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You are viewing 17 entries, 20 into the past

July 22nd, 2005

07:13 pm: Character change by gradual process
Oooh, another “rant” where I get to burble. “Limyaael,” someone might say, “if sudden epiphanies are unrealistic and badly-handled, and static characters are silly, and declarations by fiat don’t work, then what exactly do you think well-written change looks like?”

I’m so glad you asked )

One big advantage of the “stair” method of change over the gradual one is that it’s absolutely clear. Most readers aren’t going to have any doubt about what the author’s doing, and it answers questions that they may have carried along for half the book. But since I end up skimming those scenes anyway, and the gradual process seems so much more challenging, exciting, and complicated to me, I’m still not a great fan of it.

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June 25th, 2005

06:30 pm: Non-annoying stubborn characters
And the non-annoying stubborn characters rant it is. I just finished writing about an annoying one, and was glad to wash my hands of him, so this is informed by much groaning at the stupid plot twists the stubbornness forced experience.

Why stubbornness is, and should be, double-edged )

Speaking of potentially annoying character types, the genius rant is next.

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June 15th, 2005

07:59 pm: Adult bildungsroman rant
It helps, I think, that a) I’ve been looking forward to this rant, and b) the fantasy books that I’ve enjoyed the most in the last month were both adult bildungsromans. One, Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream, was a reread, and perhaps better than I remembered; the character’s adolescent past is entwined with recollections of her adult life, and she gets to see her mistakes in all their embarrassing detail before she gets to fix them. The second, Kim Wilkins’s The Autumn Castle, is wonderful for the consequences that linger on in the character’s life (despite what could have been typical Dead Parent Angst), for the different conception of Germanic(!) faeries, and for a portrayal of what really happens when adults act like spoiled children—or Mary Sues—in what the author aptly refers to as the “Real World.” I’ll be looking out for more of Wilkins’s books, definitely.

If you need a quick reminder of what a bildungsroman is, here’s the original rant I did on them, and here’s the definition: A novel whose principal subject is the moral, psychological, and intellectual development of a usually youthful main character.

Doesn’t have to be youthful )

Fantasy without magic is next.

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April 22nd, 2005

11:09 pm: Being in-character during the difficult moments
Just a note: rants will be more erratic than usual for the next couple of weeks, as I have final papers to help my freshman students edit (and then I get to grade them—joy), and two twenty-page papers of my own to write, one on Yeats, one on Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The end of the semester, what fun.

For once I don’t need to qualify the title )

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March 20th, 2005

11:30 pm: Sensible character motivations rant
This is more list-like in form than the others, but then, it contains some list-like objects and a few pieces of actual advice.

So there.

Being sensible about motivations )

That list isn't exhaustive by any means, but I tried to bring up some that I don't think get as common a hearing as revenge, love, or the desire to save the world.

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February 1st, 2005

11:40 pm: Bookish protagonists rant, a.k.a 'Limyaael wants more of them'
The bookish protagonist rant—another one I’ve been looking forward to.

Nerds can save the world, too )

Reading this over, it looks like a list of “What Limyaael wants in fantasy” again.

Oh, well. These rants were always personal.

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January 31st, 2005

06:41 pm: Making your protagonists active instead of reactive
And now, active protagonists!

Let’s kick some ass by doing stuff! )

Why shouldn’t fantasy heroes be dynamos? Why shouldn’t they be the ones who force other characters to react, who come up with plans, who spin the whole world around them?

Oh, yes. Because then they might make a mistake. I forgot. Well, fantasy worlds could use more mistake-making heroes.

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January 2nd, 2005

06:53 pm: Rant on creating good rulers
Ooh, yay, one of my favorite topics. (Seriously).

Over the river and through the woods to the ruler’s house we go… )

That was fun.

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December 17th, 2004

07:24 pm: 'How to avoid making spunkiness obnoxious' rant
The most people voted for the spunky character rant, so that goes first.

Spunky characters don’t need to be banished, just toned down )

Next rant will be on either technology or amnesia, since those two currently have equal numbers of votes.

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August 24th, 2004

08:45 pm: Flaw-scrubbing rant
The title of this rant refers to a process that happens to characters who start off genuinely flawed—usually the heroes, but sometimes villains or random minor characters who need to learn a lesson. The author scrubs them throughout the book, turning every flaw or possibly murky incident into its best possible interpretation, and insisting that some other things that made the character who he was change completely. Now, I’m all for character arcs, but only if they don’t produce a shining, flawless stereotype at the end.

