which parts I want to borrow from each method and what deadlines to set for myself along the way. I now have only one month left to finish the outline, after all, and then I am supposed to start writing the first draft in earnest, so it's definitely time to get cooking.

I think part of the difficulty I'm having is that the story already exists in another form, and Thea's backstory already exists in another form, and I am slowly realizing that I can't just transfer all the details over -- what worked for the original plot and characters doesn't necessarily work for the rewrite, and in fact may even get in the way of telling the story. So I have to question everything, and ask myself once again, "Yes, but why does it have to be this way? And is there another possibility that would work better for this particular plot?"

For instance, Thea's mother was originally a neurotic shrew and her father was vague and distant, specifically so that Thea would be able to leave them and not look back (not for a good long while, anyway). But there's no need in the rewrite for Thea to be so totally estranged from her parents. And when I realized that this afternoon, Thea's mother suddenly became real to me in a way she'd never been before. I know her backstory now, and I know exactly why she behaves in certain ways and how that affects her relationship with Thea, and it's real and poignant and I'm actually excited about writing it. She's still a flawed character, but she's a human one.

So. One difficulty down, 50,000 to go...
I've been thinking about characterization a lot lately, and a thought occurred to me.

Agents and editors always say that when they read manuscripts they are looking for great characters to fall in love with -- on the whole, that seems to be the number one thing that determines whether they will or will not make an offer. And to a large degree I'd say they're right to feel this way. Certainly if a manuscript has weak, contemptible, or otherwise annoying characters then nobody is going to enjoy reading it; and if the characters are merely flat or stereotypical then it's going to take a real blockbuster of a plot to save the story. And when you come across a truly dynamic and delightful character... well, I can easily imagine how that would make a manuscript jump right out of the pile at you.

However.

How often do you, in reading published books, actually fall in love with the protagonist? If you're an HP fan, for instance, did you keep reading HP/SS because you just adored Harry so much you couldn't put the book down until you knew what happened to him? Or is it really the whole idea of the story, of which the hero and heroine are just a part, that makes you keep reading?

Maybe I'm strange, but when I think back on all the books I've read and enjoyed over the past few years, I can only think of a handful of characters that grabbed me so hard I just had to keep reading to find out what happened to them. Even some of those took quite a while to grow on me -- it was the end of GoF before I "got" Snape, for instance -- and in most cases, the character I ultimately fell in love with was not the protagonist. More often than not, I fell in love with the whole atmosphere of the book, the concept, the execution, and all I really required of the protagonists was that they behave in ways that made sense and didn't make me want to bash their heads in with a mallet.

Admittedly, though, when I think of the books I've read recently that I disliked, in nearly every case it was because the characters annoyed me, rather than because of defects in the worldbuilding or the authorial style or whatever.

I dunno, what do you think?

P.S. My brother, who reads crime fiction, has just sagely observed that the importance of a really engaging/compelling protagonist to an enjoyable novel varies with genre. This is true. Let us assume, then, that the above remarks are limited to the fantasy genre in particular.
Thank you all so much for contributing questions to my interview pile! As soon as I stop barfing (yes, really -- there's a nasty stomach bug going through our house, and I seem to be its latest victim) I will start compiling and answering.

Lying on your back with nothing to do but think for hours on end is a good way to brainstorm, but it also shows you all kinds of logistical flaws in your plot that you hadn't noticed before. I am trying to regard this as an interesting mental challenge, instead of a cue to lie down in the ashes and scrape myself with a potsherd.

Now I think I shall stagger back to bed...
As I'm struggling through the opening chapters of First Draft in 30 Days I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of interleaving Karen Wiesner's method with Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method, especially as the former seems highly plot-driven and I like the more character-centric approach of the latter.

Anyway, one of the exercises I'd like to try is that of interviewing my characters. But in order to get them "talking" and find out more about them, I need to think of some good questions to ask them -- and to avoid "leading the witness" by asking them questions which I already know relate directly to the plot. So that's where you come in...

