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Old 22nd November 2011, 05:09 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

That is indeed a sagacious quote, Mouse you should put in your forthcoming book/teaching manual - Writing for Wrodents. )
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Old 22nd November 2011, 05:13 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

Hi AK

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Nessie isn't real?
Alas, no. The famous surgeon's photograph was revealed as a fake and the less said about the Spicer sighting, the better.

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Sure it's a fanciful notion - but that's what stories are made up of, one more doesn't take me any closer to being a fruit and nut.
It's one thing to peddle fanciful notions to our readers - after all, we hope it's what they want - but quite another to peddle them to ourselves! If we harbour a desire to be published, we have to approach writing as a business. A cold, hard, commercially aware business.

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It's no weirder or more fanciful than having a detective story with a man hating bunny called Bun Ladin, a teddy bear with a heart tattoo called Colin, a cat called Tripod with three legs or a grown man with an imaginary dog called Graeme.
The conceit is not wierd at all (and neither are these stories, if executed properly). In fact, it is cited so commonly that it's practically a given. But it is all too often used as an excuse. That is my only problem with it.


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However I disagree with it as a weakness. It's not really to do with writing, but it is about storytelling.
I certainly agree with your second sentence. But storytelling comes from the oral tradition and if there is one thing which characters in oral stories are, it is under control. They might sound different each time and have whatever peccadilloes the storyteller gives them, but they'll damn well get up those beanstalks, go on the quests and do whatever else they need to do. They don't decide to eschew heading to market with mother's old cow because they've taken a shine to the girl at Allied Carpets and want to go and recite a sonnet to her instead.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 22nd November 2011, 05:21 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

Peter - I think you're a chess player. (though of course you may not actually play chess as such).

It links back to my earlier reply that there are two primary kinds of author - those who are more cold in their associations with their creations and those who are not. I don't think its right to say that either approach is the "correct" approach since each one is quite capable of producing fantastic works; however they are two different directions and each one will likely lean toward a certain kind of writer.

This of course goes without saying that each one of the two kinds is not an exclusive - cold writers will indeed still have to be aware of the likely reactions that their characters will have in situations to keep them believable; just as more emotive writers will have to have cold periods where they do things that they'd rather not to the characters they create in the need for the advance of the story.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 05:32 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

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But it is all too often used as an excuse. That is my only problem with it.
I agree with you completely, excuses are the worst envention of the human mind. they hold us back more surely then iron bars or mithril chains. I liken them to Honor in that old quote about being shut up in a prison ever so deep with walls ever so high and escaping but sit me in a chair with my honor engaged not to move and i am stuck forever.
my imagination can get me out of any tight spot someone else invents, but I am trapped and helpless against my own excuses.
until the excuse is let go of, but the pride that is the upholder of honor is the down fall of the excuse-maker... I know, I used to be the best excuse maker in all the known and unknown galaxies combined. I could excuse anything to anyone.
but I have since repented of my dark ways and have to constantly put up my tools to keep from making more excuses.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 05:48 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

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but they'll damn well get up those beanstalks, go on the quests and do whatever else they need to do. They don't decide to eschew heading to market with mother's old cow because they've taken a shine to the girl at Allied Carpets and want to go and recite a sonnet to her instead.
When I am writing fanfiction that is different - I need to stick to someone else's rules, so it requires more planning - the characters and settings are already built. An original piece is a different set of skills for me, and the characters don't usually get under my skin. Although the latter story might work well in Panto. He can keep Daisy and get the beans for busking. The girl is the god-daughter of the giant and he wants Jack's hide.

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I certainly agree with your second sentence. But storytelling comes from the oral tradition and if there is one thing which characters in oral stories are, it is under control.
Well I guess this is the crux of it. Every writer is different. I write because it is a handy medium for the stories which suddenly arrived in my head at 33 and needed to escape. I'm a storyteller who's main captive audience can be told about Mauve the Mystical Mermaid, The Spice Child in Chocolate Land, Litte Horses of Power etc But Sherlock's hose, Fairies in leather hot pants, and detectives in a cleaning cupboard are probably not appropriate. They are still not quite ready for one of my fantasy stories either.

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excuses
An excuse is different - in my case it just works, it makes worth fun and there is nowt wrong with having a bit of magic and imagination in our lives.

Last edited by AnyaKimlin; 22nd November 2011 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 06:49 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

For my 'P for Pleistocene', I managed to create a motley crew:

"You're twice as scared as us."

"Uh-huh."

"You know we're the D-Team ?"

"Uh..."

"Four were too dozy to catch the Gretna bus." Jenny shrugged. "I've had a couple of breakdowns. Alys--"

"Partner went psycho, messed with my head."

"Sue thinks she's a boy. Henry is border-line Schizo. Dave is Mister Gloom. O--"

"Was a Safari Souvenir..." Alys nibbled a thumb-nail. "Get the picture ?"

"Uh, yes." I quirked a tiny grin. "Just your every-day bunch of students on a dig, really !"
---
As time passed, my 'cut-out' characters grew and became a real team. Still, it fell to Jenny to see the sunny side of any situation, Dave to see problems, Alys to be suspicious and Sue to surprise every-one...

And, yes, they all thought and talked with little input from me. Happily, a lot of my tale was merely writing down what they said to each other...
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Old 22nd November 2011, 07:41 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

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Originally Posted by MemoryTale View Post
So I was at a writing group the other day, and we were discussing our problems with writing. I decided to bemoan the fact that my characters very rarely want to do as they're told. They're constantly getting together with the wrong people, surviving to the end when they were supposed to be killed off halfway through, and in one case going so far as to hijack the role of main hero. These days it feels less like writing a book than being a DM. I just set the scene, let the buggers loose on it and see what happens.

