Thursday, April 24, 2014

Writerly Wednesday: A Bit Late but Let's Talk Characterization

I was perusing the internets when I found 25 Things About Creating Characters by Justin Mclachlan. Since I am a writer and since I like reading this lists, I clicked on the link and tralala, read the list.

Sometimes these lists are pretty useless for me. When it comes to characterization, I know my characters. It's a matter of stitching everything together and deciding what the reader needs to know (like age. Readers like age, while I prefer to give random details. Age is a bit more need to know in most cases). I still like reading them, though. They serve as a reminder or a checklist, something to hold my characters up to and make sure they are developing well. Sometimes I even catch one that was sliding through the cracks and go crazy trying to figure EVERYTHING out. This is impossible, by the way. I cannot know everything about any of my characters. I can know quite a bit, but not everything. In some cases, this is very good.

Most of the time, I don't have any reaction to what I just read in and of itself. This time, I did. If you like, you can click on the title of the post thing I read and read it for yourself to see if you agree with me. If not, that's okay.

8. Real people sometimes like lascivious and licentious things:  porn or weed or orgies, or porn, weed and orgies—you get the idea. So, why can’t your character like some of these things, too?
While I agree with this to some extent, basically every book I have read with a male MC has him liking all 3 of those things. So... maybe this isn't really a necessary comment? My version of this would be something along the lines of "real people sometimes like weird things like Cow statues and Veggie Tales and anything Irish. So why can't characters like weird things, too?"

I'm not kidding with this. It bothers me how normal most characters are. They like normal things. They like beer and weed and boobs or muscles. Things we expect people to like. I loved Unspoken  by Sarah Rees Brenna because her characters liked weird random things. Just like real life people. Someone I know loves everything Icelandic. I get super excited about really weird things. A friend of mine was obsessed with pickles for a while. Porn and weed and orgies are so boring and normal and everywhere.

 15. At a base level, every character wants the same things: food, shelter, sex...
Ahem. Excuse me. Sex? Every character wants sex? Half of my characters couldn't care less about sex. I have Kevin, who is asexual and cares way more about everything else. I have Dave (by the wayside, you are getting these names because they are relatively common names so I don't care if you know the names) who never wants sex. At all. I have females who are the same way. It just... no. Not every character wants sex because not every real life person wants sex.

I was so offended reading this. I mean, yes, sexual people, it's weird to wrap your mind around the fact that there are people out there who ohmybabies don't want to have sex or don't care about sex or kind of just stare at sex because it's confusing and why does it even exist let's just eat pasta. Also, this is totally debasing. And wrong. And says something about our society as a whole.

Why? Cause let's face it, you can have all the sex you want, but if you do not have a relationship, a working, active, personal relationship with someone, you will be unsatisfied. That is what every character wants. Not sex. But a relationship - maybe a messed up one -  but a relationship. That specific character may be overly afraid of relationships - not romantic ones, just fyi, but any relationship, be it mother or father or friend or lover - but there is still that desire there, somewhere.

So, you're characters, Mr. Person can want sex. I don't care about those characters. Because those aren't people I know. I know people who want food and shelter and a meaningful relationship, sometimes with sex as a bonus, sometimes not.

16. Just because a character lives in the past doesn’t mean she has to conform to outdated stereotypes.
It also doesn't mean he or she can't be in one of those stereotypes. Whenever I read a book set in Victorian times, the females are lumped into either 1. superfluous and silly or 2. headstrong and super independent, take no crap, revolutionary. Those are the new stereotypes. I'm not sure what the outdated stereotype being referred to here is - probably women who need men to save them - but let me tell you something, those stereotypes can still exist. They became stereotypes for a reason. Not every women alive was super headstrong and revolutionary. A lot were, but a lot weren't. What's wrong with those stories? Or how about the characters who are just human and alive during a certain time period?

18. In real life, we strive to avoid conflict. But in fiction, characters who always agree have no life—at least, not one worth reading about.
Has this guy ever strived to avoid conflict in an extremely conflict-ridden situation? I don't think so. I read and thus sometimes write realistic fiction. I enjoy it. Because it's life. Usually the nitty-gritty aspects of it. Let me tell you, I live in a family where striving to avoid conflict actually makes conflicts worse. I have a life. I have a life and emotions and reactions and responses. Someone could easily write a story off of my interactions with my family and it would be worth reading.

Why? Because is situations where taking sides is easy, the character who says "I will not take sides. And this is why" can be way more interesting than the person who says "I am taking sides" and is completely ignorant. Avoiding conflicts doesn't mean completely out of fear. How about the reason why the character is striving to avoid conflict is explored? Something like this depends on the skill of the writer, not on what is happening.

 20. Don’t be surprised when a character you’ve created does something you don’t expect. That’s called magic and you should just get out of its way.
This is so completely true. Although I'm pretty sure I did not create my characters because when I create characters, they suck. So... when a character appears in my head and demands I know his or her story... don't be surprised by random things. But really, feel free to get in its way. Challenge it. Fight it. Make sure it is actually there. Then hug it because it really is fantastic.

 22. Real people are seldom interesting enough to make great characters. Create, don’t imitate.
Um... Real people are way more interesting than most of the "great" characters I have read. So I'm not really sure what is happening here. I think real lives are seldom interesting enough to write a book off of, possibly, but real people, no. Real people are interesting. Possibly too interesting because I have no idea how to translate them to paper.

And obviously, I do not know everything there is to know about writing and characters. So this is not an end all say all, but I do know that some of the points I have made here about writing a character, are points that are valid and writers should pay attention to. Because readers want this stuff. Readers can tell the difference between a character who likes weed and a character who has an obsession with elephants. Weed is normal, but random obsessions are pretty normal, too. Not only that, but those elephants will make that character and individual. Those don't always exist. Especially not in YA.

Do you have any modifications to the 25 Things post or my responses to it?

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