Sunday, September 12, 2010

Character Flaws

       I’ve spent the last two blogs pretty much dissing other author’s beloved characters so I thought I would fess up to my own character flaws. I’ve written many short stories and I like to experiment with character voice in those little spurts but the real challenge to achieving successful character development is in longer fiction. I confess to disillusionment in me and mine.

       I have a current heroine who is momentarily frozen in limbo at 40k so she doesn’t count in this scenario, being too raw, and too shallow at this point to mention. My two favorites from past books both lost my favor when I finished the first drafts and I don’t know if this is a regular experience for writers or my peculiar personal hell.

      Years ago, I taught a drama class where the students did character studies. In these studies they were to know everything about their character from how they brushed their teeth to what their favorite color was. The logic was that knowing the character whilst acting would allow the actor to make natural decisions on the spot. The same intimate knowledge of your character is essential when writing. A writer needs to know everything about their character, even if they never use that knowledge, but low and behold, there’s a problem.

      You, the writer, know more than your character knows about themselves. I think this is why so many authors have the irritating habit, as I’ve previously mentioned, of having clueless heroines until they suddenly wake up and save the world. The writer is trying to grow both the plot and the character at the same time. It isn’t very easy. When do you let your heroine have an insight? Will the rising action stagnate if she moves too quickly toward the discovery of her supposed superpower? The saving the world bit is at the end of most paranormal fictions. Unless, of course, it’s a series and then the reader gets strung along with a clueless heroine for too many plots. Don’t get me started.

       Anyway, I confess to my disappointments. One of my heroines is for the young adult paranormal market and the other is an adult paranormal. The adult character I wrote two, three years ago when I was regularly sharing writing with my writer’s circle called Circle of Crones. We ladies liked the titillating romance with lots of swashbuckling and this book at 75K was/is certainly that. My main character stumbles upon a nightmare heritage of Magus, werewolves and other scaries when she is accosted and turned by a werewolf. It’s called Mirror World and the premise is as with the infamous Alice, she is sucked into a parallel world that only those who are paranormal can see. Glamour keeps non members clueless. Though not original seeming, given that so many authors have used this premise, I like to think that my particular take on this classic is unique. I’ve got fallen angels and battles for supremacy along with a particularly hellish villain that makes Caligula look law abiding. My heroine goes from shocked, to angry and back again several times before she comes around. Meanwhile, the men who are more savvy and comfortable in this mirror world battle it out with her as the main prize. Oops! See my problem?

       I made my own character into a trophy for the male winner! I began to despair halfway through when I saw the error of my ways and though I changed gears and pulled out a surprise villainous puppet master and added another female to round out the menagerie with female strength, the damage was done. I knew everything from her shoe size to the name of her pet hamster when she was ten. She was weak and girlie. I couldn’t stand her in the end.

       My young adult character has another issue altogether. The supporting characters lost my interest and therefore the heroine lacked luster in their eyes and the reader’s. This heroine is not weak in the beginning, middle or end; however, she is clueless because having once lived as a faerie in Summer Land, she remembers nothing of her past, living now in the real world. Cue a big sigh from me here as I trash my own heroine. Everyone but she knows her past and the story is her discovering that she is/was the villain in her own personal melodrama. She is being redeemed by paying for her folly with her ignorance throughout the story and it really works (swear to you) except I lost my way somewhere toward the end when the other characters succumbed to being mere characterizations.

       I suppose I should give examples here but I think I’ll stop instead. I’ve blathered on again too long and I’ll give examples of characters and their flaws in my next blog. After all, this me telling tales.          

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