86-Ezra

Artwork Post – Randomness + New Fandoms

And there will be rambling and fangirling ahead.  🙂

So the weekly schedule of posting my artwork on Wednesday has become null and void. For one thing, I haven’t been drawing much until recently. For another I attempted National Novel Writing Month, and ended up with a checkered experience. I’ll probably post about that later. For now, I have plunged headlong into new fandoms and never looked back. And immortalized my obsessions with artwork.

First, I revisited the Christopher Nolan Batman universe with a quick drawing; I found a picture of Bruce giving a quirky look, and knew I had to draw it…

And I painted this scene of Christmas treats that turned out well…

So, the new fandoms?  One is an interest I never, repeat never, thought I would have.  Remember the doodle of Igor in my last artwork post?  It’s from the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  I was mildly interested in the film when it came out, but I read enough reviews to conclude that it wouldn’t be worth my time.  Then one final review changed my mind.  It called the film a genre mash-up, but claimed that the story didn’t examine how the genres influenced each other once combined.  Huh.  Since I also write genre mash-ups, I finally decided to watch the film, see if I agreed with that conclusion, and take note of what the story did right or wrong to learn for my own novels.

As it turned out, I do agree with the assessment in the review–but the main problem with the film is that it doesn’t ultimately know what it wants to be or what it wants to say.  Is this an origin story for Frankenstein or Igor?  Is Victor the true monster of the story, or a misunderstood genius, or both?  Is he sympathetic or a psychopath?  The film also included an ethical debate for and against creating life, but ended up a mixed bag of statements–sympathy is obviously with Victor’s argument, but on the other hand, the guy goes full-out psycho-obsessed with his creation before the end and contradicts his own initial motives.  To the point that you kinda have to side with Inspector Turpin…until he also becomes single-mindedly obsessed with stopping Victor…  Yeah, the story is a mess.  I want to review it, in-depth, but since I have the DVD on my wish list, I’ll wait to see if I get it for Christmas first.

Despite its problems, the story captured my imagination somehow, and won’t let go.  Hence, my drawing fan art.  🙂

Igor is absolutely precious and must be defended at all costs.  He is the kindhearted, sensitive, but loyal and resilient sort, and has already inspired a character of my own.  🙂

Quick sketch of Victor Frankenstein himself, though I have a better portrait in the works.

Quick sketch of Lorelei (Igor’s fellow performer at the circus and love interest and confidante).  (I usually start with a simple portrait/profile to practice drawing the characters proportions and features before moving onto a more difficult post or angle.)

Also in the works are drawings/paintings for Christine Smith’s work-in-progress The Nether Isle–her aesthetic for the story inspired me to draw/paint it, and Christine very kindly gave me permission to do so!  I have sketches or line art finished for four scenery drawings, and I hope to render them in watercolor very soon.  So stay tuned for that!

Also stay tuned for Part 2 of this artwork post, because to include the 8+ pieces of fan art for Star Wars: Rebels in this post, plus my incoherent fangirling opinions about the show, would make it ridiculously long.  🙂

86-Ezra

A Few Notes About Christine Daae, Part 2

It’s finally here!  And prepare for a loooong post…

Act II picks up at the Opera House’s masquerade party 6 months after the events of Act I.  The Phantom has been silent the whole time, and Raoul and the rest of the company believes him gone.  Christine, however, knows that the man has no choice but to live under the Opera House; and as far as she knows, he may still be obsessed with her.  Therefore, though she is excited about being Raoul’s bride, she begs him not to reveal their engagement yet.  And she knows Raoul still won’t believe her if she explains her reasoning.  She doesn’t want to rehash this point or argue, saying, “please pretend you will understand in time.”

Which means she doesn’t think he will ever understand.  She trusts Raoul and confides in him on other matters, but unless the Phantom literally shows up, Raoul isn’t going to believe her tale.  And Christine doesn’t want the Phantom to return to her life.  All she wants is freedom, remember, from that world of night.  So if he stays away, Raoul won’t understand what she was afraid of—but the two of them won’t have to deal with the Phantom’s anger either.

In fact, Christine is no doubt thinking of Raoul’s safety as well as her own.  The Phantom would be furious if he discovered their engagement—remember the way he lashed out at Raoul after the dressing room visit—and so she seeks protection for the two of them in secrecy.

These 6 months must have been uneasy for Christine.  The mentor who threatened her with “now you cannot ever be free!” has been oddly silent, but is no doubt still lurking somewhere.  And she lives in fear of her relationship with Raoul being discovered.  And she still stuck with Raoul.  For six months, under constant fear and uncertainty.  Which means she not only trusted him through those long months, but also that they remained faithful to each other in spite of this disagreement.

The musical doesn’t specify what she is waiting on, however, or when she would be comfortable announcing their engagement.  I suspect that she wants to affirm that the Phantom is gone from her life.  In fact, I think she planned to elope with Raoul that night on the roof, hence her line “order your fine horses, be with them at the door!”  But the falling chandelier made her pull back.  It reminded her that the Phantom was not gone from her life—and that consequences will follow if he finds out about her engagement.  Thus, she sought to keep Raoul and herself safe through secrecy, while maintaining her normal life—and watching for a confirmation that they were not suspected, and that the Phantom would not trouble her any more.

So when the Phantom appears at the masquerade, it is the incarnation of Christine’s fear.  She knew he was probably lurking around and possibly still obsessed with her.  His appearance and words confirm it.  And he will continue to terrorize the Opera House, with worse things “than a shattered chandelier” if the company doesn’t obey.

He also singles out Christine and declares: “Your chains are still mine—you will sing for me!”  This not only references his earlier remark, “Now you cannot ever be free!” it may also be a subtle communication that he knows of her engagement.  If she is figuratively chained, she cannot do what she wishes.  Since the Phantom controls those chains, only he can dictate what she can do and where she can go.  And rather than explain that he needs her to sing for his music (as he did earlier), now he commands it, treating it like a certainty.  Ultimately, Christine is helpless to change her situation—as such, if the Phantom decides to put a stop to her relationship with Raoul, he can, and he will.

When she comes to the managers’ office, she learns she has been cast in the star role of the Phantom’s opera—which did not ease her fears—and to top it off, Carlotta accuses her as the perpetrator of these problems.  Christine snaps, showing an outrage that she had never before displayed, and declares, “I don’t want any part of this plot!”  She’s mad at being blamed for this mess, but also angry of being accused of threats and manipulation—notice that she never once says something she doesn’t mean.

