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December 18th, 2009

10:18 am: Rant on flawed characters (again)
Characters in most novels, of course, have to have flaws. Novels exist where they don’t, but often the character is either boringly idealized or part of a historical and cultural context that doesn’t exist in most twenty-first-century Western countries any longer. (Characters like Herman Melville’s Billy Budd and George Eliot’s Eppie are also meant to serve a specific allegorical purpose that’s rare for modern fantasy novels). But it’s also possible to make a character too flawed, or to add only “charming” quirks that don’t actually impact a character’s life in any discernible way. I’m sure you can think of at least one protagonist whose only fault was being too generous, or too kind-hearted. (I will never get back the hours of my life which I wasted reading The Wayfarer Redemption).

Here, then, are some (more) ideas about adding flaws to characters and what to do once you have them.

Read more... )

A rant on loyalty is probably next.

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July 4th, 2007

04:49 pm: Turning idealistic characters gray
Before I start, I just want to make it clear that, in this case, I’m not lumping all characters who have strong beliefs into the idealistic set. This rant deals, instead, with protagonists or secondaries who have both strong ideals and a lack of information about how they apply to the pragmatic world, or about their consequences.

So this rant is about moving them towards seeing those applications, or those consequences )

The next rant will be on fantasy-and-science-fiction hybrids.

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April 7th, 2007

09:36 pm: Moments When the Protagonist Awes Other Characters, Curing the Addiction To
As threatened promised hinted at.

Sure, sometimes it’s cool, but the problem is the frequency )

The next one might be on oppression, though the Invisible Pink Unicorn knows it’s a rant I’m wary of writing.

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March 20th, 2007

09:37 pm: Six ways of using the insider
Now that the reading for my exams is finally letting up a bit, I can write another rant!

The “insider” in the title of this post means someone who’s a native member of the culture/world you’re writing about, or at least familiar with it. A common worldbuilding trick in fantasy is to bring a visitor, a sheltered innocent, or sometimes a complete alien, as in modern-day people crossing over from Earth, into the picture so you have someone who will ask questions about aspects of the culture and can be Explained At. But outsiders have problems, too, the most pernicious of which is limiting the stories you can tell. Using the other half of the equation and telling fantasy stories with insiders is very far from impossible. And no, it does not need to involve the characters telling each other in monologues what they should have known already.

Here are ways of doing it )

I’m open to suggestions about what to do next.

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February 3rd, 2007

10:28 pm: Ten ways of making all-powerful, unique protagonists tolerable
I don’t think it’s easy, mind. But it can be done.

Read more... )

For the record, I still think stories without all-powerful, unsurpassable characters are much more interesting, and I prefer protagonists who have qualities that every character could have, only magnified by the events of the story or their pasts.

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December 17th, 2006

07:12 pm: Cohering a hero
Or “pulling all the damn stuff together.” Part matching the protagonist with the background of her world, part making her seem like a real person…that kind of thing.

Cool traits actually joined together )

(I actually think it’s far more fascinating to create a character out of traits that almost anybody can have rather than “Because it’s cool,” which is probably why I’m so in favor of ordinary, limited heroes).

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September 18th, 2006

09:39 pm: Ways to make a reader hate your hero
This sounded like a fun rant from the list of suggestions, light and easy to do, so up it goes.

Pure, deep, heroic loathing )

Yes, shorter than usual. Blame the pressures of time and wanting to slap most of the characters in The Woodlanders.

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August 1st, 2006

07:54 pm: How to write complex, real royals true-to-character
I’m stealing the phrasing of the suggestion exactly as [info]lovelikeheaven put it in the poll, since I like it.

Some ideas )

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July 29th, 2006

09:45 pm: Writing ordinary, limited heroes
This means writing the characters who have to work to achieve things, rather than having things handed to them. The people with unearned magic, true love, destinies, and beauty have no place here. I’m talking about the second-in-commands who pick up after the nobles, the fighters who have actually trained for years to become good at what they do, the lovers who worked on their relationship or arranged marriage instead of just tumbling effortlessly into bed with each other due to hormones or shared danger, the parents who throw their whole heart into raising a child. People who have problems, and make mistakes, and struggle and fail and fall and stand up again.

They are the fascinating ones )

I think I like working within the limits lately; I’ve lost most of my taste for extreme magic, extreme beauty, extreme everything.

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June 25th, 2006

02:20 pm: Writing a visionary (part 2)
The first part of this rant was mostly about the pitfalls of handling a visionary character—and, admittedly, focused on visionaries who were heading towards armed revolution and massive, forced changes in their societies. But there are other kinds of visionaries, including ones who propagate inventions instead of fights, or don’t participate in armed revolution, and this part of the essay is about them.

