Let’s Get Complicated: Creating Multi-Dimensional Characters
This week I was a guest of YA author Doree DePew!
Let’s Get Complicated: Creating Multi-Dimensional Characters
This week I was a guest of YA author Doree DePew!
It’s often considered that science and religion cannot be in the same room without a fight breaking out. Yet, many aspects of science fiction involve belief in a greater power or veneration of something. In fantasy it’s often a given that there will be a religious aspect, some stories even involving gods/goddesses themselves. Science fiction hasn’t shied away from this either often exploring themes of faith, recreating history and delving into deeply religious cultures. Yet science fiction in general is seen to be the antithesis of spirituality. One cannot be analytically and religious at the same time. One is said to be exclusive of the other. Science dealing with fact and observable phenomenon while religion deals with faith and belief in the things unseen.
Many people have used science fiction to explore religion, either to deride and mock it or to question it’s place in our cultures. It cannot be ignored that humans have an innate desire to look to something greater. It’s shown in every culture, race and people the world over. This is often reflected in our literature.
As an avid fan of the Transformers franchise in all it’s forms I’ve noticed something. I’m not the only one either. Many fans have pointed out the fact that the base story line in Transformers can be compared to the Christian allegory. Optimus Prime as the Savior who is sacrificed. Megatron as the devil from the Pit bent on world domination. Being either an Autobot or a Decepticon has over arcing moral implications. The Cybertronian culture as a whole was very religious for a bunch of oversize sentient robots. They had their gods The Primes.
It was a deeply personal decision for a Cybertronian when it came to choosing a faction to join. According to the new aligned continuity most of the Decepticons came from the working class or the slave laborers in the Pits. Megatron promised freedom from the elitist tyranny that had existed for eon. Then he granted it, but at a tremendous price. Many Cybertronians looked upon him as a god, their Savior. Others new differently. The true Savior had to be chosen by the Matrix. The Matrix chose Orion Pax the humble clerk not Megatronus the proud gladiator.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. Its the same trope used in Star Wars and many fantasy novels/series. The unsuspecting and humble hero is plucked from obscurity and told Destiny awaits. Its the story of the Messiah told with metal and energon instead of flesh and blood. Star Wars had Jedi and Sith instead of angels and demons.
Religion factors heavily into everyone’s life whether they are aware of it or not. Science fiction doesn’t gloss over this and shouldn’t. We crave a god but also fear having to be responsible to that god. Just be glad it’s not Megatron.
Something has been nagging me lately. A disquiet that I wasn’t sure how to quell. So, this morning I decided to write the final scene of Sorrow’s Fall from Sarin’s viewpoint. This might have been a bad idea because it was intense.
Warning: Major Spoilers for Sorrow’s Fall including the end and several major revelations. Do not read if you have not read the book.
The book is only $.99 on Amazon so fix that then come read this. 😉
Below is the music playlist I wrote the scene to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The air hung thick and heavy with the smell of ozone. Blaster fire seared the air. The Hyperian shock troopers were no match for the Sal’Ori but they just kept coming. Holding a hand to my side to stem the flow of blood I tried to locate Sorrow. I’d never imagined he would be powerful enough to kill an Ancient. Even as an Amalgam I’d been helpless before her. Rinkin and Diedre had received the worst of it. It would take some time to heal from Ophelia’s poison.
Sorrow was several yards away on his hands and knees in the grass. Qadira stood over him. She was saying something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. His dark hair was much shorter, barely brushing his shoulders. I wondered who had cut it and how they’d known it would hamper him. The dark vest he was wearing glittered with blood, more pooled under him. She’d already stabbed him twice from what I’d seen. How was he still moving?
“No!” Sorrow’s voice reached me clearly. Whatever she was saying it was upsetting him enough to drive him to speak. I started forward grabbing up a discarded phase rifle as he got to his feet. He staggered a few steps his determination flickering around the edges of his aura. It wasn’t as tumultuous as I remembered. He’d managed to find some emotional balance.
“…the fact that you are already powerful enough to kill an Ancient will please Grandmother.”
I steeled myself and pointed the rifle at Qadira. “And that is why we cannot ever let him fall into your hands again, Qadira.”
She laughed and took a few steps back as she looked at me. She wasn’t going to take me seriously. Swallowing hard I looked at Sorrow. He was so different now. Rinkin and Diedre had done a lot to help him but that darkness was still there, just waiting to be unleashed. I’d just witnessed how devastating it could be. What would happen if it was used-if he was used to further the war? He had no control. He would obey any order given by someone in authority over him. I would have to report this to Zaryfa. Her plan had failed. There was no way to save him.
Her only grandson. The first male child born in nearly three generations. And I was going to have to kill him. Drake had done too good of a job rendering him useless as anything but a weapon. Even though I had seen the potential within him, he couldn’t see it for himself. Gods why did it have to be me? The rifle shook in my hands as I selected my new target. He was facing Qadira his back to me. He trusted me. Why in the seven Hells did he have to trust me?
He staggered forward as the bolt hit him in the back. His shock lit up the area blinding me for a moment. Oh gods. I pulled the trigger again watching him sink to his knees. Gods this can’t be happening. Please don’t make me have to kill him. Please. I’ll do anything. Anything at all just don’t make me kill him.