She also feels cornered.  The managers witnessed that nastily possessive order, “You will sing for me!” and their first instinct is not to protect her or put up any sort of fight, but to go along with those demands and cast her in the Phantom’s opera.  Andre pretends to be reasonable, but questions her reason for refusing; Firmin outright tells her that performing is her duty.  But Christine’s one fear is that the Phantom will take her again and would never let her go.  If she appeared in the opera, it would play right into his hands.

Though she feels attacked, cornered, and afraid—notice that she insists she won’t sing.  Commands of duty and faux-reasonableness do not sway her.  She has a spine of steel, and won’t let herself be pushed around once she’s decided to draw a line.  And all she wants now is to get away from the Phantom, from the shadows and uncertainties of the last few months—perhaps years, depending on how long the Phantom had been part of her life.  Six months earlier, she had starred in Ill Muto and admitted to Raoul that the Phantom’s music entranced her.  Now, she wants no more, and refuses the star role in Don Juan: “I cannot sing it, duty or not.”

What she intends to do instead is not specified, but regardless, the Phantom won’t give up that easily.  In his note, he appealed to her love for music, saying that her voice was good, but nowhere near excellence.  If that weren’t enough, he accuses her of rejecting his instruction out of pride.  And furthermore, he twists the situation to make it look like she was the one at fault in forsaking him.

He may also be communicating to her (again) that he knows of her engagement to Raoul.  By giving her a chance to return to him voluntarily, he forces her to make a choice: to ally with his music and his instruction, or to go with Raoul in “pride” that she needed no further instruction or protection.  But Christine’s response is instant and terrified: “I can’t.  I won’t do it.”  She is becoming more and more aware of the Phantom’s cunning and manipulation, and so rejects more and more of his advances.

During the chaos of everyone arguing over Raoul’s plan, Christine snaps again—though in fear rather than anger—and appeals to Raoul.  She tells him that the Phantom will take her back, whether she wants to go or not—“We’ll be parted forever; he won’t let me go!”  Think of that; separation from Raoul is one of her prime fears.  She knows good and well that the Phantom can do what he wants with her life.  He does not need to threaten her with danger.  His hold over her is stronger because she once trusted him, and he, in turn, revealed to her his lair and his desire for her to sing his music.  She does not want to return to him, but severing those once-personal ties and escaping him completely is harder than it sounds.  As such, her other fear is that she will never be able to escape the Phantom’s influence; “And he’ll always be there singing songs in my head…”

Raoul reminds her that she had said the Phantom was nothing but a man.  The libretto does not actually record this dialogue; I assume Raoul inferred this point from her conversation that night on the roof, or that Christine had said this directly during some scene that the musical did not show.  Either way, Raoul is right.  The Phantom is human, and Christine knows it.  But he is powerful in ways Raoul doesn’t understand.

Up until this point, Raoul had been Christine’s only ally.  Now she is understandably upset with his plan, yet she never accuses him of cruelty or harshness or going back on his word.  In fact, he is trying to fulfill his promise to her and get them both out of this mess.  And I think Christine knows it.  She feels “twisted every way,” but not because she fears he won’t protect her, or that his plan won’t work.  She doesn’t even accuse Raoul of being cruel towards the Phantom, and Christine is not in denial about the situation.  In fact, she understood the reality before she engaged herself to marry Raoul: that the Phantom was a danger to her and to others.  Matters have come to a crisis now, and they can’t disentangle themselves the way she hoped they could.

On the one hand, her dilemma is deeply personal: “Can I betray the man who once inspired my voice?”  Though she will not return to her music lessons, she recognizes the gift he gave her, and this recognition shows her to be a humble young woman.  Furthermore, trust is one of Christine’s highest values.  To betray someone she had once trusted—to use against him the skills he taught her, to use her voice to trap him, must have violated nearly everything she believed right.  And she may be very reluctant to treat the Phantom the way he once treated her.  She wants no revenge, has no wish to betray him as he once betrayed her.  She just wants out of the situation.

But on the other hand, this problem is not personal: “He kills without a thought; he murders all that’s good.”  It’s not just her life at stake.  And deep down, she seems to know that she has a duty to do this: “I know I can’t refuse and yet I wish I could!”  The fact that Raoul and others are depending on her and her alone to free them from the danger only adds to her torment.

But I don’t think Raoul could have forced Christine to sing.  She’s close to people she loves, and she hates to disappoint and hates to be pressured—but she is capable of standing her chosen ground.  Remember that she insisted the Phantom was real that night on the rooftop, in spite of protests from the man she loved.  And she insisted on keeping their engagement secret for six months, and barely five minutes earlier, had flat-out refused to sing in Don Juan.

Ultimately, she knows what she must do, yet can’t bring herself to do it.  She runs out of the room in conflict and torment, without deciding one way or the other.

Torn between choices, hesitant to betray the Phantom, and afraid she’ll lose Raoul forever, Christine turns to her memories of her father.  She visits the cemetery where he’s buried, which is as close as she can get to him now.  It’s interesting that she did not go to Raoul with her emotional turmoil here.  She may have been a little upset with him for persuading her to betray the Phantom—but then again, she may have just wanted some alone time.

“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is a gorgeous number, but it’s vital to the story on several levels.  It indirectly reveals a good deal about Christine’s heart and loyalty.  She describes her father as her “one companion” and “all that mattered.”  She describes him as “friend and father,”—and says that her world was shattered by his death.  With such a close relationship between them, it’s easier to understand that Christine trusted his last promise and was desperate for any connection to him.  And so fell for the whole “Angel of Music” thing.

The musical doesn’t specify how long it had been since her father died, but the lyrics give the impression that it happened some time ago, and that she’d been on her own for years.  And she longs for those days when he was alive, when none of this fear, loneliness, uncertainty existed.  His death and the lack of companionship in her life seems to have haunted her, affected her deeply even while performing as a simple ballet/chorus girl in the Opera House.

But as she remembers and grieves, she realizes that living in the past is not the solution: “Dreaming of you won’t help me to do all that you dreamed I could.”  And she realizes that she must let go of her memories, of that last promise, and move forward.  She will still miss her father, still wish he was there, but she will no longer depend on this longing and her memories: “…Knowing we must say good-bye.  Try to forgive; teach me to live!  Give me the strength to try!”

And by the end of the song, she makes her final decision: “No more memories!  No more silent tears!  No more gazing across the wasted years.  Help me say good-bye.”

This is tremendous strength of character, and a pivotal plot point.  For after this song, Christine herself does not slip into the past.  She deals with the situation as it is.  She also resolves to sing in Don Juan, regardless of the consequences—the conflict at the cemetery seemed to convince her, once and for all, that the Angel she had trusted must be stopped.