Then everyone looked at me like I'd just started singing about bananas while dancing the flamenco on the coffee table.

Is it just me this happens to? Does anyone else have trouble controlling these entities that are supposed to obey our every whim? If so, how exactly does one train a character to actually be a villain when all he really seems to want to do is amble through life and get with that hot policewoman he met the other day?
This is how great writing is supposed to be written - I look forward to seeing what you get from this.

No, seriously - I've noticed myself the times when my writing is best I have no conscious idea of what I'm writing, and feel more like a secretary simply writing down a stream of words entering my head, as they appear.

I figure that's why the Classical world was so focused on the Muses - this has to come from somewhere, doesn't it?

Either way, best of luck and keep crafting - sounds like your characters are right, so you just need to join up what they are doing in a coherent manner.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 08:52 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

It's nice to know I'm not insane, or at least I'll have plenty of company in my padded cell.

Peter - I certainly don't use this as an excuse. Writing happens, and books get finished. I just see my lovingly crafted and outlined stories get changed around often because my characters have more sense than I do and would much rather go recruit some allies before wandering into a pitched battle.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 09:54 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

My characters have been telling me what to do for as long as I've been writing, which is over a decade. For a recent example, I just learned one might be going down a darker path and it was never intended at all. He might even end up an antagonist before it's all over. Now I'm excited to see if it'll happen and how.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 09:55 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

Which only goes to show that we all write the books we want to read
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Old 22nd November 2011, 10:15 PM   #41 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

I'm partly in agreement with Peter G.

I think that what happens is that, during the writing process, new ideas for the course of the story occur to us and, if they are better than the ones we already had, then we tend to adopt them. Sometimes these new ideas only work if we allow the existinq characters to 'act outside their brief'.

This isn't so much of a problem with a short story but with a novel, unless you're very careful, it's never going to be finished.
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Old 22nd November 2011, 10:30 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

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This isn't so much of a problem with a short story but with a novel, unless you're very careful, it's never going to be finished.
i agree with this. one of the first rules of writing is to finish what you write.

i specialize in epic fantasy, and unless you're really careful, the thing can grow and grow and grow, and never stop. pretty soon, it's spun out of control. this is why i plan everything out in advance in a Very detailed outline. i mite be weird in that i write this way - i kno a lot of writers who let their characters wander loose, as you say, and there's no right or wrong way to write - but for me, i like to control everything and keep a tight rein on it all.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 09:11 AM   #43 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

Before I start writing I have loads of pages of 'Whatifs' which boil down to a pretty cohesive plot of beginning, middle and end. And I don't then do 'stream-of-consciousness' writing, I set out to follow my plan. But my creative brain doesn't rest as I'm writing, it continues to feed ideas, and some of them are better than my original ones, and I'd be foolish to ignore them. All writing starts from a single idea, and to try and plan a narrative and stick rigidly to it can work for some people. But I don't use it as an excuse when a character 'takes over' - I recognise it as a chance to explore an opportunity that is presented to me. Within a short time it either works or it doesn't, and now I know whether to continue or not - to get to the end of a book and then try and write a character in is ten times harder than writing them in as you go.

So yes, characters can 'take over' if you want to look at it that way. I do not see this as a weakness in planning, or an excuse to justify 'bad' writing - I see it as creative writing, and stifling it would be very foolish. The editing process is the exact same opportunity to change/rewrite/add/detract - only later - and I'm sure nobody would consider editing unnecessary, no matter how meticulous the planning of their story, would they?

And it comes down to going with whatever works for you as a writer - there's no right or wrong about it.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 09:22 AM   #44 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

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All writing starts from a single idea
I completely agree with you. the idea for my present atemt at a novel came from one sentence of C.S.Lweis' in Prince Caspian when he makes a little aside through Lucy about how awful it would be if men on earth started going wild inside the way the bests in Narnia had.
naturally the idea expanded and morphed a little in the creative process and the "moral" of the story if it has one is something else all together. but that was the seed of the idea.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 10:08 AM   #45 (permalink)
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Re: Characters - are they real or am I insane?

Hi Chaps

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And, yes, they all thought and talked with little input from me. Happily, a lot of my tale was merely writing down what they said to each other.
They didn't, though, did they? If you were squashed by a bus tomorrow, your characters wouldn't be able to talk or think at all. They would just become squiggles on a bit of paper.

I can see that this conceit is an attractive one - we as authors are called to writing and are merely the vessels through which our stories pour. But isn't this rather a passive way of looking at it? Isn't it rather a disingenuous way of loking at it?

Quote:
It links back to my earlier reply that there are two primary kinds of author - those who are more cold in their associations with their creations and those who are not. I don't think its right to say that either approach is the "correct" approach since each one is quite capable of producing fantastic works; however they are two different directions and each one will likely lean toward a certain kind of writer.
I'm not sure that "cold" has anything to do with it. AK has suggested that my way of writing can't be much fun, and I'm not sure how that argument can be made out either. I'm not advocating planning a novel to the last breath (although that's fine if people work that way). I'm not advocating that we should not allow a story to twist and develop as we write it. I do that myself. All I'm saying is that if characters go off piste to the point that they are no longer getting the job done, we are probably exhibiting a weakness as writers which we should not choose to reinvent as being something which is somehow beyond our control - because it isn't.

Jack can go and recite his sonnet to the girl at Allied Carpets, provided that a) he shins up the beanstalk afterwards, as the story requires him to do and b) his lovelorn mewling genuinely brings something to the party.

Regards,

Peter
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