The choice is not yours child. Zaryfa’s voice reached me from the ship orbiting overhead. He must die.
But he’s your grandson.
And Qadira is my granddaughter.
Why can’t I kill her?!
We spoke of this Sarin. She cannot become a martyr for the Purists. He has to die. Implicate me as you must for those who are listening.
Yes, My Queen.
So, you’re going to kill him yourself, is that it?”
Sorrow’s fear and pain was difficult to ignore as I stepped closer to him. My throat was tight and speaking took effort. “If I have to I will. I may not be able to defeat you right now, but I will take away your chance of using him. If I had not seen him transform like that I would never have believed it, but he is too dangerous of a being to be allowed to live. No one should have that kind of power.”
Especially not you, I thought to myself. She was already more powerful than any Barendi before her. If she succeeded in gaining Sorrow’s help either willingly or not, there would be no stopping her. The Hyperia would fall and with it the fragile balance with the outlying systems. It would be the chaos of the Clan War all over again. Only this time the galaxy itself might be destroyed.
“You have no idea Sarin. Why do you think Our Queen destroyed the Aram when she had the chance? This,” She pointed a finger at Sorrow, “this is the embodiment of what they were. Beings so beautiful and powerful they had to be destroyed at all costs. Yet, who could have foreseen the price? I know why you feel you must rebel. All the clans are dying out Sarin, not just yours. The Queen is well aware of this. That is why she allowed him to be born, why he was not aborted the instant it was discovered what he is. She will make sure that the clans prosper once more. The Barendi will once again rule the galaxy as they did centuries ago. You Baroness, could have your place in that galaxy.”
It wasn’t even a temptation. She had no idea who was working to thwart her. I looked down at Sorrow. He was staring up at me blood trickling out of his mouth as he fought to breathe. I could feel him trying to reach out to me, soft tendrils of disbelief and anguish. He’d thought I was dead. I could see the flicker of relief fading as he continued to look at me. I blinked back tears, forcing down the searing pain in my chest. I’d already felt him die once, I wasn’t sure I’d survive a second time. I kept the rifle pointed at him watching the hope fade from his eyes. His aura was flickering between fear, pain and despair. I kept myself tightly shielded. If he or Qadira discovered what I was actually doing all our plans would fail. Xenazia’s mental touch caressed my mind, her concern flooding me.
“Sarin, don’t!” Xenazia pleaded, “Didn’t you hear what she said! We could save our clan. He’s no threat to us any longer.”
“She is a liar Xenazia. You know as well as I do that we are both dead no matter what happens. The only thing I can do is make sure Zaryfa cannot use him to make war on the rest of the galaxy.”
“There has to be another way, Sarin please!”
“What other way, Xen?” I screamed at her part of me needing some outlet for this horrible pain, “Tell me another way then.”
“I . . . I don’t know.”
Qadira snorted, “You are pathetic. Hurry up and be done with it, or I’ll kill you both where you stand.”
“You are going to anyway so what does it matter?”
She laughed again. A horrid gloating sound, “I’ll let you live as long as you kill him.”
I let out the breath I’d been holding. It almost became a sob as I felt Sorrow give up. His will flickering out like a snuffed flame. I wanted to scream at him to tell him to run, if only to save myself from having to do this. I wanted so badly to touch him. To comfort him and tell him how much he meant to me. To tell him that I would always love him, love that part of him that tried so desperately to be more than what he was allowed. I blinked, tears burning down my cheeks. Taking a step closer I raised the rifle to point it at his head. I couldn’t let him suffer any more. He looked up at me his eyes pleading and my resolve threatened to disappear.
I can’t do this Zaryfa. I can’t.
There was no answer. I stared down into those deep green eyes and wondered when I’d fallen so completely.
“I never meant to hurt you.” I could barely get the words out, “I wish-I wish so desperately things could be different. Goodbye, Sorrow.”
Closing my eyes I pulled the trigger.
There was a soft thump. I didn’t dare open my eyes yet. Tears were still streaming down, I couldn’t stop them any more than I could block out the cold pull of his energy evaporating as he died.
The rifle thudded to the ground next to me. Qadira made a soft sound and I opened my eyes to see her kneeling next to him.
“I can’t believe you actually killed him.” Her voice was soft, full of wonder. “I’ve always wondered what it would feel like when he died.”
It felt like winter, like the infinite cold of space, like being ripped apart from the inside. Nothing would ever be the same.
“Are you happy now?” I choked on the words.
She cocked her head up at me. “Happy? You just killed my brother. My twin brother…this really hurts.”
“You expected something different Qadira?” I’d forgotten about Sher’Ak. “You spent all those years forging that bond and then expected to be able to sever it at a whim without backlash?”
She got to her feet but I didn’t miss the tremble. Her eyes glistened as she looked at me. She looked terrible. It seemed Sorrow had gotten in a few hits of his own. “I won’t kill you Sarin but you are still a traitor.”
I didn’t move as she turned and walked back toward one of the Barendi drop ships. I wanted to throw up. Sher’Ak was glaring at me.
“Nicely done Baroness.”
“Do not speak to me.”
“Sarin, lets go. There is nothing more-“
“Just…leave me for a moment Xen. I need a moment.”