The Phantom, of course, is not entirely happy with this turn of events.  He attempts to call Christine back to him; and it’s interesting that in the managers’ office, his note appealed to her love of music and their mentor-student relationship.  Now he appeals to her love and loyalty toward her father, a bond that no one else would fully understand.

Christine, for her part, differentiates between “friend or Phantom.”  The two are no longer one and the same in her mind.  She also no longer follows a mysterious voice without question, and wants to know who is there.  But she quickly figures out it’s the Phantom, and picks up, at least to some degree, on hidden motives in his appearance: “Angel, oh speak!—what endless longings echo in this whisper?”  Christine made several mistakes in her thinking and emotions, but she is not an idiot, guys.  And my sister pointed out that she is fairly emotionally stable—she is affected by the traumatic circumstances, but she doesn’t totally break down under everything that happened.

The Phantom gives her a second chance to return to him voluntarily—and Christine feels the pull, but fights it: “Wildly, my mind beats against you, but my soul obeys!”  At first glance, it seems weird that she chooses to let go of the past, and then immediately falls back under the Phantom’s spell.  But the Phantom is manipulating her in a personal way here.  And manipulating her, as I specified in my Raoul post, where she is most vulnerable.  Also, Christine still feels a pull to the Phantom and his music, but it’s one that she does not want to submit to.

Though on the point of returning to the Phantom, she finally hears Raoul’s frantic call, and runs back to him.  It’s also strange, at first glance, that Christine chooses to let go of the past, but then Raoul has to be the one to snap her out of her trance.  However, this is actually a balance of what each of them are responsible for.  Raoul helps her where she cannot help herself (and his appearance perhaps reaffirms Christine’s knowledge that he will protect her).  And she sticks to her resolve to leave the past behind.  After his song, she does all she can to resist the Phantom, and she chooses to sing in Don Juan to put an end to his behavior and his threat.

After what happened at the cemetery, Christine could not be any more comfortable about the situation—the Phantom still clearly wants her under his authority, and will do whatever he can to call her back to him, thus separating her from Raoul.  And she sings in Don Juan anyway.  She no doubt trusted that Raoul would be nearby to protect her and trusted that his plan would actually work.  Of course, nobody expected that the Phantom would appear onstage in disguise to play role of Don Juan himself.  Christine doesn’t realize it until the end of “The Point of No Return.”

And I have to pause and make some important points about this song.  It’s strongly implied to be a sexual song (or at least to have sexual subtext), and the fact that Christine sings it with the Phantom (though he’s in disguise) makes it an emotionally charged duet.  Right?

Wrong.  Christine thinks she’s singing with Piangi.  She doesn’t realize who her Don Juan really is until the end of the song.  Did she have those feelings toward Piangi?  I think not.  I believe Christine was acting a part, that she did not feel (at least not completely) everything the song was trying to put to put into her head.  And if you think about it, the Phantom—once again—is manipulating her into saying and doing things she might not have done of her own free will.

And on that note, “Point of No Return” is also cited as a metaphor for the Phantom’s life.  It’s also something of metaphor for Christine’s involvement with him.  Her first line could well describe her innocent trust right when he came into her life: “No thoughts within her head but thoughts of joy; no dreams within her heart but dreams of love!”  The Phantom knows exactly what is going on; Christine has “come here, hardly knowing the reason why.”

But by the end of the song, Christine figures out who the other singer really is.  And if she had any doubts that the Phantom knew of her engagement to Raoul, those doubts vanish when he sings the exact lines Raoul had sung to her six months ago.

I was always confused about why she pulled off his mask.  Screaming something like “that’s the man, catch him!” might have succeeded better, and since he reacted so histrionically when she pulled it off the first time, what did she expect he’d do this time?  However, it’s possible that she did it to communicate to him the way he’d been subtly communicating to her: that she knew the truth of his actions and motives, and that she was not afraid of him anymore.

But the Phantom evades capture of the police and drags Christine down to his lair—as she’d earlier feared he would.

Up until this point, Christine had tried simply to evade the Phantom.  Now she confronts him directly, and accuses him of his moral crimes: “Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood!”  And demands to know what his intentions are towards her: “Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?”  A huge change from the girl who once followed him into his lair without a question.

She has also realized that the darkness and twistedness in his heart was the problem, not his face.  Yes, he had been denied love, even from his mother.  Yes, he had been wrongfully outcast from society.  But his circumstances are not responsible for his actions—he alone is.  This is another great change from her character at the beginning of the musical: rather than being terrified to disobey or to challenge him, she tells him honestly that he had let this deformity twist his heart into something terrible.  The Phantom had spent the entire musical trying to manipulate her; she, on the other hand, tells him the truth about himself.  She doesn’t even address the fact that the Phantom threatened to keep her beside him for eternity; she focuses instead on the root of the matter.

She may also believe, or hope, that he will change his heart and turn from this path.  It was a bold move to tell him that his soul was more deformed than his face; it might tip him over the edge, and Christine, of all people, knew how angry he got when opposed.  Though she will no longer succumb to his manipulation and lies, the very fact that she points out his problem means she hopes that he might listen—and that she is concerned about the state of his soul.

On the other hand, when Raoul shows up, she cries that reasoning with the Phantom was “useless”—she may be afraid that the Phantom will explode if opposed by anyone else, and might take that anger out upon Raoul.  Which is exactly what happens.  The Phantom forces Christine to make a choice: stay with me, and Raoul will go free.  “Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!”

Here, Christine snaps.  None of his other actions had brought out her hatred; but now she tells him, “The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold—and turn to tears of hate!”

And she denounces him: “Farewell my fallen idol and false friend!”  She calls him as “Angel of Music” a few lines later, but the tone is almost in condemnation, referring to the role he had masqueraded to use her.  At the same time, she appeals to the fact that he, of all people, should understand the pain of being tormented for something not his fault: “Angel of Music, who deserves this?  Why do you curse mercy?”  She further accuses him of deceiving her–but also that she gave her mind blindly.  She realized he took advantage of her, but also that she was too trusting in the first place.

But her reasoning and pleas do not move him.  And Christine must choose whether to stay with the Phantom or to refuse to give up Raoul and so condemn him to death.

What she chooses to do is a strangely independent decision.  The Phantom is forcing her hand, yes, and there’s no way to get out of the situation.  But Christine does not simply give into his demands.  She sees his ignorance, misery, and loneliness, and she chooses to pity him and to show him compassion.  The very fact that she has a loved one whom the Phantom can use against her contrasts starkly with the lack of companionship in his own life.

This compassion is incredible.  Think about it: the man whom she trusted as a messenger from her father lied to her, deceived her, threatened her, manipulated her into singing a sexual song for his own benefit, betrayed her, and threatened to kill her fiancé.  And she still pitied him.  Her choice is not easy; she says, “God give me courage to show you you are not alone.”  But she offers the Phantom compassion, not ignoring or excusing his actions–she knows exactly who he is and what he had done–but choosing to extend mercy instead of judgment.

And she isn’t trying to manipulate the Phantom into setting Raoul free either.  Christine is honest and values trust, and it doesn’t make sense she would use the Phantom’s emotions like that.  I believe she truly chose to stay with him, partly to free Raoul, yes but also because he needed someone to show him compassion and mercy, to give him the love that others had wrongfully withheld.

But this choice shows the Phantom, instantly and clearly, how he is wrong, and that he himself is not showing Christine true love.  And he sets her and Raoul free.

Christine loses no time in fleeing with Raoul, yet she returns for a moment to give the Phantom back his ring.  I’m not sure whether she meant it to be a memento of her, as he would probably never see her again, or whether she felt it wrong to keep something that he had offered her that she did not accept.  Perhaps both.  Then she returns to Raoul, asking him to reaffirm his promise to “say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.”  And she reaffirms her promise to him: “Say you’ll share with me each night, each morning.”

It’s up for debate whether Christine loved the Phantom romantically; the libretto is ambiguous enough that each actress can put her own spin on it.  But I don’t believe Christine loved the Phantom.  She is initially too trusting–but that’s exactly the point: she wants to trust her guide and protector.  Her faith in the Phantom was broken, never to be restored, and she seems to trust Raoul unconditionally, and to give him the same faithfulness he provides her.  She is also so honest that it makes no sense that she would string Raoul along in their relationship, nor to pretend she was afraid of the Phantom when she secretly loved him.  And the love she showed her former mentor was unconditional, sacrificial love, based on his needs, rather than romantic love.

Christine, in a nutshell, is a kind, observant, compassionate, trusting young woman–a  too trusting at first–but with a spine of steel and determination once she’s drawn the line.  She loves people deeply, but she picks up quickly on the realities of the situation.  She has the strongest character arc in the story and makes the choices to grow and to move on.  Yet she remains gentle and compassionate, uses her love to bless and not manipulate.  She’s a layered character who grows.  And there’s so much more to her than meets the eye.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

86-Ezra

Artwork Whatever-Day-I-Get-To-It Post

Seriously, I’ve fallen behind in my Artwork Wednesday posts.  Sorry about that.  On the plus side, I have a lot of art to showcase since it’s been so long!

Only now that I’m uploading this do I notice the terrible photography quality  Sorry, guys.  Ahem.  This is a watercolor doodle/sketch, and I did this freehand (meaning with no line art), and it’s not too bad.  🙂  I particularly liked how the wall and the shadows turned out.

A colored pencil drawing of Easter lilies!  Which subject makes perfect sense, given that it’s almost November.  🙂  Anyway, I had the line art for this sitting in my sketchbook for weeks before I finally finished it, using the techniques I mentioned in this post.

Quick colored pencil sketch (and this drawing is little bitty in my sketchbook, maybe 2″x3″).  Adobe buildings have joined my List of Favorite Things to Draw, along with oranges, pumpkins, sunset cactus silhouettes, and Sydney  Carton.

When my friend HeatherJoy LaHaye (you can read her guest post here) visited New Mexico recently, she snapped a lot of pictures, sent them to me, and gave me permission to use them as painting reference!  (Thanks again, Heather!)  So here are some adobe ruins, rendered in watercolor and copied from one of her photographs.

It’s time to start working on my Christmas paintings!  I like to get them done before December.

This is my favorite recent piece, guys: a watercolor portrait of my character Sanchia from Gentle Fire.  It was so thrilling to get her complexion and hair color the right shades, and her expression just right as well!

Also, I meant to paint sewing supplies in the basket and first forgot to sketch them, then quit caring and just made the basket empty.  #lazyartist

And then here are some doodles, sketches, and works-in-progress…

The corner of the cabin that Durant shares with his nephews.  (Soon after snapping this picture, I realized I’d messed up the proportions, so I’ll probably trace it onto a fresh sheet of paper and redo it at some point.)

Durant and soon-to-be Alex.  (Also starring: the shadow of my arm across the paper!)

Sketches for the components of another southwestern painting (that I haven’t actually painted yet).

Sketch of a tropical scene that I will eventually paint.

Doodle of Igor from the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  I plan to (a) draw better doodles in the future, and (b) probably review the film, in-depth, after I finish my Christine posts.

That’s all for now, but I’m working on more drawings and paintings–and so I might get another art post up sooner than later!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

86-Ezra

Favorite Character Types, Part 2

So, it turns out that I left out some character types from my last post!  And it’s becoming a tradition for me to publish 2-part posts–and on that note, Part 2 of A Few Note About Christine Daae is coming up, so stay tuned.  🙂

But for now, on to the character types!

The Responsible Eldest Sibling

Without, being over-protective, mind; it is possible to be responsible without being neurotic.  Right, siblings of mine?

*cricket chirps*

Anyway, I greatly respect the eldest child who takes the responsibility and power that comes with being the firstborn.  Younger siblings are watching, and they will pick up on the attitudes and actions of the eldest.  The eldest child also is the first to take on more chores, the first to drive the car, the first to have to balance school and social life, and so on–and therefore, they can help teach those things to the younger kids.  Also, I have a thing for protective characters.

Katniss Everdeen fits this category, as does Gale Hawthorne (if you’ve read the books, you know that he has younger brothers and one sister).  So does Peter Pevensie, Maedhros from The Silmarillion (to a degree), Rachel Lennox from Dancing Shoes, Roberta from The Railway Children, Ben and Polly Pepper from Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (Ben is the eldest, but he and Polly share the responsibilities of looking after the younger children), Dominick Rigonda from The Island Queen, and Sir Percy Ashwell from Elisabeth Allen’s The Abolitionist.

The Cynical Softie

This is the guy who seems hard, bitter, and tough, “like an India-rubber ball,” as Mr. Rochester says, but who is really a softie at heart, more caring than he lets on, and was perhaps hopeful and idealistic before he got knocked around by life.  This doesn’t excuse his behavior, by any means–but it does mean there’s more to him than meets the eye.  And it means the potential for redemption as well.

Sydney Carton is probably the poster boy for this type, but Mr. Rochester fits the bill too.  Puddleglum from The Silver Chair also fits this category; he isn’t exactly cynical, though he does believe in taking a serious view of life.  But he looks after Jill and Eustace with determination and puts very odd twists of cheerfulness on the situation–because one good thing about being stuck underground is that you don’t get any rain.

