Monthly Archives: August 2015
A writer’s mission is to tell his version of the truth. In order to tell the truth though, sometimes we have to spin a few lies. Tricksy, aren’t I?
Acceptable Lie #1: Red Herrings
Red Herrings are a beautiful thing if done correctly. They’re all about subtle and detailed misdirection, sort of like a magic trick, to make the reader think they’re seeing one thing when really three other things are falling into place just out of sight. The important thing is to avoid cheese factor. Cheese leads to an obvious “the butler did it” kind of scenario. Make the clues plausible and try to keep them at least somewhat original. But don’t forget to have fun with it! If it’s not fun to write, it’s probably not fun to read.
For more on this concept, check out: http://thewritepractice.com/red-herring/
Acceptable Lie #2: Unreliable Narrators
Enter stage left, the unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator (like Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower or the narrator in The Fall of the House of Usher) is meant to draw the reader into a false sense of security. Who doesn’t trust a charismatic narrator? It’s like trusting a tour guide as he leads you around a museum you know nothing about.
But as the crumbs start to fall, they should leave a trail ending at the ultimate question: Is this person reliable? How does his distorted view reflect on events and characters? Is any narrator truly reliable or is everyone’s “truth” influenced by their perception of the world? Case in point, an unreliable narrator can be used to convey larger truths about our world.
Acceptable Lie #3: Lying to Your Characters
Most characters are driven to act (at least in part) by the lies they tell themselves. It’s the ultimate “if-then” statement. “If I do this then…I’ll finally be happy…I’ll be a hero…She’ll fall in love with me…I’ll get what I deserve”, etc. This applies to both villains and heroes alike. I adore this concept. It’s been incredibly helpful while shaping my own characters, like Marley Emmons and Rumpelstiltskin. It’s helped me answer the question, what would this character do in this situation that would simultaneously advance the plot?
Ex: Marley believes it is her against the world. In order to get away from her father, she needs resources. She believes if she steals enough money she can finally get away. This belief leads her to steal from Rumpelstiltskin, and launches the main story arc. Her belief is tested when Holden shows genuine concern for her wellbeing.
For more on this concept, visit: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/character-arcs-2/
Paper Towns by John Green
Now a motion picture, it tells the story of Q and the mysterious girl next door, Margo, as they embark on a journey to discover themselves in a town full of “paper people”.
Honest, witty, and charmingly written this is by far my favorite book by Green.
From “B” or “If I Should Have a Daughter” by spoken-word poet and all around excellent human being, Sarah Kay. I saw her April 2015 performance at Aquinas College and was absolutely blown away. My poetic idol right here. Watch her full performance of “B” on Ted Talks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0snNB1yS3IE
(Art taken from Pinterest.)
As I will be referring to my own work throughout this blog, it might be handy to introduce you to the key players who are inspiring our virtual journey together.
I proudly present to you, Marley Elizabeth Emmons, a fiery misfit with more sass than height. Abused by her foster father, she’s taken fate into her own hands as a highway robber. These shenanigans bring her face-to-face with none other than the most notorious sorcerer in Hart, Rumpelstiltskin, and his errand boy, Holden. After striking a deal with the magician, Marley (under Holden’s reluctant supervision) embarks on a quest to retrieve three enchanted items: a spinning wheel, a bixbite necklace, and a golden flute. Along the way, she finds herself searching for something even more precious; a sense of self.
Each leg of her journey was inspired by one of the classic Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. I find when I’m looking for ideas, the classics are usually a great place to start. Plus, have you READ the Grimm Brothers? Some of those stories a just plain BIZARRE!
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
Fresh, funny, and magical, this series is a must read. Stiefavter’s style is a delightful blend of poetic and poignant, and Blue and her Raven Boys are one of the most lovable band of of misfits I’ve yet to encountered.
So your character has decided to go AWOL, that jerk. If a character has brought the story to a grinding halt, it may be time to reassess some things. Luckily, there are ways to get him back on track. Like any wayward soul, sometimes all your character needs is a little extra love and attention. Here are just a few ways to work through that oh-so-important character-author relationship.
Be a Good Wingman
It’s a writer’s job to be a character’s wingman, even the bad guy’s. How well do you really know your character? If you took him to the bar, would you be able to order him a drink without it ending in a trip to the ER because he’s deathly allergic to olives? Sometimes the smaller details can be vital to getting inside a character’s head. If you don’t know a character’s basic strengths and weaknesses, you might accidentally send him steering toward a dead end. Play on a character’s most obvious and plot-advancing personality traits, but keep his less obvious details in the back of your mind while writing. If a character isn’t rounded out inside the writer’s head, he will most likely fall flat in the mind of the reader.
Actions Have Consequences
A character’s personality is the fuel that leads him to react to any given situation. But, not unlike the real world, actions have consequences. If your character’s personality is not reflected in his actions, you are most likely writing yourself straight into a corner. His reactions must be genuine. If they are, it will help move the plot forward more naturally. If not, the story may start to feel thin and stretched, personality and plot working against each other to create a sad droopy strand of fiction-flavored taffy.
This One is Going to Hurt
You have poured hours into this character. You have imagined the countless pages of fanart that will one day star said character because he is just that incredible. Unfortunately, the truth is this story isn’t for him. He may be your proudest achievement, but if he doesn’t fit neatly into the character dynamic, the setting, the plot, whatever, it will fade the tapestry of awesome that is his personality. A character must have a purpose. If he doesn’t, cut him. I know it hurts. I was forced to cut Clara de Lore, a major character and love interest in my current novel in progress. I spent days trying to find a way to make her fit into the story. But when it came down to it, my only real option was to pluck her out and put her away for another day.
Here are some links to sites I have found helpful for developing characters:
Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown