Posts tagged ‘wannabewriters’

December 3rd, 2010

WW Asks (2)

by Madeleine Rex

I don’t have much to update, writing-wise, so I figured I’d chop up Wannabe Writers a bit. I’ll only be answering the questions every week.

Is too complicated bad?

First of all, I think Is complicated bad? would be a better question. If something’s too complicated, clearly there’s too much complication, and therefore wouldn’t be ideal.

Anyway… (Sorry!) Is complicated bad?

No. Sort of.

Honestly, I think complication is fantastic. No one reads a book to watch things go smoothly and to end up with a happily ever after – at least not entirely. Smooth is boring. Uneventful. Conflict and complication bring the spice and pizazz that is necessary to make anything interesting.

If Heathcliffe and Catherine had been able to be happily married and have twelve mentally-disturbed little Heatherines, Wuthering Heights wouldn’t be the action-packed, deranged, and amusing book that it is. Conflict is at the root of the book, as it always is. Life is full of complications, and those complications have both good and bad consequences. They help us grow, develop, and unearth the people we really are. Without the necessary complications, nothing would happen. Nothing interesting or worthwhile, anyway.

Why the “sort of” above? Complication is hard to pull off. If you can’t integrate it well into the story and it stands out as something you’ve simply thrown in, then its impact is lessened. Alternately, if you do manage to fit conflict and complication into the events of the story and personalities of the characters, then you’ve struck a gold mine – you have the skills it takes to tell a good story that readers will feel is worth their time. It’s the complication and the struggle to overcome it that keep readers’ eyes pinned to the pages. Suspense, a super duper important bit of story, evolves from complication and conflict.

Take any book, and look beyond the obvious conflict. Complications are embedded throughout intriguing stories, not planted solely in the climax. In the Harry Potter books, for example, Voldemort and his allies weren’t the only source of conflict or cause of complication. Both arose from Harry’s interactions with classmates (Draco, Seamus, etc.) and his teachers (Snape’s loathing, Dumbledore’s occasional disappointment, etc.), his relationship with his godfather, his struggles with tests, Quidditch, girls (Ron or Ginny? Ginny or Ron? Oh, bugger.). These bits made his life real because we don’t fight toward one goal our entire lives. Every day there are dozens of things we hope to accomplish, and consequently, dozens of things that complicate our lives and stand between us and our goals.

Conflict and complication are as necessary as voice and diction- just as easy to screw up and just as rewarding when done correctly.

Everything is complicated; if it were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore. – Wallace Stevens


November 15th, 2010

WW Asks

by Madeleine Rex

I don’t have much to update, writing-wise, so I figured I’d chop up Wannabe Writers a bit. I’ll only be answering the questions every week.

Is any idea really original?

NO… and yes.

It depends on what you’re really asking. Is any base idea original? The basics of the foundation of a story? I’d have to say nay. However, it’s the materials, framing, and choice of adhesive you choose (cement, glue, etc.) that make something unique. You can easily dissect any work of fiction and find something familiar, and likely, cliche, at the bottom of it.

There are many common basic ideas. Here are some classics:

  • Love between the lowly and the super duper. Super, super basic. Somehow, authors manage to twist this idea around enough to make readers come back for more and more. (Think: Jane Austen)
  • Impossible love story. An angle falls for a mortal. A ghost falls for someone alive. A vampire falls for a mopey, pale girl with low self esteem…
  • Underdog triumph. Despite being poor, of unfortunate birth, and having terrible hygiene, she/he triumphs over the system/nasty politician/gang leader/people’s judgments.

So… Pride and Prejudice, Twilight, and The Blind Side. Alright, alright, so none of those three match the ideas perfectly, but…

That’s the point. If they did, they would not only be boring, but sickeningly cliche and corny. What made those books/movies special were the characters/plot twists/settings/what have you.

What writers and storytellers do is take the basic ideas that entertain and fascinate people and make them new. Shine them, bend them backwards, and give them a new paint job. Writers are the dog whisperers that teach old dogs (old ideas) new tricks.