Give me one question to ask my characters in an interview that you think will help me really get to know them better.

Those of you with a bit of background knowledge on Thea and Leith Faraday may be able to come up with questions that are personalized rather than general, but even standard questions like "What's your favorite color and why?" would be fine. I can use the more generic questions for some of the secondary characters as well.

Thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to participate, and -- fire away!
I've found a new name for the hero in Touching Indigo now, after days of searching through baby name books and sites, the telephone directory, and eventually in despair, the thesaurus:

Dr. Sebastian Faraday.

I started out with "Faraway" as a quirky and almost-but-not-quite-right surname, but then I thought, "Wasn't there a scientist named Faraday?" so I looked him up this morning and Michael Faraday is my new hero. In addition to being "the best experimentalist in the history of science", he said stuff like this:

  • "Nothing is too wonderful to be true."

  • "Work. Finish. Publish."

  • "The important thing is to know how to take all things quietly."


  • And best of all:

  • "Speculations [about the hereafter]? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."

*fangirls him shamelessly*

I also managed to convince another character who was being stubborn to change her name, so now Thea can stay Thea and it doesn't clash with any of the other main character names. Now I just have to name my villain... but he doesn't appear to care very much what I call him, as long as it's reasonably dignified.
Thanks to the brilliant and talented [livejournal.com profile] cesario, and no thanks to Canada Post for hanging onto the package for so long --

FANDOM DOLLS ARE LOVE )

Now I just have to find the right place to display them. Thank you thank you thank you, [livejournal.com profile] cesario!
Touching Indigo has won for Book I'm Going To Outline First, by virtue of taking up residence in my head over the past few days and flatly refusing to leave. I've got a folder for Wayfarer set aside so I can jot down any ideas that occur to me, though. No thought shall be wasted!

Day 1: Character Outlines )

Another thing I did today was go back through early drafts of Indigo etc. and highlight all the Good Bits -- vivid imagery, strong metaphors and similes, clever turns of phrase. There were a lot more of them than I expected, which was gratifying and depressing at the same time. Is it possible that over the past ten years my prose has actually got worse rather than better? *cries emo tears*

Stuck to my Time Map -- mostly -- for the second day in a row, and found that I felt much better about, well, everything. Telling myself that I am not allowed to play on the computer except during the baby's naptime and after the kids have gone to bed enabled me to get through the day without feeling frustrated and divided in spirit. Any time I had a brilliant creative idea, I just jotted it down in longhand and stuffed it into the relevant story folder, and when I had a few extra moments, I used them to do non-computer things related to the book (like the aforementioned re-reading and highlighting). And now I am doing my online stuff with a clear conscience...

...except for the little nagging voice telling me that I need to finish those character outlines, and why am I writing an LJ entry instead, hm?

Ahem. See you all later.
Fandom meme gacked from [livejournal.com profile] yahtzee63:

Name a character or pairing! Watch me ramble on about it!

Simple, no?
Some of my favorite grouchy people were born in early January, it seems. First we have Mary Russell on January 2nd, on no lesser word than that of her author editor Laurie R. King; then Sherlock Holmes on January 6th, a date not explicitly given in canon but nonetheless widely accepted among Holmesians as correct due to Holmes's penchant for quoting Twelfth Night.

We know also that Dr. Gregory House was born in early-to-mid January, and seeing that he shares a house number with Holmes, it doesn't seem much of a stretch to propose January 6th as his birthday as well. And then, of course, J.K. Rowling has informed us that Severus Snape was born on January 9th.

Is it an astrological thing to have brilliant, misanthropic, sarcastic, obsessively driven characters born in January, or is there some other logic behind it?
...is this (S). Or this (18m).

So. cool.

But seriously, the wishlist thing? Link me to yours in comments, please. I'd like to see what I might be able to do for some of you who brighten my LJ days, even if it's just sharing some music love or hammering out a drabble or something.

