-Fuck Character Flaws-
I’ve learned a new term this week, it’s called a ‘Mary Sue’. Basically, it’s a character that can do no wrong, and somehow, everything always works out for them. Which is boring and predictable, right?
I’m in a rock and a hard place. I am sick and tired of reading about wounded women. Why must we have some deep rooted internal issue that needs to be worked through? I understand the need for drama and internal dialogue, but damn.
I started googling common character flaws, and this is the popular ones that pop up:
- Assertive (how the fuck is that a flaw)
- Blames People
- Smart Ass (Also, I consider this a pro)
- Afraid to commit.
These character flaws have been DONE. TO. DEATH.
I found my solution. A flaw doesn’t necessarily have to be something “wrong” with the character. A flaw can be something that doesn’t need to be fixed. A character can be well-adjusted and not boring AF. It’s possible. Well, almost. No one is perfect, we no doubt all have flaws, but does that mean a persons story ARC needs to revolve around these flaws?
Absolutely not. Don’t ever feel obligated to damage your character for the sake of making them relatable, there are other ways to do that.
Another solution? The character can stand strong in the middle of chaos. Let the uncontrollable variables around them be the flaw. Not the person.
–Bad Analogies By High School Writers-
We will file this under ‘things not to do while writing.’ On the brighter side, at least the teens are writing!
- Her eyes were like two born circles with big black dots in the center.
- He was as tall as a 6′ 3” tree.
- Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed in a Thigh Master.
- From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 instead of 7:30.
- John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
- She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
- He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
- Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
- She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room temperature Canadian beef.
- The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge free ATM.
- The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
This quote gives me LIFE. I am such a rewriter; my guilt has washed away because of you, Judy Blume.
I’m totally not fact checking this quote, either. If it’s not true, I do not want to know.
Anyways! Writing is hard. Really hard. Dialogue, imagery, plot, typing, staying awake, remembering to eat- hard.
BUT! I saw an author, Emma Hart, post a photo of her desk and there was this book next to her keyboard titled ‘The Emotion Thesaurus“. Immediately bought it. And so glad I did.
Here’s a little tip from inside these magical pages: “When revising, look for instances where emotions are NAMED. Nine times out of ten this indication is a lack of confidence that the emotion is shown clearly through thought, sensations and body language. Strong verbal cues negate the need to “explain” the emotion to the reader.”
So true, Magical Thesaurus. So. True.
Basically, when your characters about to feel something, you go to the table of contents and click on that feeling, then up will pop physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses of that emotion.
Example: I’m feeling TERROR.
Physical Signs: Rasping breaths, bulging eyes, full body tremors.
Internal Sensations: Sound of a heart thrashing in your ears, pain in the chest, increased strength or stamina, clenched jaw.
Mental Responses: A compulsion to look back, risk taking, hyper-vigilance.
I’m not a naturally eloquent writer, so this book has literally saved me. Maybe one day i’ll dish out lines like “a wry grin twisted up at the thought.” But today is not that day.
It’s day two of NaNoWriMo; I’m kicking ass and taking names… so far! I’m trying really hard to avoid overdone plots, cliche love triangles, blah blah blah. Even though I L-O-V-E reading them. So what better way to drill them into my head than to make a list?
- Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic: I genuinely love these genres, but realize there needs to be a fresh spin on it.
- Small Town High School
- New Orleans: Seriously. *Also one of my favorite cities*, but lets find a new spooky place!
- You are the chosen one. The fate of the world rests on YOUR shoulders: OR… The main character could be a side chick (not that kind) who just does some really amaze-ball stuff..
- Someone has to die in order to motivate the character: Why we always got to be dying? Can’t I just be generally pissed off and motivated?
- Dead Parents: Believe me, I understand it is easier to just kill them off Disney style… But how wonderful would it be for the parents to be alive? And not be a source of anguish. HA! Who am I kidding?
