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Now, that’s just cheating

16 Jun

Spoiler warning: Skin Game (Jim Butcher), Inferno and The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

A while back, I posted an angst about point of view and the pacing of information reveals in my novel. My novel is, at its core, a mystery. The answers to the mystery gradually unfold for the reader as the protagonists investigate and make discoveries. In the first draft, I set a major “reveal” towards the end of the novel. The challenge was setting up that reveal without giving it away.

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Confessions of a Hero Whore

30 Mar

dresdent_files

More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

Bridge over troubled waters

18 Aug

So I finally, finally finished the latest Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story. I think I am the last one on my flist to do so. Some folks gave it enthusiastic reviews, others were less than impressed. I have to admit to slogging through some tedium at times, which is part of the reason I took so long to finish it. The other part is, I only read non-interweb stuff for a short while before bed each night.

But see, there is a reason this book wasn’t the Best!DresdenFilesNovel!Ever! It was a bridge story. And bridge stories are traditionally kind of mediocre. Thar be spoilers beyond here!

That reading thing

20 Jul

Once upon a time, I was a big book nerd. I won all the book-reading contests at the public library. You could find me on any given afternoon kicking back on my bed reading something. I think that was true at least up through college.

Then stuff happened.

First, I went to grad school and had piles and piles of required reading. By the end of the PhD, I was burnt out on reading. Second, I actually got around to writing fiction, my long-time dream. Between writing coaches and fan fic readers and the sheer joy of writing, I started spending every spare moment I had writing. To the detriment of my social life (and any other part of life). Third, I started a successful fan website and proceeded to obsessively work on that in my free time. Then those TV shows were cancelled and I cancelled my cable TV and went back to writing fiction again obsessively. Finally, I finally broke down and got cable again and started watching TV a lot.

Suffice it to say, I haven’t done a lot of reading for pleasure in the past thirteen years, unless you count the internet, and then, not fiction of any sort on the internet. I miss it. And yet I find it a big time-suck and don’t do it. I mean, if anything’s going to suck up all my time and be a huge detriment to my social life (or any kind of life, really) it’s going to be fiction writing.

I did some reading in Santa Cruz last week. Mostly because I was on vacation from writing and there was no TV around. I enjoyed it. Now vacation is over and I’m back to writing and TeeVee.

I tried motivating more reading by vowing to read X number of books in 2007 and writing mini-reviews of them in my LJ. That worked fine until moving and job hunting interfered.

Now I’m looking for a way to get myself to read again. It’s ridiculous, really. A pleasurable activity should motivate itself; and yet I can’t seem to get myself to do it. I did it in early 2007 by trapping myself on the bus twice a day without a television or anything to write. Now, there’s no bus. I thought of doing it by trapping myself on some exercise-machine thing without a remote control, but I’m considering buying a rowing machine, so that makes it tough to hold a book. You know the kind where your eye absorb words rather than having some Voice reading it to you?

*sigh*

I know what motivates me to do things I want to do but find it difficult to do. Accountability. Need to lose weight? Go to Weight Watchers meetings. Need to write a novel? Pay a writing coach Real Money to force you to report into her every week. That’s what I need in order to read. So pathetic, I know.

In which I blather on about the nature of the Other in urban fantasy, cultural appropriation, and modern Western alienation

13 Feb

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I eat cannibals: original fiction project

28 Nov

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Two birds, one stone…..

7 May

I figured out how to solve two pesky little problems I was having by solving them at the same time: (1) finding time to read, and (2) motivating myself to exercise. Now normally, my idea of exercise is a brisk walk that actually gets me somewhere I want to go; but there’s not a lot within walking distance of my new house, and, fairly shortly, I would have to do my walking within an hour of dawn to make it at all pleasant. So since I have an allergy to gyms, I have my mom’s old exercise bike. Which is extremely boring. And there is no cable hook-up in my guest bedroom. But then I thought–that’d be the perfect time to read. Peddle away, catch thirty minutes of those novels burning a hole in my living room floor….

I’ve actually made my way through the next-to-last (next-to-next-to-last?) Dresden Files now. And am fighting those Girl Scout cookies with vigor. Yay, me.