Friday, January 21, 2011

Being a useful a-hole & a character's great escape

Today I was a bit of an a-hole. That's just how I felt after I submitted my crits. Fortunately, the people I sent them to actually thanked me and said they were very useful and that flattery never got anyone anywhere.
The thing is, I agree (though I do like to get the occasional praise), but I'm worried about how my voice comes across on paper. Do I sound mean even if I don't want to? Can my jokes be interpreted as sarcasm when I was only trying to be funny?
I never mean to offend. I sometimes just get really passionate about the thing I do (in this case critting) and I feel like putting everything into my point to show why I think it's not working. And the better the story is, the more worked up I get. Which is... good?

Anyway, it got me thinking. Can I put my character voice across if I can't put my own? It happened sometimes that cirtters pointed out things about my characters that I hadn't noticed before. And it influenced all my writing of that character from then on.
Someone once told me (recently, actually) that they don't see my character as a damsel in distress - which is fine, I always tend to write strong female characters (unless I don't really like them - then I let them be damsels), but I had no feelings about this particular scene whatsoever. It got me thinking - God, am I losing grips on my characters? Apparently not, since in the next scene she turned into a sappy idiot for a couple of seconds.

I have to admit that Rachel, the MC from my NaNo 2010 project is the first character who ever backfired on me. I had her in mind perfectly, knew who she should be like and what she should do, but she wouldn't. As soon as she stumbled on paper, she turned into the most insecure and can't-make-up-her-damn-mind character I've ever created. Almost, anyway. And she pisses me off because I didn't want her to be like that. I wanted her to be witty and cool and everyone's best friend. Ah, big fail there!

Example(excerpt from Hunters):
[What’s wrong with me?
Daniel turned to her and took her in his arms. “Oh, no, Rach. Don’t do this to me. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just special and I can’t figure out why.” 
“But what if…” she sobbed. “What if I’ll never get better and I’ll be a burden for you all the time?” She wished she could stop crying, but this was the worst time to find out she was so weak. Having to depend on someone for defense wasn’t high on her list.]

Now, if this were up to me, she wouldn't start acting like a human hosepipe, get to her feet and start training her butt off to get better (at fighting and stuff since she has to fight and kill vampires). She should get angry at her own incompetence not crawl into the arms of a guy (which I think I did a much better job on). But it wouldn't fit her character now, because that's just who Rachel is - she can be brave - she doesn't want to be a burden and not be able to take care of herself - but she doesn't really do anything about it right now. Maybe she would later, but she won't get the chance because magic happens (I use magic to block out any spoiler alert *evil grinning face*)

Anyway, from my epic fail, a new character has risen, and I just hope another useful, priceless a-hole will shout at her if she tends to get pathetic. Then I will smack her into submission.


  1. Hiya! I just joined, but for some reason, my profile is the anonymous head. Anyway...

    Let your characters evolve naturally. I love my characters to have weaknesses and faults. And as they continue on, they grow in their strengths and come to terms with their choices. I like the idea of letting your girl have moments of weakness, then hating herself for it later, pushing herself harder to make up for it, only to fall prey to another lapse later. Makes for some good realism, for we all have our weaknesses and habits we keep falling into.

  2. Hey Misty. I totally agree with you! And it's not like I have a choice. One thing I totally do in my writing is give my characters too much power :) I just hope people will like her. To me, she turned out right in the end. Not like I wanted her, but right. :)

  3. Hey Steph! The same thing happened to me with Cooper. The little punk changed my entire story! He was never even envisioned in my intital outline. When I wrote him, he was just supposed to be a periphreal character. But then I fell in love with him. Now, he writes his own lines and I'm left trying to write around him. Yet, he's still my favorite character.

  4. Lol, Jean. Exactly! Anyway, it's the crit I gave you that got me wondering about all this stuff.
    Rachel is coming off likable enough so far. Hope this keeps going until the end of the book.
    And now I'm really excited to read more about Cooper. :)

  5. I can completely relate. I have two characters in my WIP that are disagreeable with each other. At one point, I needed them to work together to accomplish something, but when I wrote the scene, it just broke down into a big fight.

    Frustrated, I deleted wide swaths of text, committed to rewriting it properly. I forced them to get along. And they did, for about three or four paragraphs. Then he made a snarky comment, she got mad and yelled at him, and all hell broke loose. Again.

    I left it the way it was and just re-plotted that scene.

  6. I know what you mean. I've had a character who spewed venom every time she opened her mouth, as much as I tried to stop her. :) My critters kept yelling at me to kill her off already.


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