Or—why someone who has a vision in your story doesn’t necessitate an attack on the Bastille )

And the next essay will be on creating a history of ideas for your fantasy world, because I struggle with that often enough.

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June 22nd, 2006

08:43 pm: Writing a visionary (part 1)
Here’s a topic dictated by the story I’m playing with currently. I seem to keep getting saddled with plots that demand this kind of character, which is an inconvenience, because I don’t like writing about fanatics. (I am trying to make the latest one a visionary in the cause of noticing other people. I’m not sure it’s working).

And a lot of visionary characters are fanatics—but they can be other things, too )

I have more to say, especially about visionaries not leading revolutions, but my hands hurt like hell, so stopping for now.

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March 22nd, 2006

11:56 am: Characters with sympathy
Note: This is not a rant on “sympathetic characters,” which tends to get parsed as “characters the reader will sympathize with.” This is about characters who have the faculty of sympathy themselves for other characters in the story, and letting them express it.

It’s not as easy as one two three )

I am currently pondering doing the next rant on why complexity is just so damn great.

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March 18th, 2006

11:36 pm: Ways of portraying character subjectivity that entertain Limyaael
Okay. Here’s the deal.

Partly, I haven’t been posting rants lately because of one part of my personal life going to hell, but also because lately I hate all the rough drafts rants I start, and the things I’m interested in might make good essays, but they don’t make good rants as such.

So this one is about something totally bizarre that I am also interested in, and not very rantish. We’ll see how well this works. Feel free to tell me if it disappoints you, but keep in mind that most of them are going to be like this from now on.

Entertaining ways of conveying character subjectivity )

I am going to try to keep up this trend of rants up, if this one manages to fly.

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February 17th, 2006

08:24 pm: Creating convincing religious characters
A couple people asked me to do a rant on convincing religious characters, and I thought it would be a nice follow-up to the ‘convincing crises of faith’ one.

But this is even more personal than that one, in a lot of ways )

That was very snarly. Well, what can I say? This topic makes me snarly.

*goes away*

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February 14th, 2006

07:33 pm: Creating convincing crises of faith
Come as close to blocked on rants lately as I ever have. I don’t know why. Perhaps this one will be able to get me back into the swing of things.

Real crises, not take two pills and call me in the morning )

I acknowledge that this is fully born of my own prejudices, since lately I’ve been writing and reading exclusively long stories. But I have read some shorter novels that impressed me with characters having crises of faith, so it’s not that length is intrinsic to having a compelling one. So often, I think the problem is the author hurrying it up.

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January 2nd, 2006

06:28 pm: Writing a psychotic viewpoint character
Highly biased and personal, as always.

It'd be different if they weren't the viewpoint characters, but there you go )

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October 17th, 2005

10:37 pm: Rant on older protagonists (25 and up)
Yes, I realize the phrasing is odd, but it is true that many, many fantasy protagonists are, if not teenagers, in their early 20’s—particularly if they’re the heroes of a quest or crossover fantasy, in which they’re sent away from home or from Earth to a fantasy world. So what happens when you start getting into people in their late 20’s, or (settle yourselves, for it will come as a shock) even in their 30’s and 40’s and 50’s as characters?

Lots of neato stuff )

I liked that. It was fun.

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September 3rd, 2005

03:15 pm: Putting non-obvious bits of yourself in the story/characters
Huh. Well, okay, this is one of those rants, like the “ten alternatives” ones, where each item is short because each is obvious and I don’t have much to say about it.

Here’s hoping it’s still of use )

Yeah, I admit that if I tried to write an author who was exactly like me, she would be suspicious of authors who put bits of themselves into their characters with laser-like precision. That’s just the way it is.

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August 30th, 2005

10:08 pm: Making a protagonist into a hero
*stares at keyboard for a while*

Yeah, my definition is kind of over against the wall, given that I’ve lately started defining “hero” in negative terms and using “protagonist” or “main character” instead. So I have to try to praise something I don’t want to praise.

Oh, well, what the hell )

All right, I think the poor heroes have taken enough of a beating.

Not that inborn virtue idea, though. That can take more beating. *goes after idea with bat*

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August 22nd, 2005

07:23 pm: Showing your viewpoint character as not 100% correct
This advice is intended mostly for stories or novels where there’s just a single viewpoint character. If you have multiple ones, I maintain that the simplest and easiest way to show that one of them is wrong is having another comment on the same event or object or situation with a different perspective.

If you can’t do that... )

And did some people say “beings of extreme power” was next? Why, yes, in fact, I think they did.

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