Posts tagged ‘characters’

August 25th, 2010

The Junk Drawer

by Madeleine Rex

I don’t know about you, but there’s a particular drawer in my kitchen that’s in total disarray. You couldn’t find anything in there unless you were already accustomed to the messiness (like my family). Honestly, you might think an army of highly destructive mini-people had been released inside it.

(And by the way, if my mom ever reads this, she’d be embarrassed, so it’s a good thing she’s so busy. Read now because this post might not be here someday.)

Anyway, in addition to invisible destructive mini-people, that drawer is home to every single small item that doesn’t have a home. It’s the junk drawer, and I like to think it’s happy being insanely disorganized. (You know, some inanimate objects like that.) We go to it for everything from stray pencils, to glue, to hair bands.

I think it’s important to have a junk drawer, where everything’s acceptable and no one’s judging. Do you have  junk drawer? Do you have one for your writing?

Yes, I’m encouraging a place where you put bits and pieces of everything. Where no one will judge content or skill or grammar. Where you can jam that McDonald’s napkin that has a random first line written in lip gloss.

The Lemonites was born from a first line, which sprouted into a totally ridiculous 3,000 words of something I can’t even describe. Almost everything was scrapped except for the characters and the fact that a sister had died. The actual idea for the plot came to me while I was waiting for Circ De Sole to begin in April, and I somehow managed to tie my idea to the characters. Then I wrote another ridiculous first scene, and then I wrote what I have now (which will definitely change), after cracking up in the car with my family when a lady said “Go away” through the microphone at a drive-thru.

If I hadn’t kept those 3,000 words of nonsense and flailing story-lines , I wouldn’t have the actually half-decent first draft that I’m proud of. It’s still teetering on the edge of ridiculous, but I can fix that. You can’t fix something you gave up on and threw away.

I mean, I didn’t even know what the main character’s name was until thousands of words in (which might be one of the main reasons it’s written in first person).

Keep the bits and pieces of craziness and stuff that seemed inspired but on reflection you believe might have been inspired by a dumpster. Keep it locked up, if you wish (and I seriously advise against keeping it in the kitchen), but don’t throw the key out the window.

August 13th, 2010

This Isn't "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"

by Madeleine Rex

Alert: You are about to enter a messy post. Watch your footing.

I almost always have trouble figuring out what to blog about, but then I’m hit by some random thought (in this case: Jeez, how annoying was that girl in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?“), and there we are: A blog post idea.

We all know the eighties (and before, actually) weren’t exactly the time of strong women portrayed in movies and television. There were some good ones, like Laura in “Remington Steele,” but even she had her moments. There were a lot of “throwaway women” – women who didn’t have much substance, who weren’t really developed into strong, independent characters. Being in love does not make you a slave to the person you’re in love with.

Anyway, one female lead that irritated me from the start was the blond gal (I really can’t remember her name) in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” She wasn’t simply annoying and pettish, she was dull. And, of course, you can’t thinking about “The Temple of Doom” without thinking about the totally annoying kid sidekick. (Many sequels fall under the annoying sidekick curse.) A friend of mine said, “There seems to be a trend towards unsupportive and rather annoying best friends in YA literature” in her book review the other day, and it suddenly struck me that she was completely right. They could be funny or silly, but there wasn’t anything to them.

So, I’m here to say that this isn’t “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” We are past this, people. We can and should create strong female leads that don’t view men as idols, that aren’t complete slaves to their rampant emotions. Girls that manage to be codependent, can work well with a guy, but can stand alone as well – maybe a bit heartsick, but not thinking “holy-crow-the-world-is-ending-I-think-I-have-to-stop-breathing” (see: New Moon) for months on end.

Authors have been trying to nail this sort of character. Sometimes the character you’re looking for is shallow or rather cold (as my MC in my next WIP kind of is). If that’s the your intention, then great job. Do what you set out to do.