The Optimist

To be honest, I fit the category of softhearted cynic.  ‘Cause life is a total bed of roses, don’t you know.  But even in this sin-cursed world, there is hope and light and happiness.  And I love those ever-optimistic characters who remind me (and readers) of that truth.

The optimist is the guy who can’t be discouraged for very long.  He always hopes–always, even after being disappointed multiple times.  He may develop a slightly less rose-colored view of the world as the story goes on, but he refuses to be beaten down and given into despair.  He can always find a reason to be cheerful–and a reason to persevere.

Sam Gamgee is definitely one example; Pippin Took is another; and Bilbo Baggins has shades of this in The Hobbit.  Other characters of this type are Caspian and Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Outgoing & Bookish

This is the character who is definitely an extrovert, but who isn’t the empty-headed, party kid stereotype.  On the contrary, this characters loves to be around other people, but loves to read and learn just as much.  They handle their problems, goals, hobbies, and conflicts differently than the introverted characters–but they are no less intelligent and focused.

Unfortunately, I can’t think too many characters who fit this label except the ones I’ve written (writers–be nicer to extroverts, please.)  I consulted with Gingersnap, and she came up with Nim from the movie Nim’s Island (yes, it’s a book too, but I’ve seen only the movie).  Edmund Pevensie also fits this type–he’s stated outright to have read several detective novels, but he also is the sort to say what’s on his mind.  And then after the events of Prince Caspian, Caspian himself is far more outgoing than he once was, but he was also bookish to a degree when young.  Also Jane Porter from the Disney cartoon Tarzan and Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey.  And Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

The Sharp Wit

Have I mentioned I love a sharp wit?  From the outgoing sassmasster to the deadpan snarker, I love quick-minded characters.  This guy is never at a loss for words, but rather than being a blabbermouth, his lines are clever and witty.  And he often makes a good point about the situation (though his remarks can easily turn into complaining).  No matter what situation or argument you throw at this guy, he can fire back an answer and usually dismantle your point in the process.

Tony Stark fits the outgoing sassmaster type (though he does overlap with Deadpan Snarker as well), and so does Legolas from The Lord of the Rings (this may come as a surprise–but read his dialogue again.  He’s not exactly the subtle, deadpan type!).  Also Peter Parker/Spiderman, and Anakin Sykwalker.

More character than I can name fit the deadpan snarker category: Haymitch Abernathy, Sydney Carton, Captain America, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner, Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, Edmund Pevensie, Aragorn, Merry, sometimes Gandalf, Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Selena Kyle, The Phantom of the Opera, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Eames and Arthur from the film Inception, and so many others that I can’t recall all their names.

And believe me, I write this type of character too.

The Reasonable Authority Figure

Authorities get a bad rap in fiction, don’t they?  They’re often overbearing, un-listening, and always block the protagonist’s path.  If they’re fat and they have a mustache, you know they’re a bad guy.  And if he’s a bigwig in charge of a lot of companies/employees/whatever, he’s bound to let it go to his head.

Which is why I love the reasonable authority figure.  He is dedicated to his job, but also willing to listen to the protagonist.  (Which is no easy feat; lest’s face it, the trouble protagonists run into are often really, really hard to prove and convince others of.)  And though he’s patient with the main character, he will not hesitate to call out our hero if he’s being a jerk.

James Green from Mercy Street fits this type.  So does Doctor Thorne from the TV drama of the same name (yes, I know it’s a Trollope novel too, but I haven’t read it).  Alfred Pennyworth (from The Dark Knight trilogy) is a reasonable authority figure, as is Jarrod Barkley and Victoria Barkley from The Big Valley.

So there you have it!  What are your favorite character types?  Are there any others you’d add to these categories?

86-Ezra

Absent-Minded, Much?

As I typed away at a story idea, I scrolled down the page and suddenly came across a paragraph from an hour or so ago–

–or rather, the beginning of a paragraph, because all I’d written was “Also suppose that”

And I can’t remember for the life of me what I was supposing.  Let’s hope that this poor, dangling idea wasn’t anything too important!

86-Ezra

Favorite Character Types

I loved Chelsea’s post about her favorite types of characters, and she kindly let me borrow the idea for my own blog!  These are the folks I most enjoy reading about:

The Principled/Steadfast Fighter

Captain America is probably the poster boy for this type!

This character may fit into the generic “good guy” category, but his (or her) defining feature is dedication to what he believes is right.  Characters such as Captain America, John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises, Jarrod Barkley from The Big Valley, Jane Eyre, Fanny Price, Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games, King Tirian from The Last Battle, and Puddleglum from The Silver Chair.  (Gloomy as Puddleglum is, when things are on the line, he’s steadfast in his principles!)

And this kind of character doesn’t always win the battle–Travis from The Alamo is this type (though, in a twist, definitely not a generic good guy).  But while winning the battle is important, for this character, doing what he believes is right is the ultimate fight.  And I love these kinds of characters because they give me hope, inspire me to stand up for my principles.

The Gentle/ Good-Hearted Fighter

Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda from the 2002 mini-series.

This is the guy who may seem like he’s too mild or gentle or soft-hearted to fight–but for these guys, Good Is Not Soft.  This is the character who cares deeply about his world, his loved ones, and his morals, and because of that deep love, he fights as fiercely as any hardened warrior.  Frodo and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings are the prime examples, but others are Jean Valjean, Samuel Diggs from Mercy Street, Igor from Victor Frankenstein, Fanny Price (again), and Bilbo Baggins.  Possibly also Daniel Deronda.  Steve Barton’s portrayal of Raoul also fits this category.  Just listen to his rendition of “All I Ask of You”–he’s understated, but earnest, and you can tell that he’d be willing to walk through fire for Christine.

This character is a subset of the principled fighter, but I enjoy this type because their fierceness is unexpected.  They get the upper hand because they look too tender to  do any damage–and yet they ultimately care so very deeply they’re willing to lay down their lives to defend what they love.  Durant from my story Gentle Fire is definitely this type.

The No-Nonsense Mentor

A comic I drew back in 2013!

Forget the wise old man smoking a pipe and delivering quiet (if vague) words of wisdom; I like the mentors who tell it like it is and won’t put up with your whining, who whip ya into shape, and have a sharp wit to boot.  Think Gandalf, Alfred Pennyworth, Obi-Wan from the prequels, and Captain Pellew from the Horatio Hornblower TV series.  Dr. Livesey from Treasure Island kinda fits this category as well.