- Bad Boys: Do they have to be bad? Can’t he be a gentlemen who opens doors, gives good advice, and is down for whatever… without leading the heroine on a horrible path of destruction and danger, most likely caused by the boys mysterious past? Even though he’s simultaneously “saving her”?
- Love Triangles: No. Just no. Pick one and stick with him. Unless he sucks, then dump his ass. There are other plots rather than “who is she going to choose?”
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS:
- Lone Wolf: Girlfriend doesn’t need to be a lone wolf to be a bad ass, she can have a wolf pack! It’s totally okay, it’s MORE WOMAN POWER. And the main lady doesn’t even have to be the leader of the pack. Ya dig?
- Abuse: Although I believe it is beautiful and triumphant to watch a character climb an uphill battle after enduring abuse, rape, or whatever god awful thing that has happened to her… Maybe there’s an alternative. What if there was a book that showed a male being abused?Because it DOES happen, and some light needs to be shown on this topic. Or, the heroine can be strong because they WANT TO, not because of abuse. Maybe I just woke up one day and was like “Hold my wine and watch me do amazing stuff.” For absolutely no damn reason.
- Better Than Men: The heroine doesn’t have to be stronger or better than every male she encounters. They could be equal, less strong, or way stronger. A heroines strength is not measured by comparison.
- Being Girly: A bad ass female can be girly and STILL BE BAD ASS. Yas, Bitch, I just got my nails and hair done, then kicked major super villain butt. IN HEELS. With no bra, though. Screw bras.
- Psychically Strong: I personally have the upper body strength of a kitten. We don’t have to be Hercules to be strong. Look at Hermione, without her intelligence, Harry and Ron would’ve died in book 1. There are a million ways to be strong. Including your mind.
- Comedic Relief: We can be hot, strong, AND FUNNY. The mother fkn trifecta. We don’t need a gay guy best friend to make us laugh, or a weird funny fairy that whispers hilariousness into our reader ears. WE can be the funny one.
This is just the tip of the ice berg. The more I write, the more I will add. Happy Reading, Y’all!
THE DREADED PART: EDITING.
ONE: First Drafts are acts of discovery, like searching for one particular star within the vastness of the universe. – Natasha Halester
2. The very worst mistake you could make when entering the first editing process of your drafted novel is to head straight on into it. Wait at least a month before you edit.
3. A good novel shouldn’t be rushed, and you don’t want to be fixing countless plot holes in your second draft. Take your time to address them.
4. *Bye, Bye Weak* Everything in you novel, from the story to the characters, must serve a purpose. If they don’t, then cut them.
5. The function of the first draft is to help you figure out your story. The function of every draft after that is to figure out the most dramatic way to tell that story. – Darcy Pattison
6. This is the most important. You have to FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT. I know, it’s hard. You want to start over, scream, cry, and pout. But keep pushing! FINISH IT. You don’t have to have it all figured out to keep going.
7. Rewrite the first page to hook your readers. Now that you’re finished, you have a better idea of what your story is really about.
8. READ IT OUT LOUD. Trust me.
9. Don’t be afraid to cut parts of your book that aren’t working and start afresh- maybe the cut pieces was vital preparation for something much better. -Now Novel
10. Try not to become and alcoholic.
1. I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from an author of locally popular novels that visited my school when I was in grade eight. He said that when you want to write a novel, or any kind of story, the typical system of “What is my story about? Who is it about? What will happen?” are pretty much the worst thing you can do.
Writing is far simpler than that. His advice was to ask yourself three questions that I’ll never forget:
Who is the character?
What does the character want more than anything?
And how can I prevent them from getting it?
2. IMAGERY: ‘DON’T SHOT ME THE MOON IS SHINING, SHOW ME THE GLINT OF LIGHT ON BROKEN GLASS. -ANTON CHEKHOV
3. Writing Prompt: Write about the worst physical pain you’ve ever experienced using all five senses. (I think this could go for emotional pain, as well.)