Sher’Ak snorted. “Stupid. What a waste. Do me a favor Baroness and never contact me again. I might kill you.”
I nodded but my entire focus was on Sorrow. Collapsing on my knees next to him I reached a trembling hand toward him. How had this happened? I could still remember the first time I saw him. The jolt at realizing who and what he was had left me reeling for days. I was supposed to be his guardian, not his murderer. A sob caught in my throat as I ran my fingers through his hair. What was I supposed to do now? How was I supposed to go on? Slipping my arms around him I pulled him close. He was limp and warm and I was reminded of the last time I’d killed him. Stopped his heart with a kiss. I wasn’t going to get another chance to hold him. I clung desperately to that memory as I shook with sobs. He’d always been so brilliant and powerful but now there was nothing. No bright colors and shimmering energy. Staring down at him through the tears I knew I would never feel like this about another being. I’d never meant to hurt him. At least now he felt no pain and could finally rest.
“I’m so sorry-so sorry.”
How long I stayed there holding him, I’m not sure. When I finally let him go his body was cold, the once brilliant green eyes faded and dull. I kissed him and brushed the hair back from his face. The blaster burn was an ugly mark on his forehead and I resisted touching it, wanting to erase it. Doing so wouldn’t fix what I’d done.
“We need to go Sarin.” Xenazia’s voice was soft, her mental touch hesitant.
“I-I can’t just leave him here like this.”
“Sarin, please. He’s dead. There is nothing you can do.”
“Don’t you think I know that?”
Her mental touch faded but she didn’t move away, instead wrapping an arm around my shoulders. I couldn’t fight her as she pulled me to my feet.
I cannot do this My Queen.
You must child. Believe me when I say it was for the best.
Sorrow’s Fall is available on Amazon in both paper back and digital. Audio book coming soon to Audible.com.
Before I get started, I want to warn those who might not have watched Supernatural, this post is basically one big long spoiler.
As a writer I find Castiel‘s character fascinating and exceedingly complicated. I know some people disagree, I have only to scroll through the 100s of tweets I got earlier this month for confirmation of this. They feel he has no place in the narrative and should be removed as a character.
What they are refusing to see is actually taking away a huge chunk of the narrative. It would be like reading The Hunger Games and ignoring Peeta, or watching Iron Man and ignoring Pepper, or playing Devil May Cry and ignoring Virgil. His character is integral to the plot and has been since 4:1.
The wiki has a nice explanation of what a protagonist is, but I would like to expound on it a little bit more.
So first who is the protagonist?
Well it could be one person or several people depending on the story and plot. Supernatural started with two main characters; Sam and Dean. Sam was the clear protagonist because he was the one with the most to lose, his girlfriend, budding career, et cetera. Dean was a catalyst, almost a foil for Sam to react against. Dean was already set in his way. The pilot episode showed Sam as the clear protagonist by taking away all he held dear and forcing him into a life he did not want. The audience was meant to sympathize and identify with him where Dean was more the mentor role. He was Gandalf to Sam’s Frodo, the one who showed up and once again altered his world.
Sam was the more emotionally accessible of the two which also helped the audience to relate. During the second season their roles became more interchangeable, they each took turns being the protagonist and this helped to develop their characters.
By season three there wasn’t as much characterization happening because the two main characters were no longer the protagonists. They no longer fit the definition. This left the writers scrambling to come up with season arc that would still have some sort of meaning. The stakes had to be raised and one of the brothers had to be reinstated as the protagonist. The opening of the Hell Gate put the world in danger but neither of the brothers had anything to lose at this point, Dean had already sold his soul. Sam was resurrected, John was dead and Bobby was doing what he’d done for years. Dean and Sam were main characters but not the protagonists at this point. By this point the episodic guests have more to lose than either of the main characters and are more emotionally accessible.
Its not until the last few episodes of season 3 that Dean emerges as the protagonist. His time is running out and they are beginning to realize that there is nothing they can do to stop him from being taken to Hell as Ruby warned them. He has the most to lose at this point with Sam working to prevent it.
Season three ends with Dean in Hell and Sam allied with Ruby.
Seems like the end of the story at this point and it very nearly was, until someone came up with the idea to introduce a brand new set of characters. Thus, a whole new dynamic was set up.
Season four opened with a huge shocker. After months of being dead and suffering in hell Dean is resurrected in the most bizarre way. At least bizarre to him and his brother. They and Bobby are at a complete loss as to how Dean is now alive. After a horrible seance where a dear friend is maimed for life trying to get the information all they have is a name. Castiel.
Now things start to get interesting. We still have no clear protagonist except maybe Dean who has his newly restored life/body, or it could be Sam who has his brother back but has been sleeping with Ruby. Sam has the potential to not just lose his brother, but lose his brother’s respect. This still doesn’t make either of them the clear protagonist. Remember the protagonist is the one with the most to lose in the given scenario, the one the audience is expected to connect with emotionally. They are the one who must go through the most change for the sake of the plot. Yet Dean and Sam have changed already. Dean is alive, albeit changed from his time in hell. Sam managed to find a way to continue hunting without Dean, though it involves demon blood. So where is the plot arc and the protagonist for this storyline?
