Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oops, I pushed my character and he broke

I'm still feeling yucky today.  Hopefully this will lead to long term betterness but for now I'm sore and feeling bloated and low energy.  Up until now I've been getting up early and getting lots of work done.  That's out the window.  

But I'm still writing.  Thank goodness I can do that while in sitting-on-butt mode.  Today is transcribe day.  I'm wondering if the stuff I hand wrote last night will read well on the screen.  Yet another opportunity to edit by looking at the prose from a different angle, though personally I don't care to edit on unfinished novels.  Then (yay!) I can launch into the next chapter.  I ended the last chapter with a bad thing happening and I'm eager to get writing on the consequences.  This will push all the characters to their limits.

There are times when writers push their characters too hard, though, so that they snap and then just curl up in the fetal position and do nothing or thrash around uselessly.  That becomes annoying to a reader fast, especially if they're smarter than the character on the screen.  It turns into a one-sided shouting match.  What do you mean there's nothing you can do?!  I can think of three things off the top of my head and I don't even care if you do any of those, just do something!

That isn't a usual problem, at least not with beginning writers.  They tend to go soft on their precious babies.  But when the challenge is well beyond what the character can handle, it's just as bad for the reader.  Now, this is different from a character being momentarily overwhelmed.  That can be very, very fun.  But eventually (and sooner rather than later) the reader wants the characters to find their feet, regroup, come up with a new strategy, or even just run away, so long as they're active on the page.  And if the characters come back stronger and smarter and overcome the challenge that originally knocked them on their asses, that's sweet.

Lecture (rant) of the day is over.  Use the rest of your classtime for homework or free-time quiet activities.  Thanks for listening!


Anonymous said...

When I find myself yelling at a character in a book more than once, the book is tossed across the room and isn't read unless I'm to the point of reading cereal boxes to ignore the pain.

I have enough frustration in my life...stupid characters aren't on my list of fun things to do :) At least add some clever dialogues to liven it up (stuff that "I'd" NEVER be smart enough to say!)

Take care and hope you feel better soon,

Kami said...

Stupid character, whining characters, characters that bury their heads in the sand and characters who can solve all their problems if they just f*cking talked to each other!! My friends better line up to give me a big big spanking if I ever write characters like that.

By the way, if you ever run out of things to read give me a buzz! I know you're an amazingly fast reader but I might be able to hold you for a week or two with some obscure but fun books I've picked up. Loaning books would be a fun excuse to visit. Also, if you enjoy torture there's always my stuff. I can email or send hard copies.

Things that puzzle this other goddess.... said...

I ALWAYS need reading material! LOL But I'm being b*tchy lately and reading stories that I call cotton candy for my mind. (Which I know your stuff isn't.) Stuff that's full of clever dialogue, clever women who don't whine (or who get b*tch slapped when they do!), some hunky men, maybe werewolves or vampires or some other weird supernatural type creature so I know I'm not in the real world at all. Nothing in them but a bit of character development, some plot or interesting back stories and a whole lot of enjoyment! Just call me lazy.

My non-fiction reading has actually been fairly intense on the calligraphy, illumination, art, and parenting front. A few of the books that I've been reading are listed here:
I've been working to try and get our library organized and entered as I have the energy. If you see anything interesting, let me know. Right now there's only a small portion of our books entered.

Things that puzzle this other goddess.... said...

Gosh, I just reread this and realized I'd made it sound like your writing wasn't enjoyable...ouch...NOT what I meant to say at all. I've just been reading a particular formula lately and I know you don't write to one :)
Love you...ttptog *grin*

Kami said...

No worries, I know you like to read formula work. In fact I cite you (without naming names) as someone who's intelligent and discerning who reads a lot of formula fiction, thereby disproving the erroneous perceptions about the kind of people who read, for example, formula romances, and the writers who write them. In fact a lot of formula fiction is awesome. You're right, though, I don't write formula.

The Lace and Blade anthology isn't strictly formula but it's very romantic-style and I think you'll like it a lot. I'll stick that on the maybe pile for the next time I come visit you guys.

As far as my stuff, I can always send the occasional short your way and see if it's to your taste. My writing has changed over time, hopefully for the better! And I know you can read through a short faster than I can dash up the stairs for tea and back down to the computer again.

Things that puzzle this other goddess.... said...

You're right. And thank you for the compliment to my intelligence...some days it is maybe even deserved ;)

I sooooo LOVE blowing people's stereotypes! LOL MOST of the people that I know that read formula books are pretty intelligent. A lot of them, like me, read non-fiction and textbooks and work manuals and so many magazines with 'knowledge' articles for work or for a hobby that by the time they want to relax in a bubbly tub with a book, they just don't want to think that hard to enjoy themselves.

But then, I'm the one that prefers romantic comedies to dramas as well. :)

Send the shorts my way and I can take a gander. I won't promise to be a good critic, but I can try. :)