4. When To Show, Instead Of Tell: When you want the reader to feel what the character feels. When you want the reader to become emotionally invested in the story. When you want to give readers concrete details they can relate to. -The Invisible Author
5. When To Tell, Instead Of Show: When you need to move a reader quickly from one location to another. When you’re repeating information the reader already knows. When you want to spare the reader boring, non vital filler information and get back to the action. – The Invisible Author
1. On Foreshadowing: Anton Chekhov once said that if a gun is introduced in a story, it must be fired at some point. Readers may feel cheated if you don’t develop the coming incidents you’ve teased.
2. Dialogue Errors: Your dialogue may not sound natural. Read it aloud. In fact, read every thing aloud. It helps.
3. The age old saying ‘show don’t tell’ still stands true. A good rule of thumb: the sentences is usually sufficient.
4. Tension in a story by Inkandquills.com
DO NOT make things too easy for your hero. LET your hero struggle through obstacles and even lose battles. DO NOT let all of your characters get along all the time. LET your characters fight, dislike, and mistrust one another. DO NOT resolve all of your conflicts too early. AND… Introduce new conflicts as others are resolved.
5. From the 10 Minute novelist: Does you first pages have these?
Do you set the stage for the story?
Do you clearly introduce your protagonist?
Do you determine your point of view & Narrative?
Do you introduce a theme?
Do you worry too much about likability?
Do you have a lot of action?
Do you explain the status quo?
Do you explain the deepest longing of the protagonist?
Do you have an inciting incident?
Does your main character cross a threshold?
Do you ask a lot of exciting questions?
REMEMBER: THESE ARE SUGGESTIONS, THERE IS NO ONE FORMULA FOR WRITING AN EPIC NOVEL. HAVE FUN, DON’T GIVE UP, EVEN START OVER AS MANY TIMES AS YOU NEED (I SURE THE HELL DO).
DO WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU!
Bonus: (Need this for myself)
Change paragraphs when… A new character comes alone. A new event happens. A new idea is introduced. The setting changes. A new person is speaking. Time moves forward or backward a lot. “The camera moves.”
I bought this wonderfully cute notebook at World Market today. Inside are tons of writing tips and inspirations! Here are my favorites:
NOTHING is original.
Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.
Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows.
Select only things to steal from that speak DIRECTLY TO YOUR SOUL.
Everything has been done. So you just have to DO IT BETTER.
CRAZY JUST MIGHT WORK.
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” -William Blake
ON A SIDE NOTE: There is a major difference from being inspired and straight up jacking something. I think that’s why I love these quotes so much… It’s okay to pull tid-bits of things you love and turn it into this one large ginormous ball of awesomeness- that YOU created.
1. “You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.” – John Rogers
2. When you are stuck, make a list of what would happen next. More often than not, the material that gets you unstuck appears.
3.Putting it on paper only allows you to start fixing it. If a perfect idea stays in your head, you’ll never share it with anyone.
4. IGNORE YOUR INNER CRITIC. Write first- edit later.
5. Hemingwayapp.com is a writing tool that lets you past in your text and suggest edits for you. It highlights sentences that are hard to read, alerts you of phrases that are written in passive voice, keeps count of your adverbs and tells you the grade reading level of your writing.
6. Words to use other than “said”: demanded, asked, shouted, muttered, whispered, yelled, bellowed, begged, thought, wondered, told, screamed, gloated, argued, cried, whined, pleaded.
7. FIVE simple steps- don’t over think it. 1- Develop. 2- Plan it. 3- Draft it. 4- Re-draft it. 5- Edit & proof it.
8. Give your character opinions. A character being passive or malleable is easy for you as a writer, but it’t poison to your audience.
9. “Writers must be fair and remember even bad guys (most of them, anyway) see themselves as good- they are the heroes of their own lives. Giving them a fair chance as characters can create some interesting shades of grey- and shades of grey are also a part of life.” – Stephen King