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30 days on writing: Entry #11: characters and Characters - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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30 days on writing: Entry #11: characters and Characters [Aug. 1st, 2010|11:01 am]
Young Geoffrey
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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey complains yet again about the quality of the memage but is secretly relieved it is one he can quickly dismiss — or so he thought.

But instead, he finds himself discussing questions of character and how they can spring to life and wrench control of the work in question away from the writer.

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

Oh, I love writing about Batman, the best! But Black Canary is dreadfully dull!

Questions like these are a real reminder of just how shallow and cookie-cutter-ish genre writing really is. It seems to me that 'character', in the sense the originator of this meme meant it, doesn't mean person central to a story about a 'secondary creation', but rather, something more like cypher wearing a particular suit of clothes — a Vampire, or Girl Adventurer, or Super Hero, &ct.

Nothing wrong with that; you all know I enjoy me some playful genre work. But even serious genre work eschews characters as defined above in favour of characters, similacrums of real people dealing with difficult and interesting situations.

Which means that my 'favourite characters to write' are those whose personalities most interest me and who feel the most real to me. Often this means a character who (seems to) behaves independently, who surprises me.

In an earlier entry to this series, I mentioned Amanda, the protagonist of my unfinished novel, The Jewel of Eternity. She'd begun as a cypher, a blank model to wear the clothes of a heroine but only sprang to life when I intuited her background, in particular, her loving but not exactly gentle father.

That writer's epiphany came to me accompanied by a scene in which Amanda's father, a big and very strong man, was about to punish a young Amanda for disobyeing him. An immigrant with old-fashioned ideas about discipline, he had a belt used only for such jobs. Also an immigrant with new-fangled notions, he had forced his daughter to take karate — in fact, this conflict arose because she didn't want to go to class that day — and she now used those very skills to change the rules of her relationship.

The scene was a flashback to when Amanda was 12 or so, and it was to the moment when my heroine came alive and I fell in (strictly platonic!) love with her. She physically stopped her father from beating her and changed the rules of their relationship forever, insisting that he would never try to do so again.

Amanda learned what it was to be strong, mentally and physically, and (in my mind at least) established herself as a credible protagonist for the adventure she was later to fall into.

A much earlier version of this happened with another (sigh, unfinished) novel, The Valley of Shabathawan, I needed a spear-carrier to see my protagonist, Ashera, through her early child-hood and into adolescence. The spear-carrier, Philomena ("Phil") Hawkins, had other ideas, though.

It's a cliche I've come across quite a few times more than once, that characters "come alive" and force a writer into something he or she had not planned, but in this case that's exactly what happened to me. The novel I had intended to write, the coming-of-age story of Ashera, never did get written.

What did (if only to second draft) was a novel about Phil, about a momentous year in Phil's life and Ashera, though still important to the story, became secondary to Phil. Phil isn't someone I particularly like — angry, prone to violence and not especially self-relexive, she's certainly not someone I would much like to share a beer with, but she is someone whose story and character I found interesting.

And 'found' is very much the operative word in terms of quite a bit of my writing. I wonder, does that maybe explain why my writing tends to be so haphazard and maybe even why so many of the major projects remain in draft form?

Similarly, and without the need for much exposition, characters I don't enjoy writing about are those who lie flat and dead on the metaphorical page, who for whatever reason have not come to 'life' and so are but automata useful for moving the plot forward.

0. Explain yourself! In which Young Geoffrey explains the meme and his reasons for exploring it.

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why.

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)?

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about "youngest" and "oldest" in terms of when you created them?

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

8. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you'd like to share?

13. What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how "far" are you willing to go in your writing? ;)

17. Favorite protagonist and why!

18. Favorite antagonist and why!

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you've never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story — from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What's the most interesting way you've killed someone?

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

26. Let's talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

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