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Snarky Characters . . .

Calvin Reality

So, remember yesterday I told you I had a character become more important than I expected? Remember I said that I really liked her? That was at least in part because she’s snarky. Which was fine when she was being snarky to other characters. When she started being smart with me when I was interviewing her yesterday, it wasn’t so likable anymore. I tried her two or three times yesterday and getting information out of her was like pulling teeth.

A particularly tricky thing about writing characters for fantasy (or sci-fi) is that you’re inventing most, if not all, of your proper nouns. There are times when characters will just tell you all the words you need to know, but more often than not it’s like playing Twenty Questions, and all your characters will tell you is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Yesterday was ‘no’ for a solid twenty minutes on a single word I was trying to coin.

Ergo, in frustration, I did a lot of not-writing things last night. Which weren’t terribly productive. I saw The Notebook finally. OMG! People kept telling me how much I would really like that movie. And I kept thinking, yeah, yeah, another romantic drama. But, wow! I loved it.  And then I tried for the third time to figure out what the heck to do with the ‘Tower of the gods’ castle in Zelda: Wind Waker for Gamecube. Which was even more frustrating than trying to get snarky characters to tell me about themselves.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
difrancis
Jun. 25th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
I know all about uncooperative characters in interviews. I believe while interviewing Shaye prior to writing The Turning Tide, He actually said to me "My, My. Like a child, aren't you? Impetuous and bubbling over with juvenile eagerness. Excuse my yawn." Seriously. That's right from my transcript. Plus he gave me a lot of one word answers.

No, I'm not schizophrenic.
jessica_de_milo
Jun. 25th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
But you still got him written down as one of three lead characters in a novel slated for publication. So there is light at the end of my tunnel ... maybe.

Of course you and I are not schizophrenic ...
clowe
Jun. 25th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
I had an abusive character once. She chided me for hours on end, nagging about my dangling participles and my over-usage of the word "skulduggery." It was a loveless, one-sided relationship. I gave her life, she gave me writing cramps. I dressed her in furs and Gucci - she called me lazy and hung out with other characters. I tells ya, it was hell for months on end. And then one day, blammo - I come home, I turn on the computer, pound out a few paragraphs, and there she is, fraternizing with the enemy. I'd taken alls I could stands, and I couldn't stands no more. Threw the whole novel away, having frittered away months on a character who could never quite go the direction I wanted.

Well, that, and the novel was completely horrible. But let's stick with that first bit, shall we? Seriously, I hate when I run into character creation roadblocks. Kind of looking at one now with a character in one of my projects. There's no possible way any character I've ever devised could be as nice as this guy, but I can't seem to dig anything but good Samaritan answers from him. Sigh.

And as far as Zelda - just bought myself a DS not too long ago for long business trips and am alternately having a blast and cussing at Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I swear, for a game that looks like it was made for eight year olds, the puzzles in that thing are tough as nails.
jessica_de_milo
Jun. 25th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
Isn't it funny how we need just a certain amount of good and bad in our characters, but they often want to portray themselves as one or the other? I often wonder how much of that has to do with my subconscious tendency to reach for easy answers - in writing (both fiction and academic) and in life. Or the alternative answer, which is possibly more accurate but less philosophical, is that writers are just crazy enough to have our imaginings be recalcitrant with us.
clowe
Jun. 26th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
Your point on the subconscious tendency to reach for answers is a great one. I'm constantly trying to define my characters as how I ostensibly want to see them, and often when I fall into my writing rhythm, those ostensible wants turn into something more reflecitve of the wisps and whispers of my subconscious reflections on the character(s). I can't help but put pieces of me into my characters, good or bad. My protagonists tend to reflect the things I value most - redemption, love, the will to stand up after being knocked around, et cetera. The protagonists tend to contain the pieces of me I dislike the most - the insecurity, the lust, the ambition. But those labels are too easy. Saying my bad guys portray "lust" isn't quite the depth and breadth of the internal workings that I tend to put into my characters, whether I want to or not.

And to a certain extent, I think I have to free myself from the megrims of character development to really delve into a character's soul. The problem is that ninety times out of a hundred, that character will take on aspects I never wanted or thought about. It's a very interesting part of writing, to see one's creations grow beyond my complete control. Sometimes we've just gotta grab the reins and hold on.
jessica_de_milo
Jun. 26th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
I still struggle with trying to explain this to people who don't write fiction. They just think it sounds totally insane. And there's a part of me, the part which has looked at writers and other artists at the remove of 50+ years of history, which says, 'maybe I am really crazy, and all of the other writers in my blog communities and workshops and critique groups are all crazy too.' And I've simply had to decide that 1) I like it; 2) as of yet, I'm not hurting anyone; and 3) if insaity creates art which teaches and delights, then I don't care if I have to be a bit insane to create that art.
clowe
Jun. 26th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
I agree. If I'm insane, I'm not hurting anyone (beyond the occasional character or three) and I'm actually creating something. It's not destructive, it's not hurtful, it's releasing creative energy into a medium entirely of my own making. If this is insanity, then I'm diving in head first.

Or at least, that's what the voices inside my head are tellind me. By the way, they say, "hello," "what's up," and "grated cheese" respectively. I'm not entirely sure about that third voice - he might be a little wonky.
jessica_de_milo
Jun. 26th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
I have only met one other person, besides myself, who had voices (which were not part of a diagnosis of schizophrenia or paranoid delusions). Do yours have names?
clowe
Jun. 27th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Hah! I never thought about names. Hmmm... let's see. Waldo, Mr. Whipplepool, and Bulldozer. I think those would be nice names for a schizophrenic. Heheh. Yours?
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