Friday, October 19, 2012

Loki, Back When He was More...Low-Key

Sorry about the title.  Couldn't resist. 

One thing you need to know is, I’m a superhero freak.  I write superhero fiction, chose a superhero theme for my room when we moved this summer (which weirded my mom out, since I’m a seventeen-year-old girl), and carry around an X-Men encyclopedia with me on a regular basis (I also have a DC version, but Marvel dominates).  So within five days of The Avengers coming out on DVD, I’d watched the film and its commentary several times.

Possibly I have a problem, but it does come in handy sometimes.  After analyzing the heck out of this movie, I’m still only finding the same flaw that bugged me throughout my first viewing.

Whedon turned Loki into a complete [insert preferred synonym for “jerk” here].

Granted, he wasn’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine in Thor.  He did all sorts of unpleasant things to Thor in his first movie, like getting his brother banished, telling him he was responsible for their dad’s death, and coming about this close to killing him—but despite all that, I still found the trickster god a little bit likeable.

The way I see it, there are three main, semi-connected reasons for that:

1.      He was sympathetic.  He may be a royal Norse god, but at the end of the day, he’s also quite insecure.  He’s the younger brother, physically quite a bit weaker than both Thor and all the other warriors running around his world.  Asgard is obviously a warlike place, so that’d make being scrawny even worse.  He finds out he’s a Frost Giant by birth—Frost Giants being the Asgardian’s biggest enemies—and originally just adopted by his dad, Odin, in case that could help bring about peace.  That doesn’t help his outlook much.  He feels used and betrayed, ashamed of himself for what he really is, and like everyone thinks he’s worthless.  And the audience—at least, everyone with a soul—can feel sorry for him about that.
2.     He was relatable.  This one ties in with the sympathy thing, but it’s a little deeper.  On a baser level.  Because even if we’ve never tried to get our brother out of the picture so we can take his throne, most of us can relate to being in someone else’s shadow—and wanting out of it.  Absolute power may not be your thing, but most of us have really, really wanted something—a position or role or even some sort of object—only to be turned down.  A lot of people can relate to his insecurity, because that’s part of being human.  Not only can we sympathize with him, we can empathize with him.  And because of that…
3.     We understood the reasoning behind his motives.  Even if we can’t agree with or condone what Loki does to reach his goals, even if it wasn’t always good for him, it all made sense from his viewpoint.  For his situation.  All he really wanted was the throne, to prove himself to his dad—quite possibly because of the aforementioned Frost Giant insecurity.  Probably the most obvious example of this is when Odin discovers everything Loki’s done, discovers his son hanging from the bifrost bridge, plans ruined, and Loki calls up, “I could have done it, Father!  For you.  And for me, at least, that’s when it hit home—when I realized exactly why I liked the Elizabethan-talking punk.  All these reasons combined.

So.  Anything I missed?  And how do you feel about Loki?  In Thor, he was actually one of my favorites, but my mom disliked him even from the beginning.  Who are some other characters you like, even if you feel like maybe you shouldn’t?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Separating Your Foils (Not a cooking lesson, I swear)

Sometimes I feel like I blog more about Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron than about anything else.  And if I do, it’s definitely for good reason.  But while I obviously love the book, I love its sequel, Sapphique, even more.  I figure that’s partly because my favorite character gets more screen time (page time?), but also because most of the supporting characters are fleshed out quite a bit.

Throughout most of Incarceron, Finn was the viewpoint character.  And that’s great—I love Finn—but in a way, his supporting cast just serve as foils for him.  In the second book, Finn gets separated from Keiro and Attia, and I feel like it allows all three of them to grow as characters.  Keiro is deeper, more complex and conflicted, than he seems at first—his indifferent cool guy mask slips a little, and he shows some redeeming qualities, even if reluctantly.  Attia also becomes less one-dimensional: instead of being some slightly pathetic, awestruck girl dedicated to protecting Finn, she turns out to be clever and resourceful.  And now that Finn isn’t always around and Attia’s more exposed to Keiro’s harshness, we get to see that she has more than enough fire to hold her own against him.

Happily, the character development is a come-one, come-all sort of thing.  Away from his posse, Finn’s more confident, less self-conscious—even while Keiro’s leaving Finn’s shadow, Finn is able to leave Keiro’s.  One of those cheery, “everybody wins” situations, yes?

All in all, I figure that’s the best thing about this lesson in foils.  It’s an example we can apply to our own stuff.  If you have a secondary character who’s coming off a bit flat, try to find some way to separate him from your MC.  Even if it ultimately doesn’t work out plot-wise, it’ll probably teach you something about both that character and your main one, and you can incorporate that later.  Rah, character development.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever tried an exercise like this before—how’d it work out?  If not, do you have any other examples of an author separating her foils for the better?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Deep POV, as Opposed to -- What? -- Shallow POV?

This weekend, I read a book I wasn’t too impressed with.  Maybe that’s not so unusual, but I was surprised—the premise was great, it put an original spin on a classic story, and it had this amazing line on the cover: “Fantasy just declared war on reality.”  (I won’t tell you the author’s name, but his initials are Frank Beddor.) 
So why didn’t it live up to my expectations?  Maybe a little of it had to do with style, but for the most part, it was because he had issues with head-hopping.  I know I must’ve read books with the same problem before, and maybe even to a larger extent, but this is the first time it’s actually distracted me—I guess I’m getting used to reading books that don’t head-hop.

