U is for Unchangeable and Unchanging Characters

Some characters are unchangeable, unchanging, and in fact, have no business changing.

This isn’t the normal thing that is taught in writing classing and it is not the normal writing advice given. But, months after watching the Skyfall, I have become convinced of the truth of it.

I blogged about Skyfall after I saw the movie. I don’t mention it in the post, but I feel like this movie hurt Bond’s icon status.

In this movie, 1) Bond grows older and 2) also has a past, complete with parents and big house.

Someone asked me how it was and I replied: emotional. Which is damn odd for a James Bond movie.

Before this movie he was the Man of Mystery. He had no past, no future, few connections to people other than a bevy of Bond Girls in each and every movie.

The only movie he ever changed in was the one where the girl he was in love with betrayed him and broke his heart. Nothing otherwise.

Every writing class, most every piece of writing advice will say that characters need to grow. Good stories have characters that grow and change.

I feel like someone tried to do exactly that to James Bond in Skyfall and it failed.

I feel like him getting shot by friendly fire, retiring in the Caribbean, and coming back vastly off his game were attempts to give him a character arc he wouldn’t have otherwise. I also feel like he doesn’t need to have a character arc necessarily.

James Bond is an icon. No need to mess with that.

Or if they insist, they ought to have done it slower. Lots slower. The character development should have been done at a snail’s pace, over a number of movies. That might have worked. As it is, I just feel like they were trying to shoehorn a past and development and all that jazz into his character.

Also, at the end of Skyfall, he says he’s ready for the next mission at the end and its business as usual. So, yeah.

I have to reconsider if I even want to see the next James Bond (comes out next year!) in theaters. If it is like Skyfall, than maybe not.

T is for Title Changes

Some books have one title in US and another title in the UK. Wikipedia has a whole list.

I don’t know why that is or even if it makes much difference. The books are the same, aren’t they? Just with British spelling and grammar. 

But, aside from that, does it really make a difference in sales or first impressions of the book?

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is Cross Stitch in England.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is Temeraire in England.
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett is The Painted Man in England. (I thought they were different books at first!)

Do the title changes make any difference to the book? It’s hard to imagine.

S is for Skimming

I skim books. Yes, yes, I do. I feel guilty for it. I would stop if I could.

Three ways I skim:

How To Skim A Book

1) I usually skim over the ending.

This is when I need to know my favorite character is alright at the end, so I can live through their trials with them with no worries for how it will end. Sometimes it is not reassuring; the character ends in a bad place and I must read through the trials knowing there will be no happy ending. So depressing.

2) Sometimes I skim through the middle.

This is when I want to know if the book will get more exciting later on or if I am looking for my favorite point of view character – damn you, POV changes! – and I cannot stand to read about any other character.

3) Occasionally I skim through the whole book.

This is when the book is so boring I can’t force myself to actually read it, but am still marginally interested in the story and call it done. It is slightly better than not finishing at all. I did this quite frequently in school and never suffered for it. ;)

Do you skim through books a lot?

 

R is for Reasons I Read

I love reading books. This blog is one result of that.

Sometimes people ask why, like it’s some weird thing. Usually the only answer I have is: I like it.

But I thought I would list some slightly more detailed reasons.

1. It’s fun.
2. The world draws me in and I don’t want to leave.
3. I love the characters.
4. The subject matter is fascinating.
5. It’s relaxing.
6. Makes me happy.

Okay, so most of these boil down to: I like it. I guess I don’t really have a better reason and I am not sure I need one. I just wish more people shared it.

I know a lot of people list more noble reasons to read:

* Learn something about the world and yourself
* Become more empathic
* Increase your vocabulary
* Become more imaginative
* Sharpens the mind

While these are all no doubt true, if I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wouldn’t spend so many hours reading.

I suspect the people who don’t read just don’t enjoy it. And telling them it’s good for them isn’t enough motivation to make them want to read a story. (Personally I think it’s just because they haven’t found the right story.)

Do you enjoy reading? And if so, why?

Q is for Queer Fiction

Queer fiction and LGBT fiction is the same fiction, isn’t it? Otherwise this whole post is wrong. Very wrong. Since LGBT (or GLBT. whichever.) does not start with Q. They better be the same fiction.

So in school, there were classes on queer fiction and other classes (not necessarily on fiction) about things LGBT (or maybe it was GLBT. Can’t quite recall. whichever.).

I wondered than what was the difference between queer and LGBT. I thought they are same thing; it is just that queer is an older word from before the acronym LGBT existed. Doesn’t being queer mean being LGBT? But some teachers are older than other teachers . . .

So then I thought – still think! – that all LGBT fiction, all queer fiction and everything termed gay and lesbian fiction all belong under the same umbrella: LGBT. Is that right? If there are differences, I don’t know what they are. (Someone tell me!!!)

So, I don’t read a lot of LGBT fiction. In fact, depending on how it’s defined, I don’t read any. I have not created a GLBT shelf on my Nook; I don’t feel the need for such a shelf. I do read a few gay romances, but they are LGBT only so far as they star gay characters.

I suppose I think of LGBT fiction as the literary type of fiction. (I haven’t read any at all!!) They kind of books where the sexuality of the characters is a plot point.

The romances I read are not very literary. Neither are the science fiction and fantasy books (some of these masquerade as romance!). Sometimes the sexuality is a plot point, but lots of times it isn’t.