Also, I think from now on LOST should just be the Locke and Eko hour. I would so watch that.
Well, [livejournal.com profile] lizbee, Melanie a.k.a. DrummerGirl, and anyone else I've forgotten who attempted without success to persuade me of the virtues (or at least the plausibility) of a certain ship over the years... I repent in sackcloth and ashes.

Reactions to Part III of the TLC/MuggleNet Interview )

And now that I have impressed you all with my maturity, I shall wander off and work some more on my fic.
If you love animation in the classic Disney style, or just cracking good HP art, you have to check out the latest HP drawings in [livejournal.com profile] twirlynoodle's journal. And if you haven't seen her main site, particularly The Azkaban Project, you owe it to yourself to go and check it out.

I adore her versions of the Trio. Just adore them. Her Lupin is the best I've ever seen. And once she finally reconciled herself to the idea that Snape probably did not have a beard, her Severus sketches are superb as well.
Tags:
Mostly non-spoilery and frivolous comments:

- I <3 Hurley.
- I <3 <3 Sawyer, very small spoiler )
- I <3 <3 <3 Locke. Also, somewhat larger spoiler, but more along speculative/hopeful lines than anything that actually happened in the episode )
Many many spoilers, much much love )

Anyway, it pretty much goes without saying that I love this show and can't wait for next week. Only minor preview spoiler )
Yes, I finally got my computer back and was able to see this. Haven't caught this week's TAR yet, but I was a weak person and got someone to tell me what happened, so I may never get around to watching that one. Lost, though... I may have a little difficulty staying away from spoilers in the form of promo pics, but otherwise, if you try to tell me anything about future episodes of the show, I will plug my ears and yell "LA LA LA LA LA" at you until you go away. Nothing comes between me and my visceral, unsullied Lost experience.

And now, my comments and observations on "Special", in random order: Spoilery thoughts under the tag, baby )

All in all, a very fine episode. And whoa! I did not see that ending coming. What now?
My reaction to finding out that Snape was a Capricorn instead of a Scorpio:

...

...

...

Er, was I supposed to care about this?

Sorry, I've just never had the slightest interest or confidence in astrological signs as a means of personality determination. I don't think I even bothered to decide when D&L Snape's birthday was, since it never came into any of the stories. Besides, if Snape were a Scorpio, as many people sincerely believed suited him to a T -- dude, that would make him the same sign as Kalan Porter (you knew I had to get a reference in there, didn't you?). Any astrological sign which can encompass both those personalities is so vague as to be completely useless, if you ask me.

Speaking of Snape, I've heard rumours -- I'm so out of the loop these days -- that Snape is "really" completely obsessed with his own selfish ambitions to the exclusion of all else, and that he is "really" evil or at least completely amoral and only prepared to support whichever side appears to be winning at the time. *yawn* Sorry, but I seem to recall having this discussion around the time PoA (the book, not the movie) came out and it didn't interest me much then either. JKR will let us know what's really going on in Severus's mind in good time, I'm sure. In the meantime, there are perfectly good canonical reasons to believe that he is not entirely self-interested, and the game of "My Snape Is More Canonical Than Yours Because He's Meaner" smacks of pettiness and wishful thinking to me.

Personally, I'll take any Snape who appears to look, speak and behave similarly to the way he does in canon, and where any obvious deviations from canon are noted and intelligently addressed in the context of the fic. I'm tired of Snapes who are sekritly beyootiful, expert oenophiles, and own sprawling manor houses to which they invite a host of wide-eyed Mary Sues (Hermione!Sue very much included) -- but I'm also tired of Snapes who are actually more vicious, selfish, and flagrantly amoral than I've ever seen Snape behave in canon. Oh, and Snape is not a dribbling psychological mess, either. He certainly has Issues, but if he really had all the Issues that some fic writers foist upon him, the guy would never get anything done because he'd be curled up in a corner in the St. Mungo's psych ward somewhere, gibbering.