I’m getting to that, keep your panties on, or take them off, I don’t care.
Season four episode one and we are introduced to Castiel. An honest to goodness angel. Of the lord. This is when Dean’s emotional arc is revealed. He lacks faith and doesn’t feel he deserved to be saved due to what he did while in hell. This can be seen as him being tapped as the protagonist, but he has a more reactionary than proactive role. Sam on the other hand is desperate to hide his addiction, this also makes him reactionary instead of proactive. The only proactive person is the angel and we quickly learn that he’s not any ordinary hammer of god. This angel has doubts. He is certain about his role in Dean’s life, but uncertain about the larger picture. For the rest of the season, he will be the protagonist as he has the most to lose.
Castiel remains the protagonist through the end of the season. He has the most to lose, his family, his position in heaven, even his status as an angel and his very life are risked to save Dean and Sam. Unfortunately, we only see him through Dean and Sam’s eyes so a lot of his character development and narrative must be inferred from their interactions. Sam and Dean for their parts are pawns of both Heaven and Hell. Sam is used by Ruby to open Lucifer‘s cage which is where we end Season 4.
Season 5 opens with Sam and Dean mysteriously saved from meeting Lucifer face to face. Sam decides he wants nothing more to do with the hunting life and leaves Dean to continue on his own. Dean and Castiel will now be the two main protagonists. They are proactive trying to find a way to stop Lucifer and the Apocalypse. Sam does eventually rejoin Dean while Castiel leaves to try and find God. This is when the roles switch to some extent. Sam and Dean are finally back to being proactive protagonists. Cas is still a protagonist of his own story arc which is subordinate to and mirrors Sam and Dean’s overall arc.
In the next few seasons his character did create a catch-22 for the writers since he was so powerful and the only way to go was down, so they had to keep coming up with ways to strip him of his powers.
Next time I will discuss seasons 6-8 and how the roles of the various characters changed.
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.
-Arnold H. Glasow
In this age of the digital frontier, making meaningful human connections hasn’t just become a challenge, its a fading art. Those of us who are used to communicating via text message, email, by Facebook or Tumblr have many acquaintances, Those nebulous connections to people we will never see or hear and only know through their words and choice of avatar.
It takes something very special to make a true connection to a person through the internet. More than just shared likes or dislikes, it takes honesty and openness. Something we are taught never to be on the internet. Though the anonymity the internet provides allows those of us who are too shy to speak up in real life, a stage on which to express ourselves. Sometimes when we do so we are shot down, other times we make a friend for life.
It has been my great privilege to meet and get to know three very select people, only one of whom I have met in person. One passed away last year and the other I hope to meet some day.
I am close to each of them in different ways. My friend who passed was a wonderful conversationalist and we would have lengthy discussions on everything from science fiction to particle physics. I miss him greatly.
My other two friends, while younger than myself share a lot of my likes and sensibilities. They are two of the very few people with whom I have shared deeply intimate details about myself. I’ve grown to love both of them dearly and consider them among my very closest friends.
Aya is immensely talented and never ceases to amaze me. She is as beautiful as she is intelligent. Misaki is brilliant and adorable and is able to do things I could never imagine, much less accomplish.
Aya has a very promising career either as an author or a model/actress. She’s overcome a lot in her life and has been there to help me through some of the very toughest moments of mine. I honestly don’t know what I ever did without her.
Misaki is studying to be a child psychologist, which just blows me away I couldn’t possibly have more respect for her but she’s constantly proving ever more worthy of it. She has encouraged me to keep writing when I was ready to give up and when I was too depressed to even think about writing. She and I have shared many things with each other.
These are the people who inspire me and keep me writing. This post is dedicated to them.
Waking up with a migraine doesn’t help get the creativity flowing. Were my muses beating me in my sleep? I wouldn’t put it passed them.
This is one of those days where I know my writing is going to be abysmal, so I may as well just get it over with and move on. Or I could go do some laundry.
Hmm, that’s pretty sad when I’d rather do housework than write. Maybe I’ll just leave you with an excerpt from a novel I’ve had on the back burner for a while.
The setting is rural Missouri, incidentally where I grew up.
I dragged my eyes open. The side of my face was still smarting from where I’d whacked into the wall as I’d tried to roll over. The first pale rays of sun light were struggling to penetrate the frosted glass of the window overhead. A tan arm smacked me across the bridge of my nose before thumping the wall. I lay there blinking tears out of my eyes for a moment.
“Jeeze, Tabby.” Shoving the limb off my head I struggled to sit up. No wonder I had been trying to climb the wall in my sleep.
Tabby slept sprawled across the rest of the twin bed, her short blonde hair rumpled. One muscular leg flung over mine. A faded band t-shirt was hiked up around her midriff. To top it off she was wearing a pair of my boxers. Sighing I bit back the desire to yell at her. She’d either beat the crap out of me or laugh if I made too big a deal of it. Shaking her shoulder, I tried to wake her. She’d made a habit of climbing into bed with me the week her dad moved in with my mom and me, almost ten years ago. She’d been eight and I was six at the time. I hadn’t liked it then, and I still didn’t like it even if she didn’t do it every night now. Something must have happened last night or she would’ve slept in her own bed. Hoping it didn’t have anything to do with what I thought it did, I tried to wake her.