No ideas are wholly original. We ran out of those. They were endangered creatures from the start. However, we are original. I am not you and you are not me and he is neither of us. We have unique takes on classic ideas, opinions of what should have happened, and character voices that are drowning our own voice in our heads.

These things bring The Blind Side from just another football movie to the sort of movie that makes men cry. Brought Twilight from just another YA novel to YA novel that mad fangirls out of people around the world. They brought Harry Potter from orphan underdog to boy wizard – and there’s an original story.

Basic ideas aren’t original. But people are.

July 24th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #26

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: I know it’s been forever since I made any progress…. but I wrote the second half of The Lemonites all this week! I think the most I wrote in one day was 8,000 words, and I can hardly believe it! I still have a scene to stick in that I accidentally skipped over, but I still believe what I have qualifies as a completed first draft!

The problem? Now I have to send it to betas. I’ve never really sent a book out for a very detailed critique, and never to more than one person. This is going to be quite an experience, and although I’m excited to make the book the best I can, it’s frightening to think that it could very well be crap no matter what. I didn’t plot this book very well. I have roughly two pages of a synopsis and that’s about it, but most things seemed to fall into place as I went…

I’m especially not pleased with the last 250 words or so, which I know is minor, but it’s certainly disconcerting. I’m going to let it sit and stew for a while, and hopefully my betas will have some input on how it could be/if it needs to be improved. Unless, of course, I’m struck by sudden inspiration and come up with something brilliant (I’m crossing my fingers).

Overall, though, writing my second book has been an incredible experience! Even if there are problems, it feels a lot more… bookish than my first. I know that, no matter whether this book is crap or not, I have improved. I’m grateful for all the practice I’ve gotten. Learning to sit down and simply start writing has always been the hardest thing for me. Once I’m into it, I’m enjoying myself, but the beginning of the day is difficult. I’m learning to work with this. Also, I’ve realized that I can write 2,000 words in an hour if I try, which will be a great thing when the school year starts and I have homework. (Ugh.)

I’m hoping The Lemonites can be whipped into shape, but it will always be something I’m proud of. Writing it was enjoyable, I love my characters, and I know that my writing is improving with every book. Which is exactly what I’m going for.

The Question this Week: Character Flaws. Okay, I know I need those to make my characters realistic, but I also know the flaws shouldn’t make the reader hate your character. So what are some good, hero-worthy, none-hateable, character flaws?

Well, this sorta kinda goes along with my post the other day: Can You Do That Again in Normal, Please? Not precisely, but if you’re struggling with characters, it might be a place to look.

I think the key is to ensure that the flaws are explained. Their anger issues are justified, their hatred for animals has a story to go along with it, etc. You don’t want to make them terribly flawed/mean (unless that’s what you’re going for), of course. My point is, however, that the flaws need to be within reason. Can I relate to the character? Can I sympathize? Or is he/she cruel for the sake of being cruel? You see my point.

If you’re not going for serious flaws of anger/hatred/etc, but simply little ones to make the character real, I think it’s important to have a wide range. Not to mention the fact that characters need to do things that are out of character every now and again. Say the character has problems giving people the benefit of the doubt – at some point, they should. It’s called character growth, and it means overcoming obstacles within the character. That problem of not giving people the benefit of the doubt has probably ruined some potential relationships. You could choose that as part of your character arc. By the end of the book, a character needs to have changed/realized something/become a better person/become a worse one. The point is: Something needs to have happened within them. Plot is not action, plot is story. Characters are story.

A few “none-hateable” flaws I can think of are:

  • As I said, a problem with giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • Distrusting
  • Simply confused – there’s something this character needs to understand to be happy/kind/a better person

And those are some big-ish ones. You can have flaws like saying “like” too much! Instead of thinking about how to make characters flawed, think about how to make them real. What have you struggled with? What are things you’re trying to overcome within yourself?

Just remember: Characters are people, too.