I think I like this type because the “wise old man” mentor type seems to deliver very vague advice and let the hero figure out the context/deeper meaning on his own.  And if I were a young hero-in-training, I would be incredibly frustrated.  Either tell me what to do point blank, or let me do it my way.  No waffling in between those options, please.  And the no-nonsense mentor does not waffle.  Their advice is “take it or leave it.”  That, and I love a sharp wit.  🙂

Honest, Honorable Men

These guys get labelled “bland” or “boring” because All Girls Want Bad Boys–until we’re pestered by that one boy who won’t take no for an answer, and then our distaste for honorable men comes back to bite us.

Ahem.  Sorry, got sidetracked.  But seriously, what’s wrong with a respectful and honest guy?  Just because they lack an edgy dark side doesn’t mean they’re boring.  Case in point would be Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  Many people compare him to Sydney Carton and declare Sydney a more interesting character.  But that doesn’t mean Charles is one-dimensional.  He makes mistakes.  He should have told his family he was heading back to France.  His pride was nettled as Englishmen ridiculed the French aristocracy, the class to which he belonged–even though he had renounced his heritage.  And just look at his interactions with Lucie—when alone with his beloved, this honest, straightforward, principled young man turns into a sentimental softie who calls her pet names.  It’s adorable.

(And from a story analysis perspective, if Charles hadn’t been honorable and honest, Sydney would probably not have been inspired to change.  Comparing himself to Charles showed him what he could be, if he just made the effort.  But that’s another topic for another post.)

Other honest, honorable characters are Jarrod Barkley, Daniel Deronda, Mr. Darcy, and Edward Ferras from Sense & Sensibility, and James Green from Mercy Street.  A female example would be Jane Eyre (actually,  we could use  more female characters in this category.  I specified male characters because I respect those qualities, and I”m tired of the bad boy attraction, but women ought to be honest and honorable too.)

The Leader

This is how I picture Peter Pevensie!

I love a man who takes charge (without being a bully) and who knows what to do in the situation.  A man with initiative and willing to plunge right into things and get involved.  I can’t express how much I love the leaders!.  Characters like Jarrod Barkley, Captain America, Peter Pevensie, Aragorn, Hadley Fraser’s Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, and  Lucky Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

I like the leaders because, first of all, that is the role God assigned to men.  And I respect a man who embraces that role and doesn’t let the culture dictate otherwise.  It’s also quite admirable when a man sees what needs to be done and steps up to the plate, takes the responsibility of handling a sticky situation and tries to solve the problems that get thrown his way.

The Tragic Hero/Antagonist

Henry Jekyll

Often presented in a cautionary tale, I like the heroes who definitely have a downward arc, but who also have either a valid point about the situation or good intentions.  Characters like Javert from Les Miserables: he’s often viewed as the antagonist with no room for mercy or grace in his mind–but think just how sad that is!  Also, as much as I root for Valjean, he did break his parole.  Javert was justified in at least locating the fugitive.

Other such characters would be Robert Angier from The Prestige (film), Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Oh, and Boromir, my goodness.  Possibly also Maedhros from The Silmarillion; I relate to that guy more than I should (we’re both the eldest, both responsible, both very honor/duty driven, devastated by any mistakes that violate those last two values…)  And I would argue Gale Hawthorne fits into this category.  Because he was determined, intelligent, intuitive, and creative.  And he misused all that, even though he was trying to help win the war.

I am honestly not sure why I like this kind of character.  I don’t enjoy watching someone destroy themselves–maybe it’s a combination of respect for whatever good intentions the character has, plus a sobering warning.

Silk Hiding Steel

These are the ladies who seem like products of their time (in historical fiction) or the so-hated doormats in a contemporary setting.  These ladies are actually not doormats.  They are quiet but firm, gentle but principled–and as such, when push comes to shove, they are unflinching, industrious, and intelligent with spines of steel.  Lucie Manette, for example.  She was gentle and compassionate, and she spends most of the book caring for her family.  She also followed her husband to France when he was unjustly imprisoned, worked bravely in a foreign country where she was in constant danger of being also imprisoned herself, and every day, journeyed to a corner of the street where her husband might be able to see her if he could get to one of the upper windows of the prison.  And she stood there for two hours to let him catch a glimpse of her when he was able to.  Every day.  Just to encourage her imprisoned husband and remind him that she was there for him.  She also suffered no breakdowns, and she persevered through apprehension and uncertainty for two years.  Oh, and the Reign of Terror was going on during this time.   Lucie swoons only after her husband is unjustly imprisoned for the second time and sentenced to death.  How in the world is she a weak character?

Or take Christine from The Phantom of the Opera.  She seems naive and overly-trusting–but notice that she trusts only those people she considers friends.  Which at first included the Phantom, but after she learns his true identity, she flees from him and never ultimately trusts him again.  She also, after being lied to and betrayed by the man she considered her mentor, was not afraid to love again, and trusted Raoul to protect her (even though she disagreed with his methods later).  And after all that–she remained compassionate toward the man who had hurt her so badly.  Christine is awesome, guys.  For deeper analysis of her character, check out my post here.

Jane Eyre also fits this Silk Hiding Steel category, and Elinor Dashwood , Fanny Price, Emma Green from Mercy Street, and Lisa Carew from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Probably others I can’t think of just now.  🙂

So there you have it, some of my favorite character types!  Are there any more you would add to the list?

Save

86-Ezra

Beautiful Books 2017

This month, instead of Beautiful People (where you talk about your characters), Sky’s link-up is Beautiful Books, where you talk about your work-in-progress!

I’ve mentioned several stories/story ideas here, but my true WIP is a semi- western Gentle Fire.  “Semi”–because the setting is based off early 1800s Anglo and Mexican cultures, but the story world is an imaginary one.  Whoop, wait, I guess I should be talking about this in the questions!  So off we go.

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

The 2004 film The Alamo inspired this story…and what particularly grabbed my imagination was the idea of a very young man thrust into a leadership position that would be hard to fulfill with success.  I wondered how I might handle such a situation…how someone else might handle that situation..and Durant’s character and motives and flaws appeared almost instantly (though he’s also grown and changed since I got the initial idea).

A contributing inspiration was one of my pet peeves.  I’ll explain.  🙂  Through 2016, I got sick and tired of the “you can succeed if you work hard enough” message that appears in a lot of Hollywood stories (just about every sports film I’ve seen and several artist/writer/performance arts films.  Plus a lot of the personal stories on American Ninja Warrior).  Now sometimes, work and perseverance do pay off, and they’re inherently good qualities. But they don’t absolutely guarantee success, and I remember the night my annoyance with this message solidified.  My family and I were watching The Martian (with liberal editing and TV Guardian, mind you), and after astronaut Mark Watney is stranded–alone–on Mars with no chance of rescue, he declares to himself, “I’m not gonna die.”  Dad pointed out, “See, that’s his determination.”  And I remember thinking, “You know he could still die, right?  No matter how hard he works?”  Yes, it was good initiative that Watney didn’t mope about his predicament or give up.  But that scene nonetheless struck me as hollow, because there was a distinct possibility of failure.