“Tabby, hey Tabitha wake up. Go get in your own bed. Come on.” Shoving had little effect and just when I’d decided to forget it and go to her room she opened one eye.
Stretching so that the t-shirt threatened to reveal way too much she grinned at me mumbling, “Mornin’ sleepin’ beauty.”
“Get the hell out of my bed you freaking weirdo.”
“That’s not how you say good morning to your loving sister.” She yawned through half the sentence, rubbing mascara nearly to her temples.
“Step-sister and since when have you been loving? And why in the freaking hell are you wearing my boxers.”
“They’re comfy.” The pout lasted all of two seconds.
“Ooof.” I shoved at her shoulder as she flopped over on me. She was entirely too warm and heavy, not that I would tell her that. Her weight made it difficult to breathe.
“Besides you are so cute and cuddly when you are sleeping.” She mumbled into my ear sending chills down my neck.
“You are creeping me out Tab. We need to get up.” I didn’t need to tell her why. She sighed and I tried to ignore the feel of her against me. Step-sister or not, she had a nice body.
“Creeps you out, huh? You never used to mind. Besides, it’s not like we are related or anything.” Hugging me to her she snuggled closer.
Pushing her away I propped myself up on an elbow. “Do you have any idea how crazy you sound right now?”
“What? I can’t think my step-brother is cute?”
“No! No you can’t.” That pissed her off. Shifting around she sat up, pulling the shirt down. She glanced at me over her shoulder.
“You know for being a football player, you sure are a wimp.” Shoving my head down into the pillow she got up. “I get dibbs on the shower. Unless you want to share?”
“Get out you sicko.”
She disappeared in the direction of the bathroom and I buried my head in the pillow. Soon the sound of running water could be heard. She was getting weirder by the day, used to be she was disgusted by me like any proper sister. She needs boyfriend, was my next thought, her and Jasper split six months ago. The last thing I needed was Gunner thinking I’d hooked up with his precious daughter. Grossed out by the thought I decided I was going to have to get a lock for my door, as soon as I got a door. Gunner had broken it last year in one of his drunken rages, or rather had used me to break it. We didn’t have the money to replace it, so I went without. Shoving that thought to the dark reaches of my mind with the rest of the painful memories, I made myself get up.
The carpet, matted into a nondescript brown was cold, must be pretty chilly outside then. Trailers aren’t exactly known for being well insulated. Without Tabby’s body heat the room was decidedly nippy. Best to get dressed. Stripping off the pajama pants I found a pair of jeans that were still decent, no holes in improper places at least. Socks were another matter. After a ten minute search I found a mismatched pair and threw a t-shirt and hoodie on.
Avoiding piles of clothes, clean and dirty piled in the narrow hall, I headed for the kitchen. The living room had been relatively clean yesterday, until Gunner came home. Now the coffee table, end tables and the floor were covered with beer bottles and cans and the occasional liquor bottle. The ashtray was overflowing onto the table and there were three empty packs of Camel’s mixed in among the bottles. At least the alcohol and cigarette smoke smell kind of covered the lingering cold greasy smell of last night’s dinner. My mom, Alicia wasn’t known for her cooking ability. Not cooking food anyway.
I stopped in the living room watching her through the pass-through window as she got her breakfast in the kitchen. Her personal cupboard was padlocked so we couldn’t raid it when she was gone. As always she looked completely out of place in our dump of a single-wide. Long blonde hair swung from a ponytail down to the middle of her back. Anytime she showed up for a football game all the guys would stare at her. She was pretty if not downright beautiful and she knew it. Why she’d ever hooked up with Gunner was beyond me. Maybe it had been desperation or something else, I didn’t pretend to understand it. She glanced up and I felt my pulse quicken. Please let her be in a good mood this morning, I begged whatever god cared to listen.
“Mornin’,” I ventured.
“Good morning Corentin. Make sure you fix Gunner’s breakfast before you leave for school. I’ll be gone all day, there is a realtor’s meeting in Springfield that I’m going to attend. Don’t expect me home before ten tonight. You and Tabitha are in charge of getting dinner on and make sure you clean the kitchen this time.”
I nodded as I headed to the refrigerator hoping there was something edible in it. As usual she was lying. I knew her real reason for going to Springfield. It hadn’t been much of a shock to find out the realtor bit was a cover for her drug running for Gunner. It was just really disappointing. I guess it had stopped being a shock when Gunner had made me help him at a couple of his meth labs. I hated it with a passion; it was hard, dangerous and smelly work. I’d rather do something legal and safe. My refusal to help often started many of our fights. They normally ended with me bleeding on the floor. Distracting myself with the task at hand I opened the fridge, almost welcoming the stench of rotting food. Half a dozen eggs and a nearly empty gallon of milk meant breakfast wasn’t going to be much. I’d have to see if we had enough money to go by the Save-A-Lot after school.
“Morning Alicia,” Tabby’s voice was muffled, probably by a towel. Grabbing the eggs and milk I shut the door with my foot. Sure enough Tabby was toweling her hair dry as she stood in the living room. I rolled my eyes and set the food down on the counter. She always pretended to be so polite, but I knew what she really thought of Alicia. I agreed with her too.
