Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Now That’s a Character…

Characters are what draw me in to the story, make me want to continue to read, to devour, a good book. It is the plight of these characters, their growth, their trials, that keep me wondering after I put the book down what will happen next. Some authors are quite adept at giving me what I want in a character, others, not so much. Granted there are books that I have read and fully enjoyed that do not have the development I want in my characters, but overall, my favorites are character-driven stories that just happen to also have an awesome plot.

As a lover of all kinds of fantasy, I find that sometimes character development falls to the wayside, trying to get EPIC story status but falling short when after 10 books, the characters have not really changed, learned or grown from the multitude of trials they have survived. And while I continue to read these books for the plot, I often get quite frustrated at this lack of character development. You may be able to write descriptive prose that immediately draw me into the world and plots that make my heart pound and twists that make me breathless, but if the characters fall short, I will ultimately be disappointed. I may even rave about your books, how awesome they are, but in the end, there will be a big BUT…

As a writer, I find that character development is my favorite part of the outlining/development stage of my stories. I like to get into their minds, build up their life stories to determine how they became the way they are in the present and why they will act a certain way during/before/after significant events. Sometimes, I find that I like my characters too much and other times I want to kill them off before their time because I don’t. Finding the balance at times is difficult. I read a lot about authors becoming too attached to their characters. And I know how easy it is to do so. When I mentioned to Candice, (My artist on Nyctalopia) That the day may come when I might just have to kill off one of our women, she looked stricken. She didn’t want to believe it. I don’t want to believe it either, but the story may take me there and if there is one device that writers use that I absolutely hate, it is the altering of character in nonsensical ways just to force the story to go the way you want. So while it is not set in stone, while I have not nearly gotten to a point where that is necessary, I am trying to prepare us both for a possibility that may never come to pass.

The easy part of character development, for me anyway, is the back story. The story I tell myself about this character to determine why they act the way they do and what in their life would bring them to this point. Character development gets harder the more you write the story though. It is easy to fall into the trap of nonsense to further the plot instead of taking a step back and thinking about what this character would actually do in the situation at hand. When I read over first drafts, I find these instances frequently. Even after revisions, I may miss some of these points or glaze over them in the effort to further the plot, but as a reader whose pet peeve just happens to be instances such as this, I have to be vigilant. Characters should behave in character. Without the prescience to know the outcome, humans will behave in character. If a person acts out of character, those around will take notice of the change and question it. As it should be with fictional characters as well. If my characters alter their behavior, I damn well better explain the why of it eventually or expect readers to take issue with it.

Now maybe I am crazy (well…I know I’m crazy, but I think this is sane, right?) to put so much on character development. Maybe to others the characters are less important than the plot, but for me the characters are integral to the plot and therefore just as important. I get bored by books where the characters are unimportant. I get bored by pages upon pages of descriptive prose. But give me insight into a character and chances are I will stick with the book to the end. As I tell me husband, I don’t get crushes on people, I get crushes on characters. So until I develop the magical power to bring to life characters from a book, I’m all his. And as long as authors continue to write compelling characters, I will continue to be absorbed in the book, devouring the words on the page as if I am a part of what is going on. And I will continue to work on character development in my own writing in order to bring that fantasy world to life for my own readers.

What do you look for in a book? What are some of your favorite fictional characters? And to other authors out there, how do you stay on track with your own characters in order to make them believable?

If you will remember, back in January, I wrote a post about a dream that I had that turned into a story. For those that don’t remember, this was a story about demons and faeries. Anyway, I wrote a bit on it, worked on some character write-ups and then promptly set it aside when everything got crazy-busy during the moveandworkonthehousewhileignoringeverythingelse time.

Anyway, last week I realized that I really needed to get back to writing and trying to get in some paid work as well, as the budget has dwindled down and that’s no good since we have so much left to do…

So I spend my days looking at all my different job sources, sending out resumes and cover letters and when that is finished, I get back to my writing. While the job searches have been coming up empty currently, my writing has been flowing. I went back to my demons and Fae story. I figured this would be a short story. Something that could stand alone, but could also become bigger if I ever decided to continue writing in this universe. Well, this short story is not all that short. In the last week I have added about 7000 words to this story and I am still building up the story and adding characters.

