I’d be the first to admit that I sometimes don’t write every day. In fact, I can go for weeks at times without writing. But then I’ll suddenly start and the words will flow and stopping becomes quite difficult. Even when I’m superbly busy and should be doing other things.
Those spaces in between aren’t procrastination. Merely a different part of my process. I am planning, thinking, wondering. I am turning ideas around inside my head and waiting to know which one is worth pursuing. And once I know, I begin and I write with certainty.
What keeps me writing? I love it. It is a part of me. Every word given life upon the page and worked over and over again.
Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it is distracting from all the other things I could be doing. Yes, sometimes it keeps me away from things I want to do. But clearly I don’t want sleep or to do any of those other things as much as writing. And for as long as that is true, I will write.
Right now, I haven’t had the time to write properly (without distraction) for two days. My MC was left hanging underneath a rock ledge, fighting for grip on slippery rock in a scene that will undoubtably be cut from the next draft. I am currently pursuing a random thought that crossed my mind earlier in the week and I shoved the MC over the edge just to see what would happen. It is entertaining but really unhelpful to the plot so in the next rewrite she might be saved the effort of rescuing herself.
If I don’t write, she’ll hang there forever. I’ll always wonder what she would have done next. I’ll never see the story through and I’ll never get to the rewrite where I remove the useless scene (or find a use for it). Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. It isn’t as if this story that I’m working on will ever change the world. But I want to write it.
That is my motivation.
What is yours?
I’m going to admit it. I’m becoming very critical.
I’ve always been critical – particularly of myself – but lately I’ve been really critical of a lot of things.
Today I was given a short story to read. The purpose of the story was to demonstrate how to use descriptive language to create an emotional affect in the reader. Possibly it succeeded in that but the only emotional affect it had on me was the desire to grab a red pen and have at it – I managed to resist the urge but barely.
So what was wrong with the story?
Every single person or thing in the story was described by at least two adjectives in almost every single instance. Every single time. I’m sorry. The person is whistling. Sure, you can tell us how they are whistling and what it sounds like but the next time you feel the need to mention it you could just say whistling. You don’t then need to come up with two new adjectives (or an adverb and an adjective) to describe how the whistling is happening.
Objects were appearing ‘out of nowhere’. Umm, no. Unless they were tearing through interdimensional portals I’m pretty sure they came from somewhere. Maybe it wasn’t an important somewhere but to explicitly state they came from out of nowhere just leads the reader to wonder how that is even possible.
Characters were behaving out of character – which in a short story is really distracting because you don’t even have the benefit of later explaining the out of characterness (I know that isn’t a word).
I’ll admit it. I’m awful and I’m tearing this story to threads. And it lead me to realise some of the weaknesses I still have in my own writing. I like adjectives (not to this extent but I over use them to be sure). I may not have things appearing out of nowhere but I’m sure I suddenly have people in scenes where they shouldn’t be and have no logical reason to be and I’m sure I need to work on it. I need to turn this critical eye away from things I’m reading and apply it to things I’m writing and I need to look at what I could be doing instead.
Plenty of areas here for me to work on. What are you working on improving?
I usually have a lot of fun dressing my various characters. Mostly because I have such a strong mental image of the character and few of them ever dress for what they end up doing – plus I set them in fantasy worlds and so I don’t really worry about whether people dressed like that in any particular era or not.
That said, the protagonist in my latest WIP is giving me all kinds of trouble. I have a strong mental image of her but the clothes keep changing and they are always very practical, clothes. Lots of leather and denim and most of it torn and patched, which given the hostile nature of the world I’m building makes perfect sense. But it isn’t all that fun to write about. Still, every time I try to dress her differently I just think, there is no way she’s going to wear that skirt and she certainly isn’t going to wear bright colours and try to attract a lot of attention.
I did destroy her denim jacket though. Which lead to the very touching boy lending her his brown vinyl jacket scene which wasn’t really an improvement on her look but was an interesting interaction between the two characters.
Dressing your characters? Fashion statement or practical? Or both? Love to hear your views.
I love reading books with interesting female protagonists. Anything other than the basic damsel in distress works for me. Strong, funny, awkward, shy, as long as they feel fresh and unique. What I want to know is who are your favourite female protagonists from books or movies.
So…if you’re interested create a post sharing your favourite female protagonist and then add your link to the list. Let’s see how many female protagonists we can list.
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Click here to enter your link and view the entire list of entered links…
Unless, of course, there is a valid reason.
Under most circumstances these are 5 things that protagonists shouldn’t be getting up to.
1. Waiting for another character to solve all of the problems and hand them a nice tidy package. I’m not pointing fingers at any single, scarred, boy wizard for this one (in one of his later books), but protagonists should be actively involved in trying to work through the conflicts, not passively sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to tag them and say that it is now time for them to get involved.