“Good morning Tabitha. Mrs. Coontz said they have a job opening at the Pizza Hut in Camdenton. You should go apply today.” Today was stressed in a tone that meant you did it or you suffered major consequences.
Tabby’s smile was as fake as they come, “I’ll check it out after I drive Ren to school since he missed the bus.”
“I was going to take my bike.”
“No,” They chorused glaring at me.
“It’s getting too late in the year and I don’t like you riding it anyway.” I almost snorted, she didn’t like me riding it ‘cause it meant I had wheels faster than hers.
“It’s a lot cheaper on gas than the Dodge.” I countered.
The Dodge was a 1978 Ram Charger more suited to off-roading or mudding than driving down the road. At least it was it better shape than the Chevy Gunner drove. He’d nearly totaled it last year running from the cops. Alicia drove a new Beamer that none of us were allowed to even look at much less touch. If she really cared why didn’t she use some of that drug money to make our lives a little easier? I knew the answer even as I thought the question. She don’t care ‘bout us, not any more than me and Tabby are tax deductions.
“Tabitha has to go into town anyway. No more discussion Corentin.”
I flinched at the tone. Cringing as she walked behind me I was not spared the smack to the back of my head. She was the only person who ever used my full name and I hated it.
“Tabitha, I want him home immediately after football practice. You are not to go anywhere else.”
“Okay.” Tabitha’s false meekness wouldn’t have worked on anyone else, but Alicia never seemed to notice.
One last check in the mirror by the door and she was gone. Rubbing the back of my head I set about making breakfast for the rest of us. Scrambled eggs and toast just isn’t filling especially when we had to leave half of it for Gunner. Tabby came up behind me ruffling my hair.
“You know you shouldn’t argue with her. Now she’ll think about it all day and be totally pissed by the time she gets home.”
I shifted away from her, cracking the eggs into the skillet. “Doesn’t matter. She’ll come home in a bad mood anyway, like she always does.”
“So you shouldn’t make it worse, shorty.”
“Hey, it’s too early for name calling.”
Tabby and I were cleaning up the mess when there were several thumps from the back of the trailer where the master bedroom was.
“We’d better hurry.” Her voice was low and shook a bit. “He had to move another lab yesterday.”
Swearing under my breath I hurried to put the dishes away. Tabby, white lipped and silent wiped the counters clean with swift economical movements. Moving a meth lab was always risky especially with the local highway patrol already watching Gunner like a hawk on a snake.
Well, it’s a start anyway.
This week I am super excited to have Pauline Jones as a guest poster.
by Pauline Baird Jones
Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
This is an exciting time to be a writer. It is hard to miss the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, or not feel why not me? Digital publishing has forever changed the landscape for writers, opening up a direct conduit from author to reader. Now fan fiction authors have been talking direct to their readers for years, so they have an important edge—as evidenced by Fifty Shades—when taking their writing from fun hobby to professional business.
But there are some important differences that can trip the unwary and turn going pro into an exercise in miserable.
I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.
~Peter De Vries
Because there are so many options, it has become even more important for the savvy writer to understand the various options, the upside and downside of each, and what’s best for your work. That means you need a basic understanding of intellectual property rights before you sign anything. If you don’t know what IP is, then that’s a good place to start doing your research.
Here are a couple of good places to start:
The Business Rusch (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Dean Wesley Smith (her husband)
The Passive Voice (an intellectual property lawyer)
Joe Konrath (writer and voice for indie authors)
Most of these blogs will open you up to more resources and information. Information is power. Don’t fear knowledge. One of the biggest problems writers have is mixing fiction with their reality. They hear or believe what they want to hear, what feels comfortable, or what will let them continue in happy ignorance.
Happy ignorance will not last if you get published. Truth will slap you around. It can cost you time and sometimes control of your intellectual property.
Be in charge of your own business.
Yes, you are, or will become, a small business if you decide to begin selling your work. How much responsibility you take on will depend, in some part, on which form of publishing you choose to pursue. But even if you choose to use a publisher, you will sign legal contracts that will affect your rights to control your work.
And no matter who publishes your work, ultimately you will be responsible for your author brand. Your author brand is your name, or the name that will be on the cover of your published work.
Your published work is your product. Each book is a package that you hope to sell to readers. When you are writing for friends and/or family, story telling is king. And friends and family tend to love you, so they love what you write. They read it without a critical eye. They can overlook typos and badly constructed sentences and meandering plots.
When you are asking readers to pay money for your writing, storytelling is still king—but craft is the queen. If you don’t believe me, just peruse some reader reviews on Amazon, paying particular attention to the 1-2 star reviews.
Whenever I see comments like, “This could have been so much better with the help of a good editor,” you know the author didn’t respect their story or their reader enough to do the hard work of learning the craft. Authors who know they are running a business will hire the best people for their business, so that they protect their brand.
The first law of protecting your brand is to make sure your story is the best it can be before money changes hands.
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.
~Enrique Jardiel Poncela
Let me repeat that: when you are asking readers to exchange money for your story, you need to deliver the best story possible.
Once a reader pays for your product, they have a right to comment on their experience with it. Reviews are hard. Rejection is really hard. But understand that readers who aren’t related to us, or who aren’t our friends, aren’t going to love us unless we do our job.