My Snape, for the record... )

I've already written a lengthy essay about the question of Snape's redemption, and a number of stories about the possibility of him having a successful romantic relationship, so I won't bother repeating any of that here. Basically, if my view of Snape is deemed hopelessly romanticized and uncanonical in certain quarters, no skin off my nose. Those who enjoy the stories I write will go on enjoying them, and those who don't are perfectly free to move on and seek out the kinds of stories they do like.

Random Fandom

Jan. 7th, 2005 02:32 pm
rj_anderson: (Lost Tennis Shoe)
Firstly, this report about the voice casting of Marvin in the HHGTTG movie as mentioned on TLC made me squee. SQUEE!!! How perfect is that? *drawls* "Look at me, brain the size of a planet..."

Secondly, after watching this week's Lost, I have figured out why Jack bores me and why the idea of Jack/Kate makes me want to take a very long nap and wake up when it's all over. Cut for spoilers... )

I'm not voting for Kate/Sawyer, but I will at least say that those two have each other's number. They may not know all the details about each other's pasts, but they know how to take each other as they are, for good or ill. And they don't take each other too seriously, either. Jack, on the other hand, appears to be bent on badgering Kate into being a different person, one more like himself, a nice straightforward girl he can approve of -- and yeah, maybe that'll be a good thing in the end, but given how messed up Jack himself appears to be in his own way, I'm really not convinced. Not to mention that no matter how many scenes they have together, Jack and Kate still have all the chemistry of a wet-nap as far as I'm concerned. (Not that the Sawyer/Kate scenes did anything for me in this episode either -- they seemed pretty forced. But there's been genuine sparkage there in the past.)

On another and mostly unrelated note, but since I'm rambling here I might as well -- I don't get why people complain about Evangeline Lilly not being a good actress. Is it because she's beautiful and slim, people automatically assume she can't really act and was only chosen for her looks? Sure, I wouldn't hand her the Oscar or anything, but she's never ruined a scene for me by being wooden or visibly out of character. She's not quite on the level of Jennifer Garner, who can make all but the most horrifically badly written lines or scenes interesting and convincing, but really, I think she does just fine. And she has great hysterics, which always impresses me. The way she freaked out in the Pilot or when Jack was trying to revive Charlie -- I found both those scenes completely convincing.

As for Alias, I can't say anything about it because I haven't watched it yet. But I did watch this week's Amazing Race and was appropriately disgusted. More spoilers... )

Note to self: Make some more icons, and not of That Guy either.
Which LOST Character Am I? )

And speaking of LOST... I finally managed to see "Confidence Man". Spoilers ho! )

I'm thinking that Watership Down really is a great book to have connected with the show, even apart from any character similarities. It's about being forced out of your comfort zone, not knowing where you're going or what you'll find; it's about the most basic issues of survival and the search for a home; there are dark places and strange new things, and every character has something different and important to contribute before they all find the security and safety they're looking for. Kinda nifty, really. I almost want to read the book again to see what other similarities I might notice.
I love JKR madly. I really do. Especially for this (which is not a book spoiler, so I feel no guilt about not lj-cutting it):

I have no spare time at all. [Laughter]. When I’m not writing or looking after the children, I read and sleep. To be totally honest with you, at the moment sleeping is probably my very favourite thing in the world to do. I know that is a bit of a depressing answer. I would like to say I was partying with Mick Jagger--well, I wouldn't want to be partying with Mick Jagger, that is a complete lie...
Hee. I am so with you there, Jo. On all counts.

You can read the rest of her new interview here. Lots of good stuff about the books, and plenty of new theory-fodder. Plus, I adored that cut to avoid spoiling too much of the interview for people who haven't read it yet )

Drat, where did all the time I was going to spend editing Knife go? *dashes off to try and salvage the last twenty minutes*

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