Okay, this is sounding cynical.  But here’s what I would rather see: stories like the The Alamo and The Lord of the Rings, where the characters fight for their values.  Principles and people they “are willing to fight, and possibly die, for,” whether or not they succeed.  I am definitely encouraged by those examples.  And I’ve worked all that into Gentle Fire.

I got the initial story concept in April, 2016 (and commemorated the event by making April 24th Durant’s birthday.  🙂 ).

Describe what your novel is about!

Durant wants to live in peace with his family in their frontier home, but the west is too far from the mother country to receive consistent help, and it has no organized government.  As the family struggles against wilderness and the lawlessness, Durant fights to help establish a government to safeguard his new home and make it prosperous.  And he is keenly aware of the consequences of failure.

Well, lookee there, I managed to write a short synopsis!  🙂

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

The landscapes are modeled after places in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, with some south Texas-inspired landscapes here and there.  The northern most parts of my imaginary world are mostly mountains; the midlands have slopes and woods dominating, and the southern most portions are desert-ish areas.  As such, the southern towns and homes are built from adobe (with a few lumber houses for those who could afford the material), while the northern towns and homes are often log cabins.  However, these varied landscapes all belong to one colony of one nation, and Mexicans and Anglos live together in several areas, and those towns/communities are often a blend of the two cultures.

Music has also inspired lots of plot points, story twists, and general settings.  These songs in particular:

“West, Pioneer!” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Homeland” (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)

“In The New World” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Listen to the Mockingbird” (The Alamo)

“Sell Our Lives Dearly” (The Alamo)

“Where You’ve Always Been” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Home Away from Home” (James Galway & Phil Coulter, Winter’s Crossing)

“Flares” (The Script, No Sound Without Silence)

“Hard Times” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Hymn for the Heartland” (James Galway & Phil Coulter, Winter’s Crossing)

“El Bexareno” (The Alamo [note: my keyboard won’t make Spanish accent marks; hope the meaning is clear enough!])

“Clancy’s Theme” (The Man From Snowy River)

“La Zandunga” (The Alamo)

Introduce us to each of your characters!

*looks at list of17+ characters*  Or…maybe just the most prominent ones?  But rather than narrating personalities, I’ll list the tropes from tvtropes.org that apply to my characters.

Durant

Beware the Nice Ones – Threaten Durant’s values or family, and he will not go quietly.  His reactions range from calling you out to insubordination (though he always tries the peaceable solution first).

Cannot Spit It Out – He’s definitely better with written communication.

Deadpan Snarker –  In some instances (the flip side of the trope above!)

Friend to All Children – He loves kids, adores his niece and nephews, and he likes teaching (and prefers the vocation of schoolmaster to anything else).

Knight in Sour Armor – He turns into this.

Not A Morning Person – And often wakened by nephews bouncing on him in the morning.

Alex huffed.  “Why are you always sleeping?”

Durant turned over.  “I beg your pardon, you rascal.”

The Quiet One – Initially, but he opens up once get he gets to know someone.  And he’s laid back and more cheerful around his family.

Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? – He hates public attention.

Mary

Deadpan Snarker – Definitely.

Determined Homesteader – She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty working with Wilson to establish their homestead.

Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand – Mary manages to uphold a combination of the two.

Good Parents – To Alex, Luke, and later, Sophie.  She and Wilson want to have more children once they get settled in their new home (even though pregnancies are often difficult for her).

Happily Married – To Wilson.

Honest Advisor – Mary can see through smoke screens, recognize when both sides have a point–and she tells it like it is.

Humble Goal – She wants to build a comfortable home for herself and her family.

Mama Bear – Don’t mess with her kids, or you’ll be looking down the wrong end of her musket.

Team Chef – She absolutely loves to cook and to keep hearty meals on the table for her family.

Wilson

(I really need to draw a proper portrait of Wilson!)

Determinator – He has a type-A streak that can make him stubborn.

Determined Homesteader – Wilson is a farmer through and through and honestly prefers to get his living from the soil.

Does Not Know His Own Strength – While Wilson is incredibly gentle with his wife and kids, he sometimes falls prey to this. He once gave Durant a friendly back slap–that was so strong, Durant stumbled forward a step or two. And then refused to quit teasing Wilson about it.

Good Parents – To Alex, Luke, and later, Sophie.

Happily Married – To Mary.

Humble Goal – He wants land of his own and a working farm to pass down to his sons someday.

Mellow Fellow – He’s laid-back and cheerful–usually.

Papa Wolf – Mess with his family, and you’re going to wish you hadn’t.

(Don’t have a drawing of Barros yet.  Sorry.)

Barros

Papa Wolf – To daughters Teresita and Maria.

Reluctant Hero – Subverted; Barros defends his family and values without a second thought, he but he would rather lead on a social level than go into politics.  Guess how well that preference works out.

Reasonable Authority Figure – He generally listens to all parties, and never acts without thinking carefully. On the other hand, he can also make up his mind quickly when needed.

(I’m still developing his character, which is why there aren’t as many tropes for his personality yet.)

Sanchia

Friend to All Children – Possibly because she has several younger brothers and sisters (and a couple of older ones; I think she’s the third child of nine kids).

Humble Goal – To help support her family.  She loves them dearly.

Nice Girl – She’s warm and enthusiastic (without being overly effusive) and friendly.

Plucky Girl – She tries to cheer others up and isn’t easily discouraged.

Proper Lady – As per the social and cultural standards of the time (though in a twist on this trope, she’s not an upper-class lady).

Silk Hiding Steel – She moved to a foreign colony–alone–to work as a seamstress and earn money for her family .  At age 17.

Spicy Latina – Actually subverted to averted, depending on your perspective.  Sanchia is passionate for her values and tends to push others to fulfill their talents and callings, but she’s also down-to-earth and patient and cheerful.

The Social Expert – She’s outgoing, observant, and a good conversationalist!

(Characters not featured here: Alex, Luke, Sophie, Teresita, Maria, Jacobs, Harrison, Williams, Jackson, Dennis, Eduardo and Dolores, various others who haven’t been named yet.)

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Lots and lots of planning.  I need to know my characters thoroughly before starting the book, and I need to know what the story is ultimately saying, and where the major plot points are, as well as where everything ends up.  As such, I’ve been planning this novel for over a year, and only just beginning to write it.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Writing Durant’s character and journey and growth (and he does grow a lot).  And I look forward to writing the world and how the characters react to it and influence it.  I also think the story and its settings and problems are fresh twists on the western genre, and so it’ll be fun to play with all those ideas!

