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March 24th, 2007

05:10 pm: Non-villain rant
Both [info]digoraccoon and [info]marumae asked for a rant like this. And, after all, there’s no reason that you need to assume a villain in order to have a story. Mainstream fiction and many “classic” novels get away quite handily with having no villain, or only one truly despicable character in a populated world where many other shades of morality exist.

The only thing I do assume for this rant is that your non-villain is a fairly important character, and therefore you’ll be thinking about how his or her activities matter to the story as a whole; obviously, if they appear onstage in only one scene, your concerns in developing them will be different.

Beyond good and evil )

The next rant will probably be on ways to focus and tighten stories.

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January 2nd, 2007

11:43 pm: Ways of extending sympathy
This is a kind of a cross between an essay on characterizing secondary characters—most of the time, the author has a stronger commitment to characterizing her main character(s)/protagonist(s), so I don’t think as much help is needed—and adopting a certain attitude towards characters when writing. Obviously, this attitude is one I find congenial. It won’t work for all stories, let alone all writers. But since I seem to be obsessed with it lately, I thought I’d write a rant about it.

An intellect vast and warm and sympathetic )

One of my favorite moments in the books I read this past year is the one where George Eliot, in the middle of Middlemarch, shifts from the perspective of her heroine, Dorothea, to that of her much older and cramp-minded husband, Casaubon:

“ONE morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea -- but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest, all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded, and will know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping to neglect. In spite of the blinking eyes and white moles objectionable to Celia, and the want of muscular curve which was morally painful to Sir James, Mr Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him, and was spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us.”

Eliot understood something about sympathy, and how to extend it everywhere.

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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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June 29th, 2005

08:02 pm: Rant on friendships
This one is on friendships.

Whee! )

Well, would you look at that. The rant about things I think are really cool is next.

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June 23rd, 2005

07:27 pm: Writing fantasy without villains
So. Just as in fantasy without magic, I believe it’s perfectly possible to achieve books without villains. Why? Because I’ve read them. Those books still have characters who act against each other, for different goals or at cross-purposes, but they lack “Mwa-ha-ha-ha!” villains, or the kind who get conquered by LOVE, or the kind who are completely insane, or the kind who take over the world because it’s sitting outside their door. They’re just characters. (Incidentally, those books often lack identifiable author-favored protagonists as well, or at least don’t turn their heroes into blank slates of shining light).

This is, then, just a list of ways of achieving the completely possible.

Chopping away villainy )

Hmmm. This is at least half a rant on “how to write books without heroes.” But that’s all right, I suppose. If you’re giving up one, you can give up the other that much more easily.

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February 28th, 2005

04:50 pm: Gaining reader empathy rant
And off we go on this one. Once again, I think I should define the term in the title of the rant as I’m using it: reader empathy, here, is the ability to tie the readers to your characters and make them feel for those characters. That isn’t the same as sympathy, which involves an element of wanting the characters to succeed. That’s because reader empathy can be for villains as well as for protagonists, minor characters as well as major. They may dislike the villains, hate them, or be fascinated by them. It doesn’t matter. Indifference and apathy are the enemies, not emotion. If you can make the readers engage emotionally with the characters, you’ve won.

Some ideas for doing that )

I think the rant on writing purely stand-alone stories is next, unless the poll makes a liar of me.

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June 1st, 2004

07:51 pm: Instilling perceptiveness in a character.
And here I go being declamatory again. And using examples from my favorite authors to show how some people get around the pitfalls.

Well, I think it's hard )

I've been thinking quite a lot about this lately- probably because I've noticed that the stories I most love are those where the author makes me see both the characters' thoughts and the limitations of those thoughts, where everyone is a full and deeply complex person, though we may share only one of those minds.

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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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