I’m sorry for my absence, guys. I got sick out of the blue, and recovery has been kinda slow. And I considered trying to finish Part 2 of “A Few Notes About Christine” during the down time, but had no brain cells for it, and ended up screen capping Daniel Deronda and Season 1 of Mercy Street instead.
Anyway, I came across this post by Hayden Wand and thought it would be fun to borrow the concept. Because I too have noticed elements that repeatedly surface in my own stories:
This pops up again and again, from my British political novel to my steampunk story Empty Clockwork. I think it’s the natural result of the writer’s question “what if?” It’s also the result of an overactive imagination that also doesn’t want to be reined in by details.
I realized this only recently: the internal conflict is often against fear of one kind of another. I think this idea sneaks into my stories because it’s a flaw I’ve struggled with all my life. The “what if?” question is great for creativity, but it’s not helpful anywhere else. 🙂
Forget Ye Olde Villain with his doomsday weapon; how about incompetent government officials? Mob mentality in society and politics? Fearing you made the wrong decision for your loved ones? Or being afraid you can’t provide for your kids? Losing respect for someone you once admired? Unable to use your gifts and talents, either through physical limitation or societal apathy? The list goes on.
Marriages During the Story
I guess I just want to see my fictional OTP weather it together as a married couple. It’s an interesting dynamic–on the one hand, you have a companion through the conflict; on the other, differences of opinion on how to handle the conflict can cause further conflict. That, and the time span of my stories is often a decade or more. I don’t have the heart to keep lovebirds apart that long (though some of them do have to wait longer than they want!).
The 1820s–30s Time Period (usually in England)
I’ve mentioned this before, but it really is funny that this era pops up so frequently in my stories! It’s a relatively overlooked period; the only books I can think of set in that era are Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Dickens’ Little Dorrit. (Some of Dickens’ other works start in the 1820s, but the main action moves to a later decade.) Writing about the 20s–30s for me is like researching and exploring undiscovered territory. And that’s just pure fun!
I can’t keep politics out of a story. I’ve tried. The most obvious example is the British political novel set in the (you guessed it) 1820s–30s– the entire backdrop is the debate over the Great Reform Bill and other national/international issues (like the July Revolution). I can sense a frenzied market growing for this stuff already. 🙂
My western story Gentle Fire heavily features frontier politics–I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from the Mexican Empire, the structure of north Texas and New Mexican ranchos and towns, and Anglo settler towns and counties.
And politics wander in and out of various others stories, or at least are implied to be in the background/part of the backdrop. Even in one story where politics is not the driving force, my own opinions can be discerned if you read between the lines.
Sometimes this is a driving point of the story; other times, it’s more in the background, but I can think of only two stories that don’t have sibling relationships–Empty Clockwork is one, and the other is a mystery set on a south seas island during the late 1700s.
Lower Ranks of the English Aristocracy
I have yet to write about a duke. Not that there’s anything wrong with dukes, but since the title of duke is the highest in the English peerage, Lord X would be too busy with society and politics to do anything my plot requires. The highest rank I’ve written about is the rank of earl; and I’m thinking of demoting that family anyway, because, again, the story needs them to live somewhere other than London and not to be tied up with society and national politics for most of the story. (Local politics, on the other hand…)
Lord Fredericks (from my steampunk story), for example, is a viscount. Lord Wetherell, from my literary novel, is a baron (the lowest rank), and various other titled characters usually don’t stray above the rank of viscount, unless they are minor characters.
All the lawyers I’ve written about thus far have been the good guys. No stereotypical corruption or dishonesty or hunting for ridiculous loopholes…in fact, most of my lawyer characters seek to reform this kind of corruption in their trade. (I’m probably biased here, because my dad is a lawyer, and he’s as honest in his job as readers expect the hardworking everyman to be.)
From the outspoken sassmaster to the deadpan snarker, at least one character in each story has a tendency for quick and dry wit. Usually more than one!
I’m as introverted as the next writer, but I’ve written a fair share of extroverts. Who are allowed to be extroverts, mind, and don’t annoy the stew out of the quieter, therefore obviously more intelligent, characters (sarcasm!). Actually, I have a habit of pairing introverted/extroverted characters as friends, siblings, or couples–this allows funny results and a nice way for the different personalities to balance each other out.
A subset of my extroverted characters is “extroverted bookish”–extroverts who like to socialize, sure, but also like to read and aren’t just bouncing off the walls the whole time. 🙂 Extroverts are great people, guys. Be nicer to them in your stories.
Early Bird/Night Owl Couples
I do this on purpose to be funny. *evil laugh* But it’s a great way to get natural humor and natural conflict in a romantic relationship. There are exceptions; both Mary and Wilson from Gentle Fire are early birds, but generally, if one half of a relationship is a night owl, the other half is the opposite!
Ages 25 & Up
Maybe it’s because the older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know?–but my protagonists often end up in the late 20s and early 30s age range. Any character younger than this is likely to be inexperienced and still figuring out his or her life goals. In Empty Clockwork, Lennox is 23 years old and fits this bill perfectly. Susan is a slight exception; at age 17, she wants to use her money to support something worthy before she marries, but she is still looking for another purpose in life. Lord Fredericks, however, is 31; Henry is 36, and Ye Unnamed Character is in his mid-to-late 40s.
Durant from Gentle Fire is 22 when the story starts, and through mature for his age, he is inexperienced. But he’s in his mid-30s when the story ends (maybe closer to 40; it just depends on the story’s time span). Mary is 23 at the beginning of the story and also close to 40 when it ends, and Barros is in his early 40s when he enters the story and probably in his early 50s when it ends.
Sometimes I watch a movie or read a book, and know that I have to write a character inspired by Sydney Carton. Or Daniel Deronda. Or Jarrod Barkley. Or that inspiration comes from an actor’s performance or portrayal. For instance, after I watched The Phantom of the Opera: The 25th Anniversary Concert, I knew it was a matter of time before I wrote a character inspired by Hadley Fraser’s portrayal of Raoul. Same for Patrick Wilson’s portrayal of Raoul in the 2004 film, a performance that has actually inspired two characters.
Other inspiring characters/portrayals:
Samuel Diggs from Mercy Street
Mr. Green from Mercy Street
Milo Thatch from Atlantis: the Lost Empire
Billy Bob Thorton’s portrayal of Crockett from the 2004 film The Alamo
John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises
In other news…
Now, on a totally different topic, I’m thinking of making some changes to my blog. The color scheme, for instance; I may go for a blue scheme rather than a red one. Blue can symbolize depth and imagination, and that’s definitely an aesthetic I want . And on that note–I might change the blog title. The url will stay the same, but “Overflowing Mind & Pen” is a mouthful, and doesn’t really describe my content as much as the fact that, I think too much. Instead, I like the title “Analytical Imagination”–which describes both content and the fact that I think too much. 🙂 Your thoughts?