There’s Asmodei, the loveable lust demon (ok, so loveable is definitely not the word to describe him, but I do happen to like him for all his evil ways).

There’s Titania, queen of the Fae on a self-imposed exile to the human realm. Selfish and in need of human adoration, her and Asmodei have a running rivalry related to human souls.

Enter Maggie, young, human, and directionless. Titania introduces her to the world of the Fae and throws her whole life into turmoil, and Maggie fights back every step of the way.

There’s also Bernie, a stupid human minion of the demon Belial who I was planning on killing off but now I’m not so sure. He annoys the hell out of me, but I’m not sure that it is reason enough to kill him. He may still have a bigger part to play in the story.

I find this story just keeps telling itself to me and is surprisingly effortless. Maybe I have finally found a long story I will stick with to the end? See, I don’t have a problem with short stories, flash fiction or even longer comic stories, but novel length stories have always floundered after awhile. I even tried NaNoWriMo to no avail. I get to a point where I want to change the story, or something I write just doesn’t gel with the rest of the story, but I think it really belongs with the rest of the story, which would require a huge rewrite. Sometimes I just hate the world I have built up, or as in the world-building post, I just get stuck on the world.

I have tried outlining, but that hasn’t really worked for me. Generally, I find that if I start writing and then outline when I get stuck, it helps to get the story moving again, but outlining the whole story does me no good when I end up changing the direction halfway through. But I am enjoying this story immensely, and writing more on it every day, so maybe this is THE ONE.

Besides writing and job searching and house stuff and yard stuff, I have been trying to fit in a few moments here and there to read. I get really, really cranky if I go too long without a decent book. But it’s hard to fit in reading time, especially with the long, epic fantasy books that I usually read in which I get totally absorbed in the world and just can’t put the damn thing down until it is finished. Which is where Vaginal Fantasy books come in. A few months ago, Felicia Day (awesome geek goddess extraordinaire and kindred spirit) came up with this book club idea and called it Vaginal fantasy. The books are all in the fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk/paranormal genres and have strong female characters at the forefront. Sometimes there’s romance and sometimes there’s smut, but there’s always a kick ass female main character. She gives a main book and then a back-up book. Overall, I have enjoyed the selections because they are not so serious and time consuming and in depth as epic fantasy. I read the book without needing to finish it IMMEDIATELY with what time I am able to eek out to read. When I finish the book I generally don’t feel the need to download the next in the series to my kindle because I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Instead, I enjoy the book as I read it. This may not be what the authors want to hear, I know, but it is great for me.

So after having this discussion a few times that goes something like this:

Me- “I have been reading vaginal fantasy books lately.”

Giggles

Them- “Wait, what’s that?”

Me- “You know who Felicia Day is?”

Them- either yes or no, to which the no gets  a long list of things she has done to which the non-geeks among them still don’t know who I am talking about to which I respond with “anyway, google her when you have a chance. She is awesome.”

Me- “Anyway, she started this Vaginal Fantasy book club…”

Them “Oooh that sounds cool. I might like to read those books.”

Me-“Well maybe I should start a local chapter of the Vaginal Fantasy book club…”

Them- “Yes! That would be awesome!”

I have decided to actually do just that starting next month. We may or may not follow Felicia’s picks for the month and we may or may not meet up every month, but I think it will be a fun way to spend some time talking about books, which I love, and hanging out with my girls that I don’t get nearly enough time with, which I also love.

There will probably be some good discussions that I may or may not blog about, and probably some drinking moments that I probably shouldn’t blog about.

Reading, writing and making my house wonderful are all coming along nicely. Now if I could only find some paying work, I will be happily crazy busy!

Speaking of shameless plugs, if you are a knitter, and in the market for a new pattern that’s cheap, check out my other blog, Brigid’s Knits,  where my sister and I  blog about craftiness and knitting and have patterns on sale until the end of the month!