That got me thinking, I guess, because I went through my notes on blogging points and found this stuff on deep POV:

1.      Go through and eliminate any instances of showing-vs.-telling. Look for “was”s and “felt”s, and figure out if they’re of the offending type, and if so, kill them.  No mercy.
2.     Remember, you can’t see anything your viewpoint character can’t see.  So she might hear the footsteps or feel like she’s being watched, but she knows something or has eyes in the back of her head, she’s not aware of the attacker behind her.  Same thing with the other senses and all kinds of information.  I think it’s easier to stick with this one with first-person POV, but that’s probably because that’s what I write with.
3.     Another thing I don’t like—adverbs on speaker tags.  (Besides them being outlawed anyway.)  Like when a character, who isn’t the MC, “says uncertainly.”  I know adverbs are evil anyway, but besides that, how does the viewpoint character know what the other character’s feeling anyway?  She doesn’t.  So the most you can do is pull a “he sounded worried.”

End of rant.

Anybody ever read any The Looking Glass Wars books?  I think I’m going to read on at some point, because of the aforementioned interesting premise and the fact that I find Dodge’s character growth development interesting.  Any deep POV tips to share? Anybody not hate Mondays?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On Staying Intense and Gazelle-ish

Last year in school, my whole grade had to take a semester of Financial Literacy—we used the Dave Ramsey course.  I know that probably doesn’t seem very relevant (um, at all), but one expression he used stuck with me and reminds me of writing.

 He always said that when a person is in debt, s/he needs to use “gazelle-like intensity” to get out of that debt.  Now I use the phrase for my writing, when I’m struggling with free time or motivation or deadlines or whatever. 

Sure, we all need breaks.  We all need time for the other part of life, and the people and things who fill it.  But whenever I’m having trouble—especially when the goal is so close, and I can see the end—I have to remember that and push toward the end.

It’s ridiculous, the analogies my brain likes to keep around.

Anyways, here are a few tips for staying intense and gazelle-like:

1)       Think of why you started writing this in the first place.  Even if it’s just as a personal hobby, there’s still a goal involved, isn’t there?
2)      Read what motivates and inspires you.  Maybe it’s an interview of an author who went through a lot on her/his way to publication, struggled with the book itself, or just signed with an agent.  Maybe it’s an amazing book you love to read over and over again to remind yourself what you can someday attain.  Maybe it’s the not-so-amazing book you know you can do better than—and it got published, didn’t it?
3)      Deprive yourself of food, drink, and sunlight until you’re finished.  That way—

Well, scratch the last one.  But still.

What are some of your tips for maintaining the gazelle-like intensity and meeting deadlines, goals, etc.?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You Put the Comma In, You Take the Comma Out...

Bonus points to anyone who read the title of this post to the tune of “The Hokey Pokey.”

Anyway, the inspiration for this post comes from the brilliant Oscar Wilde, whose The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my all-time favorite books:

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

I guess Oscar just must’ve been having one of those days.  Don’t we all?

I tend to have these moments more along the way than in final editing—I get all OCD with the minor wording, and my backspace button probably hates me for being a slave driver.  (When I go old-school and write by hand, I usually end up with at least 25% of the lines marked out.  If my laptop’s backspace button probably hates me, trees definitely do.)

The OCD approach saves me a little time in the long run—less editing to do later on—but also kills some of my effort when revisions set in and scenes get slashed.  I’d consider trying to reign in the internal editor for a bit, since that seems like the wise thing to do, but I’ve never been wise and I’d rather just stick with my writing flow, idiosyncrasies and all.  Which begs the question.

Have you ever had one of those days, full of scribbled lines or extra bonding time with your backspace button?  Which describes you—“obsessive-compulsive” corrector or “I locked my internal editor in the closet (gagged and bound)” kidnapper?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Apparently, Enough is Enough

For the most part, we all know the more routine clichés—but you should also be on the lookout for some of the newer offenders.

Every year since 1975, Lake Superior State University in Michigan has released a list of overused words/phrases for each year.  And while you may have already seen this, I couldn’t help but pass on this list for 2011.

Realistically, I know this list doesn’t mean much—if you’re going to use the term “baby bump,” there aren’t exactly a ton of alternatives, and I think “ginormous” is a pretty rad word.  But it’s still amusing to see what words the public tends to get sick of.

You can read about the history behind the banished words lists here, by the way.

So, what about you?  Any words or expressions you’d like to kill off?  Any words you have a tendency to overuse?  Because I'll admit, I'm guilty of using "pretty much" and "not exactly" too much.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Come On -- We Know You Have Them

Resolutions, that is.  Now that the new year’s rolled around and everyone’s swapping 2011 calendars out for shiny new ones, most people are also working toward personal goals.

That’s right.  The New Year’s Resolutions are upon us.  A whole nother year of opportunities. One of mine is to blog consistently and on schedule this year: Thursdays and Sundays.  That means no more long, unannounced blogging vacations—sorry about that, but I needed to focus on rewrites.  I’ll be visiting your blogs more regularly, too.  Scout’s honor.

Realistically, I know a ton of people have a ton of resolutions that never pan out.  And that I’m usually one of those people.  But that doesn’t keep me from setting them, because A) it’s always nice to have something to work toward and B) I’m always up for a good laugh.

And like countless other writers, I’ve got some writing-oriented goals in mind.  I figure you probably do, too, so here’s a quote from the Walt Disney to keep us motivated and inspired:

“Get a good idea and stay with it.  Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.”

So even if you quit your diet, don’t succeed with your plans for world domination, or fail on the whole “be a better person” concept, remember—stick with your writing resolutions as best you can.  Go all Walt Disney on those things.

Any writing resolutions you’d like to share?  Looking back at 2011, how’d similar resolutions work out for you last year?