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  1. Most characters refer to the frontier as “the western colonies” or just “the colonies”–since the new land was founded by the eastern government for economic benefit.
  2. Anglos and Mexicans live together in the colonies and eventually created a blend of cultures.   The land being harsh and rugged, the colonies of the two nations engaged in trade and came to depend upon one another a good deal.
  3. The story is set during the dawn of the west, during the 820s–30s.  As such, the fashions are 30s style (both Anglo and Mexican) and the weapons are muskets and flintlock rifles.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

See the synopsis above.  🙂  Durant really just wants to be left alone and live in peace with his family.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Spoilers!  This is actually a key point, so I’ll keep it under wraps for now.  (And maybe intrigue people by doing so…mwa-ha-ha!  🙂 )

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Again, spoilers!  I’d rather let readers figure this out for themselves!  As for the readers’ feelings…I’ve noticed a trend of bittersweet endings in my stories.  Think The Return of the King bittersweet.  So there’s that–but I would want the readers to feel quietly inspired.  I say “quietly” because sometimes it’s the subtle things that influence you the most.

Now, I considered whether to participate in National Novel Writing Month (in November)–and ultimately decided against it.  The reason is that I’ve switched writing methods.  Rather than typing at my laptop, I’ve gone back to scribbling with pen and paper and this actually works better for me.  Typing is handy, but it’s so fast that I often finish a scene or a line before I’ve planned the next–so I have to stop and think what comes next–and there goes all momentum.  But because handwriting is slower, I don’t come to the end of my imagination as quickly, and the momentum doesn’t slow down either.  And there’s no “backspace” key on a pen, meaning less incentive to edit during the draft.  🙂  HOWEVER it would be incredibly difficult to reach a handwritten 50k word count in one month.  I may twist the rules a bit to suit my methods, or follow along as well as possible for the first week or so, but nothing official.  And perhaps, I’m not doing NaNo–I might be able to write humorous blog posts for the rest of you writers to enjoy!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

86-Ezra

Writing Tip #14: Write What You Know

Not what you know about life or history or your interests–but what you know about your story.  For example, suppose you have a character who is developing slowly.  Much of his past and his motivations are still a mystery, but you do know that he values trust ultimately.  Write that down, and build on that information.  Because he values trust so highly, does that mean he will never betray anyone–or perhaps he did in the past, and that’s why he values it so highly now?

Or suppose you don’t know for sure when scenes come next in your story, but you have general ideas of what events happens when.  Rather than trying to organized this right off the bat, just write down whatever you picture happening at different plot points, and you can add to it or revise it later.

Writing down what you already know about your characters and your story gives you a base to build on, a kind of a foothold.   It also keeps you from getting bogged down in what you still have to figure out–because you’ll already have made a start!

86-Ezra

What if They Don’t Like My Layered Female Character?

I have read (and applauded) multiple posts about how to write a strong female character–a truly strong character, one who is strong because of her convictions. Her compassion. Her personality, rather than a superhuman ability to punch stuff and sass the guys.  So many posts, I can’t include them all, but here are my favorites: Hannah Heath’s input, Christine Smith’s guest post, Bella’s thoughts during her Writer’s Camp, and K. M. Weiland’s opinion.

What these posts do not cover, however, is how to banish fear–fear of seeing your female characters soundly bashed on Tumblr by readers who think that to actually like dresses will perpetrate the constraints of patriarchy and that a woman being physically weaker than a guy is sexist.

Maybe I’m the only writer who’s considered this. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked at my character Mary from Gentle Fire and wondered how much of a verbal beating she’d get from critics. Mary is married with two children, and most of her focus is on helping her husband build their farm and raise their sons (and later, daughter).  Plus other plot-related goals and struggles after this doesn’t work out the way any of them want.  Yes, she has dreams, and she has strengths, flaws, talents, and quirks–in fact, Mary’s drive is to do her job (whatever that may be at the time) and to help those who need her.   But at the end of the day (and the story), her job and her main sphere of influence is in her home.   And I just know that’s going to be popular with the general readership.

So I’ve thought a lot about how to handle this concern. Here’s my input to writing that true strong female character–without being afraid that others will criticize your characterization.

  1. Write a layered character.  Easier said than done, of course, but if your character is constructed with agency (she drives her parts of the story) and has strengths, flaws, quirks, talents, and non-talents–then you can take comfort that you’ve written a solid character, regardless of who criticizes her enjoyment of knitting, pride in cooking for her family, and hatred of snakes.
  2. Pinpoint what you’re afraid of.  What is all this imaginary criticism directed toward?  Your character’s general personality–or specifically that she spends a lot of time in her home?  (Or that she has a cleaning job, or that she’s the soft-spoken type, or whatever else is unpopular these days.)  If you can easily imagine someone criticizing the fact that your character doesn’t really contribute to the story, that could be your intuition telling you to make sure she’s a legitimate main character.  If, however, you can picture someone nitpicking your character’s interest in embroidery or that she’s skilled in household economy–those are details, not fundamentals.
  3. Adjust your thinking.  Here’s where I might really offend people, but I’ll try to be diplomatic.  Somewhere along the way, the idea of a homemaker became synonymous with the term “doormat”.  Along with the idea that she’s wasting her life.  Or wasting her talent.  But here’s the thing: being a homemaker takes incredible discipline, perseverance, patience, and diligence.  Double points if you add children into the mix.  You are responsible for protecting and guiding these children, 24/7.  How is that weak?  How is that a waste of time or talent?  And why do we applaud a male character who is willing to serve and care for others, but condemn a woman who does it for her family?  A homemaker character has to be strong in many different ways to do her job.  Strength comes with the territory here, just like we expect a fireman character to be physically strong.
  4. Let it go.  As the song says.  🙂  But seriously, unless your imaginary critics are offering polite, constructive criticism–why do you care what they think?  Or what any real critics say, for that matter, unless, again, they’re offering intelligent input on the fundamentals of your character.  If any critics, real or imaginary, whine only about the facts that your character loves children, likes make-up, and cooks a mean clam chowder–ignore ’em.

So, those are some ways I’ve found to beat the fear.  Feel free to add what tips and tricks have worked for you!

86-Ezra

Random, Rambly, Writing Thoughts

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:

Recurring Concepts

Alternate History

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.

Fighting Fears

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.  🙂

Adult Fears

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!).

Recurring Settings/Topics

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!

Politics

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.

Sibling Relationships

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.

Recurring Characters/Traits

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.

Hero Lawyers

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.)

Sarcastic Characters

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!

Outgoing/Energetic/Outspoken Characters

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.

Inspired By…

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?