What not to do when dealing with flawed characters )

This ties in with redemption stories, but so often the hero really has nothing to be redeemed from; the author just thinks he does, because my gosh, he’s not Mr. Perfect yet, and winds up blotting out all the shadows that actually make him human.

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July 10th, 2004

10:15 am: Creating dynamic protagonists
It's all very well to say, "Create a dynamic instead of a static character," and it's something that I often say to yet another fantasy novel which has the hero or heroine winning a victory I think they didn't earn. But what are the nuts and bolts of making a dynamic character?

Simple but effective )

I think my next post might be on how to make bullies and minor antagonists into convincing characters. Lots of people seem determined to have them. The problem is that they don't do them right.

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June 12th, 2004

10:39 pm: And are your characters sane today? (for <lj user
Unless your characters really are all loons, I hope so. For the sake of the story, as well as your readers.

Why would any sane person... )

In some fantasies, the only way to explain most people's behavior is that the local asylum birthday bash let out early. And it shouldn't be that way.

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May 17th, 2004

12:01 pm: Rant on abuse of abused characters.
This was inspired by trying to read Diana Pharoah Francis’s Path of Fate last night, which I won’t be finishing. It’s an excellent lesson in how not to begin a fantasy book. In six pages, we have angsty monologues, plucky!orphaned!heroine, infodumps, “As you know, Bob…” conversations, and the bully who, of course, only exists to make the heroine’s life miserable. The bully makes even less sense in context, since he’s apparently been chosen to be part of an order of good people.


Why I find it hard to read fantasy stories with abused heroes and heroines )

Strange how there are authors I will let get away with anything, even melodrama (like Kay and Martin), as long as they show that the suffering the characters go through is not the only thing that matters.

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January 25th, 2004

12:47 pm: Characterization of protagonists, part three.
This comes off two previous rants that I did, this one and this one. You might want to read those, but you don't have to, really.

So you want to have a hero... )

It seems I've read far too many fantasy books with these kinds of heroes lately, notably Lynn Flewelling's latest series and some godawful Mercedes Lackey clones. I need to go reread Kay, Martin, and Berg again.

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January 6th, 2004

07:01 pm: On characterization of the protagonists, part two.
More lines from Swinburne on heroic figures, from Tristram of Lyoneese (available at the Swinburne Project, an excellent site with a lot of his poetry:

Yet fairer now than song may show them stand
Tristram and Iseult, hand in amorous hand,
Soul-satisfied, their eyes made great and bright
With all the love of all the livelong night;
With all its hours yet singing in their ears
No mortal music made of thoughts and tears,
But such a song, past conscience of man's thought,
As hearing he grows god and knows it not.

Characterization and the little things )

May have more tomorrow. We'll see.

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January 5th, 2004

07:47 pm: Character motivation.
There’s no way that I’ll fit everything I want to in here the first time, but oh, well.

Some lines from Swinburne on one of his heroines, from “By the Sea-Side” (published in The Whole Music of Passion on page 179).

Once lived a woman in whom all abhorred
Sins found a resting place;
But no stain ever marred her smooth white forehead,
Or changed her queenly face.
They say she lived and smiled as children do,
And many for her sake
Died, knowing all the shames that o’er her grew
Coiled round her like a snake.
The man, they say, whose chance eyes looked upon her
Gave her his soul and died –
Ay, sinned and died for her, and called it honour,
And kept her name with pride.
So those men used to love in the far days!
Such might had women then.

Characterization of protagonists, part one )

Yep, I’ll definitely do more on this tomorrow.

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January 3rd, 2004

02:01 pm: Not really in a ranty mood today.
This is probably because I've started my new novel and I'm very pleased at how it's going so far. I get a chance with the plot to attack not only fantasy clichés but Gothic ones, which will somewhat ease the pissiness I still feel about having to read that godawful The Mysteries of Udolpho. Spineless heroine who can't do anything other than faint or cry, spineless hero who cries all the time, love that's true and real and instant and forever, completely evil villain, convoluted plot twists coming out of nowhere... what a stupid book.

So I'm parodying it, or its genre.

This will be fun.

And it leaves me in the mood for something that's more personal than the others.

On authorial distance from the narrative )

Thinking about the relationship of author to story and the creative process is one of my favorite things to do.

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