I am thinking of books like the PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price (urban fantasy). The Point of Hopes series by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett (fantasy). The Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux. This last one is marketed as romance/mystery and is the only one in which the sexuality of the characters has even a minor impact on plot. (So I think!)

They all star gay characters, all of them in relationships, so romance is a factor in all of them. The PsyCops series was, I think (not sure!), originally published by an erotica publisher, but is presently published by the writer’s own press (she founded her own! Kind of amazing, yes?). The other two are published by companies specializing in gay and lesbian titles (or queer fiction, yes, yes, yes!!!).

It’s just that in my own head LGBT fiction = literary fiction. It doesn’t mean every story with a non-heterosexual main character. I don’t know where I got this idea but . . . am I so wrong, then?

Pilfering Youth

Tell me what you think about this story? Is it confusing?

Eyebrows arched high, blue eyes wide and carefully made up to hide the first signs of wrinkles, Ashara posed in front of the crowd. Colorful fabric streamed behind her, a parody of the flags ringing the stadium. Cameras flashed, but the applause was polite.

She turned on her six-inch heels and stalked back across the stage. Her hair swept down her back in long, loose waves; it excited more comment than the flower-print folds of her dress.

Her heels left faint gold marks on the wooden boards, but no one noticed.

The next model was a slim, dark figure in white wedges, a shimmering black crop top and ivory pants. She strode over her predecessor’s footsteps.

The crowd roared and cameras flashed enough to blind anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in the glare. The model kept turning, kept moving. She was rumored to take Ashara’s place as the next top model.

A hush came over the crowd when she stumbled and went down hard. One of the stage crew helped her off.

Ashara came back in a number designed to show off a svelte body, all smooth lines and shining fabric. Whispers flowed like water at her appearance. She looked as if she had lost a decade in the ten minutes she had been off stage.

O is Opinionated Characters

Sometimes, in order to get know a character, I pose issue questions to them and figure out where they stand.

This sounds bizarre, asking questions of people who do not exist outside of my head. You would think I already know where they stand. I mean, I made them up, didn’t I? But mostly I don’t.

By issue questions, I mean controversial issues, topics on religion and politics and whatever else causes arguments. They will differ by time and place and setting. Because characters need opinions, right? Things they will do and the lines they will not cross.

And today – today I was reading a post by John Scalzi about what he calls The Four Levels of Discrimination. He makes a good argument about ambient discrimination. (You should read it.) I used to think of this as unconscious biases. But ambient discrimination is a good way to describe it, too.

Anyway, the question I have never asked my characters and now I realize would a good question to ask: what ambient discrimination affects them? Against the character or against others, it hardly matter which.

It’s a kind of world building, too – figuring out what will cause the natives to turn into rioting mobs. That’s fun also. (Causing riots!)

The challenge here, I think, is to keep the opinions from turning them into willful characters, who insist on doing something, when I want the plot to go in another direction. (I sometimes fail at this challenge.)

That sounds mad, I know, because I came up with the characters and I damn well ought to be able to tell what to do. But sometimes that does a disservice to the character.

What do you think? How do you go finding out who your character is?

N is for Noble Characters

So I don’t really feel like blogging but have to complete the challenge so…

This is a list of some noble characters.

Noble, as wordweb defines it is: having or showing or indicative of high or elevated character

l. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden

The man works as a private detective. He consorts with paladins and vampires and faeries. Despite it all he does things that are not always in his best interest and not always -or entirely – for money.

2. Samwise Gamgee

He follows Frodo when he didn’t have to, to keep Frodo safe.

3. Surreal SaDiablo

She’s an assassin and a prostitute. But she used her skills to kill those who need killing and also put ignored her own needs to do what she felt what was right.

I am tempted to put Anita Blake on this list, but am resisting. What do you think?

Who are your favorite noble characters?

M is for Myth

M_LeMannequinI loved myths as a child.

I devoured Roman/Greek myths in grade school. (Of course they were the only myths we learned in class.) Later, I discovered Norse myths and Celtic myths and Native American myths. I tried Egyptian myths, too, but they just confused me.

Actually, I think I stopped reading myths because of that confusion. It seemed to each god had ten different names and I couldn’t tell who was talking to whom.photo-main

They were a balm when I couldn’t read my usual mysteries and children’s horror.

I turned to them when I needed to create myths for my own world. I love the loki stories, the coyote stories. And, also, the turtle and elephant stories.

That’s not to say they feature prominently in my own world. But it’s a jumping off point, you know?

L is for Lies

L-12A couple years ago, while randomly browsing the internet, Iran across this title: Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. (His books are good.)

It’s a book on writing and the title got me thinking. I never picked up the book, but the title stuck in my head.

A story is made up, a piece of fiction. It doesn’t exist. That, on one level, makes it a lie.Lies

But! Everyone knows a story can’t be real. Not everyone knows such a thing of other, more normal lies.

On the other hand, a story must have emotional / psychological truths. How would anyone relate to a character otherwise? And it must have at least some factual truths, else someone will cry: bad research!

The best lies are supposed to have truth, so that doesn’t mean the story can’t be called a lie. Even so, I cannot quite convince myself I write lies. Perhaps it would he easier if the word didn’t have negative meanings.

What do you think? Is aIl fiction some bizarre form of lying?

Has anyone read the book? Does it offer an explanation? Maybe the title is just an example of someone’s expertise at title creation something eye-catching and memorable.