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn, as a beginning-going-professional writer, was how important it was to be patient, to take the time to get the story right. For many readers, you only get one shot at making a good impression. You fail with them, they are gone.
Doing it right the first time is part of protecting your brand.
~Almost Every Successful Author
Our job is to deliver a well-written, satisfying story. There is too much competition to drive off readers who wanted to like your book. Because there will be readers who don’t engage with your story no matter what you do. “This just didn’t work for me” is very different from “needs a better editor,” or “an editor.”
When you collect reviews like that you ready to face the second rule of protecting your brand: don’t go bat crap crazy on people who don’t like what you write. Even if they are wrong, don’t engage. Take the long view, drive the high road, bite your tongue, step away from the computer—whatever it takes. There are people out there who like to see authors melt down, lose control, whatever. It’s reality Internet for them. Don’t let them play you.
Who you are, what you did, what you wrote, what you didn’t do, will follow you around like a whining dog/child/reader. If you can’t handle bad reviews, don’t read them. For some authors, bad reviews don’t just hit their ego. They stomp on their Muse. Which brings me back to: protect your brand. Yes, your Muse is part of your brand. Writing more books is the most important part of your business.
Let me repeat that: writing books is the most important part of your business. It is the reason you have a business. If readers love your books, the first thing they will do after “the end,” is to go looking for more.
I promise you there will be times when it is harder to write for money than it was to write for nothing. If that seems counterintuitive, welcome to the publishing business.
So, to recap:
Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no demand on those who wrote them.
~Charles Caleb Colton
Every business, from widgets to frozen waffles, is in it for the money, but they start with a passion to provide a service or product that people are willing to pay for. People who make widgets love making them. I know, seems crazy, but to people who don’t write, we’re the crazies and widgets are normal.
If you are only in it for the money, it will show in your writing and readers will know. Books aren’t widgets. They are a deeply personal experience to readers. You know when a book isn’t quite right, don’t you? And your job is to convince a reader to pick your story over the millions and millions of books out there.
We all know the stories of the overnight success, the authors who cut corners and struck gold their first time out of the gate. It happens. Lightning strikes sometimes. And if you don’t get out there, it sure won’t strike.
But the authors who endure, who build a readership that comes back for more, are the authors who respect themselves and those readers. They are in it for the long haul. They are in it because they love telling stories. They are the ones who bring their passion for great storytelling to the process and not just a longing to strike it rich. These writers create fans, not cash cows.
I’ve been in this business a long time. I delighted over my first sale and I still get a thrill when I release a new novel. But the deep satisfaction, and the will to keep going, does not come from the money. I am amazed and delighted when a reader takes the time to write to me, or to write a review about how much they liked something I wrote. When I realize they get what I was trying to do with the story, knowing they took the journey into my imaginary world and had a great time—well, there’s nothing quite like that glow. It feeds my Muse and keeps me going through recalcitrant characters, tricky plots and even the not-so-nice reviews.
Is it hard? Absolutely.
Is it worth it? In my humble opinion, without a doubt.
But then, I don’t want to make widgets. I want to write books.
Pauline Baird Jones had a tough time with reality from the get-go. After “schooling” from four, yes FOUR brothers, she knew that some people needed love and others needed killing. Pauline figured she could do both. Romantic suspense was the logical starting point, but there were more worlds to explore, more rules to break and minds to bend. She grabbed her pocket watch and time travel device and dove through the wormhole into the world of science fiction and even some Steampunk.
Now she wanders among the genres, trying a little of this and a lot of that, rampaging through her characters’ lives like Godzilla because she does love her peril (when it’s not happening to her). Never fear, she gives her characters happy endings. Well, the good characters. The bad ones get justice.
She is currently at work on her fourteenth novel and has twelve audio books in production. Her publisher will release three collections of her short stories in the upcoming months: Project Enterprise: The short stories, The Romances and The Mysteries. For more information about Pauline, her books and to check out her blog, visit: www.paulinebjones.com
This is how I remember first meeting Boba Fett. He was mysterious, dangerous and didn’t back down from one of the meanest villains in any genre. It was love at first sight. Then came the prequels. The utter horror and dismay on my part as one of my all time favorite characters was reduced to a mere clone has stuck with me for years now. I used to collect anything and everything Fett. No longer. His image and his very essence had been tainted. By the man who created him. And why? To satisfy fans.
I’m a fan and I did not ask for this travesty. Yet over and over I see characters get slaughtered by their own writers. The comic book industry is rife with examples. (Deadpool being one of the foremost, more on that in a few.) Literature doesn’t escape it either. I recently finished the Hunger Games series. I was severely disappointed by how Katniss changed over the three books. She went from being a total badass to basically reinstating the very regime she’d fought to take down. How is that character progression? Is it meant to be an ironic statement by the author?
Then there is the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I loved the first book. Anita was a total kick ass woman who knew who she was and who she didn’t want to be. I was appalled and disgusted by the end of the series. Anita was no longer kick ass and amazing, she was a whore. She had gone from untouchable to just another bimbo sleeping with vampires. Is it no wonder I rarely read books with a female protagonist?