2. Getting over things. This one is something I’ve found in quite a few stories that I’ve started reading and then abandoned. Midway through a major conflict the character just get’s over it and decides that something is no longer important. If your protagonist gives up caring about a problem, odds are the reader is going to as well.
3. Getting side tracked and never returning to the original complication. Yes, side plots are great but if your protagonist gets tangled up in a side plot to the point where the original problem is left dangling and never resolved then this is going to bother your reader.
4. Have a personality transplant midstory. There is a difference between developing a character and throwing out a character midway through the plot and suddenly having a doppelgänger with the same name but no other resemblance to the original character running around.
5. Drop dead in the second act. By all means, kill your protagonist off if the story calls for it, but if we’ve been following this character so far and now they are dead and there is still almost a third of the story to go, as reader’s we are going to feel resentful.
What do you think? Is there any thing your protagonist should just not do?
Okay, it was brought to my attention prior to publishing Death’s Daughter that Cassandra (my name) and Calandra (my protagonist’s name) are kind of similar. There are two things I have in common with my protagonist. One – we both like boots. I have a serious liking for wearing boots and my protagonist is equally obsessed. Two – our names start with the letter C and have a similar number of syllables.
Possibly people who know me will point out a few other similarities but as far as I’m concerned, those two points are it. I love Calandra as a character, particularly as she grows throughout the story, but I don’t know that I would ever want to be compared to being too much like her.
So, how did Calandra Delaine end up with such a name?
I remember reading a book as a child where one of the characters were called Callie. I always thought it was a great name. When I started writing the story I decided I’d like for another character in the story to call the protagonist Callie in an affectionate way and then I had to find a full name that could conceivably be shortened to Callie (It seemed like a good idea at the time). I pulled out a dictionary of names and narrowed it down fairly quickly. Here are some of the easily rejected names:
As you can see, not a lot of choice. Besides, I read the name Calandra and I just knew. I had found the name my character needed. If I ever had second thoughts about it, Calandra would be sure to point out to me that she knows her own name and that she would not stand for me arbitrarily changing it on her.
…and my characters should have their reasons.
It is really quite difficult to like a character, or even respect them, if they have no real reason for their actions. We may laugh at the cliche of an actor asking what their motivation is, but without it, things become pretty pointless, pretty quickly.
I recently started reading a book (it doesn’t really matter which one). Within two chapters I was incredibly frustrated with the protagonist. Mostly because they had wandered randomly through rooms and observed really strange things but hadn’t reacted to anything and had just made the decision to leave the building – though why they were there in the first place had yet to be established. The whole time, as a reader, I was wanting the protagonist to turn and figure out why something was in a certain place or doing something. I wanted to know why they were there, why they were so indifferent to the bizarre surroundings. I wanted to know what was going on inside their head so that I could figure out whether they were just really composed on the outside but freaking out on the inside.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much further into the story. I made the decision that whether or not the author ever explained what the protagonist was doing and why, I wasn’t going to continue reading it.
This is kind of an extreme case and there is every possibility that within the next chapter all may have been explained.
More commonly we find villains who are bad because, well, the protagonist needed someone in their way.
We find sidekicks who help because… They’re a sidekick. That’s their job.
We have hench men who hench but have no apparent personality or individual drive for anything and as a consequence fade into obscurity.
And the unforgivable – heroes who are good because they are.
How imporant do you think character motivation is? Better yet – have you got an example of a protagonist who drove you crazy because they seemed to have no motivation?
Okay, I am aware that the list of things I am not would far surpass the list of things that I am.
I’ve recently realised that despite my being part of gen Y and being fully aware that language is a dynamic, living, changing thing and that I am a very big fan of splitting infinitives and breaking other traditional grammatical rules, I am not simply going to go wherever the wind is blowing.
Specifically, I’ve recently realised that when I’m reading other people’s blogs, I don’t mind the occasional spelling error or sentence fragment. Most of us write blogs quickly, do a once over and a spell check and that’s about it. If someone points out a massive error in the comments, maybe go back and edit. Blogs are not generally going to be a perfectly polished type of text. Some people will disagree with me and I know there are people who spend ages over each blog and that works for them.
Despite that, it really bothers me when I’m reading a blog and it isn’t punctuated. I’m not talking about every comma being in the right place and correct use of semi-colons, I’m just talking about basic full stops and capital letters with an occasional apostrophe. It really puts me off to the point where I don’t remember the content at all. Same with lower case I’s. It doesn’t take that much more effort to tag the shift key while typing to make it a capital.
Maybe this is me being overly pedantic about things other people don’t find important but there we have it. It interferes with my ability to enjoy content.
I’d love to hear your opinion.