I think that far too often, the girls are extremes of some sort. Drama Queens verging on the totally ridiculous, or cold-hearted, unfeeling people. Being cold-hearted doesn’t make you strong. It makes you lonely. There’s a happy medium, where you’ll find the girl that cries on occasion and can love people, but also knows how to stand up for herself, speak her mind, and cultivate her talents and knowledge base. A hardy person. Take Evie from Paranormalcy, Clary and Tessa from Cassie Clare’s books, and Macy from The Truth About Forever for examples. Notice that all of these characters are in some of my favorite books. That’s because you can admire them, respect them, and ultimately want to be their friend.

As I said, sometimes you’re intention is to have one of the extreme characters. Grey (who used to be named Erin, but I like Grey better) in my to-be-written book, Forbidden, is rather sour. She’s not one of the cheeriest, nicest people, but she’s not going to go out there and be mean for no reason. She does have plausible cause for her attitude, but it’s going to be my job to help her grow into a better, hardier person.

My point: Create strong, feeling, female leads that people will respect. They don’t have to be gosh-darned wonderful from the start, but we read books expecting character growth, and we ought to respect and admire the characters that come out on the other end.

I know I kind of lost myself in the female leads topic and left out the sidekick bit, so I’ll sum that up as quickly as possible.

Don’t put a character in the book for no reason. And definitely not a character that will get on people’s nerves.

So, again, substance. Depth. Cut characters from your book that don’t lend a hand to the story, because more likely than not, they’re standing in your way if they’re not helping you out.

What do you think makes a strong female lead? What do you like to see in characters when a book is through? What are some sidekick characters that have annoyed you?

Psst! I’m giving away a pre-order of Paranormalcy! Click here.

August 10th, 2010

Why I Write

by Madeleine Rex

We all have those moments. The moments when you’re thinking: Why in the gosh darned world am I burning my eyeballs staring at this computer screen?

Well, first off: If you’re burning your eyeballs, you should probably dim the brightness, but I know what you mean.

It’s at times like those that we have to remind ourselves why we do this. Why we sit down and crank out words, even if it feels like we’re stuffing rat feces down our throats (although it usually isn’t that bad). We can say it’s because we want to be published or famous or a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t all sound amazing. But there’s more to it. Because material things like that wouldn’t motivate you to keep going on a bad day. It simply isn’t fulfilling enough.

I write because it feels good – natural. It’s something that comes to me and brings with it a warmth, an excitement that spreads through my fingers, into the keyboard, and onto the Word document. I have troubles. Sometimes I just really don’t want to dedicate the time, and I always struggle to start at the beginning of the day, but once I get into the groove (and most often, I do), there’s no denying the fact that I’m meant for this. That writing is something that gives me pleasure, that lets me express myself, get to know people, and create lives. And that makes me happy. That makes me joyful.

I write because, although it certainly isn’t easy or uncomplicated, it’s worth the trouble. Those hours I spend on occasion completely engrossed in my book – those are worth the struggles. That little bit of pride I feel at cranking out a good, healthy, strong word count – it feels good. And I’m thinking: Even if I could give this up, even if I could try to forget what this feels like and spend my hours being a normal kid, why would I? Why would I when it would be harder to forget than keep going. And, honestly, what we do as writers is a good thing. Spreading stories, emotions, and people. Sending characters into the world that people will connect with, possible find a friend in. This is good. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – we’re giving readers more opportunities to love.

And why on earth would we try not to do that?

Because, mope around as we might, those of us who really love this know that giving it up would be more painful/frustrating/difficult than working at it. We know that this ability we have to weave words together, create people, and potentially make something beautiful, funny, and exciting is special. If you’re not taking advantage of this gift, you’re being ridiculous.

If we can do this and our lives give us the time, we should be. It’s only right that we should share what we can do with the world – because people like stories. People like finding friends in unexpected places. And most people like loving books and characters. People love to connect.

And we can give them that.

So, ultimately, I write because I know that I should, because deep-down I want to, and I can.

And why the heck shouldn’t I? It’s wonderful, this gift.

So, when you get right down to it: Why do you write?