So what happened? Fans. Fans happened. Fans are awesome. I wish I had fans. But just like the electric kind they can be refreshing or they can blow shit all over the place. Letting your character get caught by fans reduces them to a bloody splatter on the wall, unrecognizable as the person you brought into existence. I’m a fan myself. I’m a huge fan of certain series and characters as you’ve probably noticed. I’m also a writer. (Another fact that I hope hasn’t escaped your notice.) As a writer watching another writer as they let fans dictate how a character evolves puzzles me.
I’m all for fan input, commentary, discussion and whathaveyou, but when it starts to affect how I view my own character it’s time to step back. I know my characters more intimately than I probably know myself. Does that mean I need to let you, my dear, dear reader know all those facts? No. Does that mean I don’t listen when people remark on certain attributes of my characters? No. Does that mean I write to please my readers? No. I write to please myself. If you like it awesome, great, fantastic we’ve got something in common. If not, no big.
So why do some writers get caught up in trying to please fans? Maybe they are afraid of what people will say if they don’t. Maybe they think that appealing to the lowest common denominator will gain them more sales. Which, while sometimes true, I think betrays the core reason for writing. Writers write to entertain, to educate and illuminate. Few single works do all three. Some can barely manage one.
It is my firm belief that writers have a duty to their story and their characters first, readers second. If the story and characters are sound, well crafted and compelling the readers will come. Being consistent when writing a character is paramount. And that point brings me to Deadpool.
Sure there are other comic book characters who have been rewritten by various writers. Each writer for a run has their own take on the character and the universe. A lot like fanfiction really. Look at Batman or Spider-Man. Though they essentially stay the same type of character, their core personalities don’t change. Deadpool aka Wade Wilson has no such luck. In his first appearance nothing is known about him, his actions and his verbage speak for themselves. We didn’t need to know his background at that point. We got it. He was a killer who enjoyed his job very much and also loved to talk. He was quite menacing and very obviously a bad guy.
After his first appearance he cropped up a few months later in X-Force #1 but only as a character profile. Slowly but surely he built a fandom and starting getting more appearances. Finally in 1993 he got to be a headliner in his own one-shot series Deadpool: The Circle Chase. That series ended and he was back to making short appearances until 1997 when he got his own title. This started off the Joe Kelly era of Deadpool which is considered by most fans to be the definitive version of the character. Then we come down to 2008 and a new writer by the name of Daniel Way. He’d worked on Wolverine: Origins and Ghost Rider, he’s legit. So why has his take on Deadpool has seen the most virulent derision from the loyal fans who have followed Deadpool from the early 90’s?
Deadpool began as a wise cracking mercenary who shot first and never thought to ask questions and acted as if the fourth wall was merely a suggestion. By the end of the Secret Invasion arc things are very clearly leaning in a different direction. Then came Dark Reign and Monkey Business. The wise cracking is still there but the wise is slipping. Instead of real humor there are inane refrences to (then) current entertainment news/gossip. And Deadpool has lost a whole bucket full of IQ points. He seems to have traded in his quirky talent for being painfully obvious yet obscure for being painfully dimwitted and trite. He’s still mouthy, but instead of being funny it comes across more as though a fourteen year old sat in his room dreaming up one liners and who then creates situations in which to use them.
The progression of Wade as a character has stalled. There is no internal conflict that was present in the earlier series and all the external conflict feels contrived. There is a fixation on being a ‘hero,’ but no real motive for this fixation other than wanting to be liked and this isn’t even explored or exploited as well as it could be. He tries to join the X-Men, of course that fails miserably, he’s not a ‘true’ mutant. So he tries to follow Spider-Man around to learn how to be a hero. He’s been a hero, multiple times in earlier incarnations, albeit never acknowledged by the Mavel Universe as one. Current issues are episodic and have more of a sitcom feel to them with little or no character development.
Sure some issues are funny, most are juvenile and not suited to the more mature audience that Deadpool has garnered over the years. While I am not a Way-nah-sayer, I do find his run to have been more puerile and much less fun than anticipated.
My main issue with him as the writer of Deadpool is that while he did introduce some interesting elements they were not used to their full advantage. He chose flash over bang. It looks like something happened but when the smoke clears, its just that. Smoke. Nothing really happened.
So what can we take from this example? When writing a character, any character you have to fully understand where they come from and their motivations. Once the action really gets going it can be easy to lose those motivations. That’s why it helps to step back every now and then and look objectively at what you’ve written. Is it really working? Is your character staying true to themselves or are you dictating things to make the story work? Author intrusion is going to be noticed by the reader and even those fans who have been begging for something to happen will know that you faked it. Don’t be afraid to write your character as they truly are and definitely don’t listen to fans who blow shit.
Yes, my boy. You are good.
Some times we forget we are not alone. We trudge along, never lifting our heads to look around. Slogging through our daily lives we miss opportunities and chances to meet new friends.
I’m learning to look around and see all the others slogging right along with me. It’s refreshing and enlightening. It also makes me less self centered and more productive.
MyWANA is a superb tool and social site for those of us who might feel isolated by our creativity. Come join me and see just who and what you find.
www.wanatribe.com go be a part.
Just when you think you have had a hard life, you meet someone who truly has and discover that you still have much to learn.