Well. It’s here again. Camp NaNo. My nemesis. My white whale. The one that got away. The one that consistently defeats me. The one I can’t seem to best. And I, being too stubborn for my own good, am picking up my harpoon and going after it one more time. And my long-suffering sister has agreed to do it with me once again.
That being said, we are trying something different this time. For me, I’m hoping that shaking things up a little might actually help me motivate the way I want to, and I might actually end up hitting my goals (yay!) and I dragged my sister along in it because I don’t like doing things alone. Specifically, we’re going to be giving each other writing prompts every other day and writing a series of short stories– or whatever comes to mind. And the prompts can be anything! Traditional writing prompts… songs… pictures… anything we find.
I’m so excited! And here we are, June 30… the first prompts have been exchanged… let Camp NaNo commence!
It’s been one of those weeks (months?) where I’ve been having a really hard time reading. Chalk it up to the fact that I’ve chosen a bunch of really long books (like, more-than-nine-hundred-pages long), or just the fact that my attention span is more or less non-existent (SQUIRREL). Either way, the end result is that I just haven’t gotten through as many books by this point in the year as I’d like.
I’ve also, to beat a dead horse, not been writing half so much as I’d like, though I’ve at least been writing more recently than I have in a while, so there’s that. Given that reading is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in stories in general, and given that that’s one of the best ways to inspire one’s own writing, I can’t help but wonder if the two aren’t related. Then again, if I haven’t been reading much because I’ve had a lack of focus, that exact same lack would make writing just as difficult, if not more so.
There’s nothing particularly profound about any of this. Rather, this post is mostly just me bemoaning the fact that, whether there’s a good reason for it or not, I feel horrifically unproductive. It’s also me scrabbling back to a regular habit of weekly posting, which also happens to have the side effect of keeping those writing muscles more or less functional. On the bright side, it appears to be working, too. At least, the writing is starting to come more easily than it has in quite some time.
TL;DR: I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I’d like, and I’m not sure if the one is the consequence of the other or just both symptoms of the same thing.
Somehow, this will be the two hundredth post on this blog. Cue the gasps– I know I’m surprised! It’s been just over three years since I started this venture, and though I’ve hit a few bumps in the past nine months or so, it’s been an incredible experience so far and I’m already looking forward to the next two hundred posts.
So, first of all, thanks to everyone reading these things. I’m so grateful for every single one of you, especially those of you who keep coming back.
Second of all… I don’t have anything to post up yet, but the writing front for Tanner and Miranda has been going better lately than it has in a long time, which is so exciting! I think I complained a while back about the fact that I was having a hard time re-remembering how to write Miranda’s voice, but I seem to have passed that hump, and the snarky banter is coming along quite well, in my opinion. So, keep an eye out! If all goes as planned, I’ll be posting up some excerpts again sometime soon. Because I’m a writer, and it’s SO nice to be able to prove that again. Ha!
Anyway! Thanks again for sticking around thus far, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to see the next two hundred posts.
Way back in my formative years of writing, I spent an inordinate amount of time on several Redwall fan-sites that had vibrant roleplaying communities, which basically meant that we wrote up various characters and spent hours upon hours writing stories together, featuring all our characters. Naturally there was much discussion regarding what constituted a “good” character, and cliches in particular were frowned upon. In fact, saying someone’s character was a Mary Sue (or, for male characters, a Gary Stu) was one of the worst insults anyone could give.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it is generally used to describe a fictional character* who is “portrayed as unrealistically free of weakness”. Understandably, these sorts of characters could be particularly annoying to encounter when writing with others– if Agent John B. Awesome is single-handedly destroying any and all opponents and completing all mission objectives, it doesn’t leave a lot of other room for anyone writing more balanced characters to develop their writing or explore the bits of story that can only come about when the characters encounter things they can’t handle. As a young kid who desperately wanted to be accepted, this meant that I tended to avoid that ditch so hard that I ran straight into the other one: truly boring characters. You know. The ones who aren’t exceptional in any way. The ones who aren’t special or amazing or fun. The ones that no one wants to read about. Or write about. Dun-dun-dun-dun…
Fortunately, it’s really difficult to write boring characters for any great length of time. You’ll either give up writing completely, or you’ll wise up and start writing more interesting characters. The key word there being “more”. It’s not a switch you flip and overnight you suddenly have it figured out. Rather, it’s a skill that needs practice. Lots. And. Lots. Of. Practice.
For me, this often means that I’ll start writing a character who is more interesting (to me, at the very least), only to run up against a whole brick wall of “but wait! They can’t be too cool or they’ll be a bad character.” Which, rationally, I realize is just plain false. Luke Skywalker is pretty darn cool. So is Aragorn. And Edmund Dantes. And Darrow (Red Rising). And Vin (Mistborn). And the list goes on. These characters are known and loved precisely because of how “cool” they are**, and all they manage to accomplish despite terrible odds and their own personal demons. And it’s that last bit that’s the most important– these characters have to strive and fight and scratch and claw to get where they want to go, and that’s what makes them so compelling.
In short, the answer to avoiding cliched and over-powerful characters isn’t found so much in making them smaller, but rather in making their obstacles bigger.
* Specifically, the term is often used to describe a female character, hence the variations listed above, but certainly it can be a valid complaint for any poorly written character.
** Obviously, a huge oversimplification. But the point stands.