The Sacred Character

So, I was reading an excellent thread on Twitter about fandom’s tendency to over-analyze works, and it got me thinking about how people think about characters as real people who just happen to be in fictional books. The thread I’m talking about is below, give it a read, it’s good. Or, go directly to the thread here.

But the thing is, most of us do it, to some extent. Audiences and writers both have this sort-of magical thinking when it comes to the stories, more so for characters than anything else. Go to any random writing forum or blog, and you’ll see countless variations of “I don’t create my characters, I just write about them”. People will talk about doing character interviews or about how they had a certain plot set out, but their characters wouldn’t cooperate. In the end, it boils down to one thing, characters being some sort of inviolable outside force. I know I’ve done this on several occasions.

But why do we do it? I’ve got some ideas on that. In the thread, it’s speculated that audiences do it for control. I think that’s spot on. They think of the work as a consumer product, first and foremost, so they need to be satisfied with the product, the way you expect to be satisfied with some new piece of electronics. It either works or it doesn’t. The problem is, art doesn’t work that way. Art is subjective, and different people will interpret it different ways. But that doesn’t settle with art as a consumer product. So, to reconcile those two competing views, the idea of characters (and story) as some outside things that the author is just writing down, is born. This means that their interpretation is the interpretation, whether the author likes it or not. In a way, it’s so they can demand the author work directly for them.

For some authors, I believe the opposite is true. Magical thinking about characters is a great way for authors to abdicate responsibility for their creations. If audiences don’t like something they’ve done, they can simply say they were just writing down what the characters were doing.

By the way, I don’t think either of these things are necessarily bad. As a reader, you only have so much time in the day. You have to pick and choose what you read. If the criteria for that are characters that behave in what you consider a consistent manner, more power to you. As an author, not all criticism you receive is valid or useful. If characters as inviolable outside forces helps you weed out non-useful criticism, then it’s a useful tool. Besides, the act of creation does feel pretty magical sometimes, I can’t fault anybody for magical thinking.

Magical thinking can be a hindrance, though. Remember up there where I had an example of someone complaining because their characters weren’t cooperating? That’s the type of problem that really only shows up when you think of characters as their own people whom you can’t influence. If you can tweak basic character traits to get them to make whatever decisions you need them to make for the plot, that problem goes away. Now, some people like it when a plot changes because the characters aren’t fully within their control. It’s just how they write. And that’s great! But if you’re continually frustrated that your story isn’t going the way you want, maybe look at that magical thinking. Characters can be tweaked to get them to behave the way you want them to behave.

So, what was the point of all of this? I don’t know. I read something and had some thoughts. Those thoughts needed to be let out and I decided this would be a good place for them. Maybe I’ll do this more often here, maybe I won’t. Time will tell. Maybe this incoherent mess will be useful to somebody.

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The Office Copy Machine

The elevator dings and the doors open. I get in and press 8, top floor of our little office building. Only a few weeks on the job and I’ve already learned that the place isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the regional headquarters for a big tech company, though I’d rather not say which. Sounds pretty good, right? Turns out, our office exists mainly for tax purposes, so we aren’t what you would call “important” to the mothership. They bought an office building and staffed us. We have actual work to do, sure, but it’s mostly the boring busywork that the “thinkers” at the mothership don’t want to do. It’s boring, but it’s a job, and it doesn’t pay too bad either. Continue reading

The Road to Self Publishing- What’s a Revision Anyway?

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I haven’t done one of these in awhile, (WordPress says two years? Yikes.) but it’s time for the next installment of The Road to Self Publishing, the series where I pretend to know what I’m talking about while going on my own journey to being a (hopefully selling) self-published author. If you haven’t read the previous entry, First Draft Done, Now What?, you can find it here, or you can find the master post here. As I said before, the master post will contain links to all other Road to Self Publishing posts, so if you’re not reading this one close to the post date, I’d check out that one. Continue reading

December One

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It’s December! You know what that means? That’s right, it means:

The end of NaNoWriMo!

I’m proud to announce that I won it this year. How about you? Did you win? If not, how many words did you get?

Or maybe you didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, so the beginning of December just means the dreaded holiday season. In that case, happy holidays!

With NaNo being over, I’ve now got more time to post here, so expect something within the next few days. Well, that’s all for today. See you on the next thing I post, and, whether you do NaNo or not, keep writing.

Introducing!

Forgive me, this one’s a bit late, but welcome everybody to NaNoWriMo! If you’re doing it, how’s it going? Are you ahead? Behind? Exactly where you need to be? Well, I seem to be doing pretty well, but I haven’t done one of the things that makes it feel real to me yet, so, I’d like to introduce my project for this year’s NaNoWriMo: ASH

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It’s actually a rework of a previous NaNo project that has been sitting ever since. This year, I’ve decided to use NaNoWriMo as a sort-of revision pass for this book, since there are enough problems in the first draft to necessitate a full rewrite anyway. I think I’ll use this as a Road to Self Publishing post after NaNo is done, provided that this turns out to be a success.

But, while we’re here, does anyone want to share their NaNo project? Or maybe just add me as a buddy? You can find me here or drop something in the comments.

My Last Moments

Step.

Step.

Step.

Left foot. Right foot. Left again. Over and over. In reality, it’s not far, but when you’re walking to the gallows where you’ll be hanged, it’s an eternity. Step after step, guards on either side, fear mounting with every step. Maybe you wonder if it wouldn’t be better to make a run for it. Let them shoot you, get it over with? Continue reading

NaNo Prep

Is anyone else, like, way behind on NaNo prep? I don’t even have an inkling of an idea yet. By this time, I usually have something, but this year? Nothing.

With that said, who else is doing NaNo prep this month?  How’s it going? Are you disastrously behind? Or maybe you’re ahead of schedule? Do you even do that much prep in October?