What’s Beneath the Skin   12 comments

June 22, 2020

What are your favorite kind of characters to create? To read?

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Visits from Friends

I don’t really create characters. They come to me and want to tell me their stories. I don’t sit back and say “I’m going to create a character who is a depressed mercenary struggling with PTSD whose loving family want to rescue him, but he’s trapped in an endless loop of despair.” That’s Shane from Transformation Project – a “good guy” character with some dark places in his deep most parts.

Neither did I sit back and say “I’m going to create a character who is a rich teenager with a drinking problem who can’t seem to make good choices even when he wants to.” That’s Peter from Red Kryptonite Curve – a sympathetic flawed character who is still young enough to have hope, but you can predict will have a difficult time as he goes forward.

I tried to create the character of Gregyn from Daermad Cycle as a minion of Talidd, who was meant to be an evil mage. Gregyn wasn’t originally going to be the flawed character he is now. He was only supposed to exist for a couple of scenes, giving Talidd a report on Galornyn. Then he took on a life of his own and became a nuanced “bad guy” character who is still rewriting his own story.

Most of my characters come to me and want to tell their story and I comply. Such flawed characters are fun to write because they won’t always do what’s expected. Such flawed characters can be exhausting to write because they’re often depressed. Shane hallucinates his nemesis, for heaven’s sake. And yet I enjoy these characters more than good-guy characters who are all light and joy. It’s because they’re unpredictable, even to me their ersatz creator. Typically my flawed characters are not irredeemable. I don’t like writing the dark heart of evil, though those characters do exist in my books. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the heads of my bad guys. I’d rather work with these complicated, contradictory characters who occupy a good-guy/bad-guy middle ground. They’re not anti-heroes, but they’re not pure either.

I also like reading about such characters. When I was in 5th grade, I picked up Madeleine L’Engle’s The Young Unicorns. I mark that as my first “adult” book. It was a YA, but it was a good leap from what I had been reading before (the next year, I would read Summer of 42 with my mother, so I grew up fast). The character of Dave in TYU was such a flawed, but redeemable character. Eventually, he would need to make a choice about who he would be and he did.

Now I wonder what my fellow bloghoppers are saying on this subject.

12 responses to “What’s Beneath the Skin

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  1. Flawed characters are more interesting, because you have to try and work out what makes them tick and why they’re like that in the first place.

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  2. I wonder where all these people come from; because my head is filled with them too. Are the stories they tell leaking through from another dimension, another time and place?

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  3. i love it when a character let’s me know when I’m wrong… as long as they also tell me what I need to do to fix it!

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  4. My problem comes from thinking I know where it’s going and one of them throws a curve. That’s when the urge to force it together comes up and that’s ridiculous. Because I’m not telling the story, they are, so instead of freaking about it I go back, sit down, listen, them telling me “Yeah we know, you saw this whole helicopter chase thing in your head, right? Well, that’s as stale as the tortilla you forgot was on top of the speaker for three days.” What tortilla?
    They know, best to just let it go.

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    • I had to rewrite 70,000 words for “Mirklin Wood” because of a hardware failure that got both the original and the backup. (Ask me why I always keep THREE copies now.) That was interesting because the original writing was discovery writing, but the rewrite was transcribing from memory. It freed me to suggest a few changes, which my characters sometimes accepted. It was an interesting process.

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  5. Cloud. Cloud cloud cloud. Nothing is local except a removable drive that mirrors what I’m doing. And even then? I opened something in a Beta of Scrivener. It saved it. That Beta expired, the next one nor the old release version would open it! Fortunately, I’d exported the whole thing to Word for someone to read but I was freaking there for a few. Last time I offer to Beta without a trap door somewhere.

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    • I don’t wholly trust the cloud, even, although I created an email that I send all my WIPs to at regular intervals. That’s not been needed yet, but I know it’ll happen again.

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      • Several places give you 2 to 5 gb of storage free, like google. Considering how small a novel is as far as data we’d all be hard pressed to get the needle to move. Use a couple of free ones and your stuff is usually somewhere you can get to it.

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      • I have One Drive and Google backups, but I still don’t wholly trust them. I use them for WIPs, but I also I back up to an external hard drive and then periodically send to the email account. And then the email account gets all finals and cover images. It’s just that little bit of security that keeps me from feeling like the backup might fail or someone might hack them.

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