After seeing so many awesome character aesthetic boards, tried my hand at one for Sonata Apostle‘s narrator, Rosemary Keegan. Come November, I’m going to be living in her head.
So in NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem!, he brings up an exercise in which you make two lists. The first consists of what you believe makes a good novel. The second is what bores and depresses you about a novel. I usually remake mine every October, but I figured I would post this year’s magna cartas.
Curious to see other people’s magna cartas!
My dearest friend texted me yesterday about a character who is an aspiring author who adores libraries and books about as much as she enjoys origami, self-styling herself as a paper sculpture artist. She worried that it was “too much” for the character, perhaps on the basis that female characters who openly celebrate their talents and hobbies are more likely to be criticized than their male counterparts (see: accusations of writing a Mary Sue). For a character in a modern setting, however, it would make sense if she, perhaps, listened to audiobooks while keeping her hands busy with paper crafts. Especially since said-character, as my friend revealed later, lived with a very sensitive and severe case of asthma, thus barred from many outdoor and physical activities. These are reasonable skills for the character that complement her personality and capabilities without disturbing the harmony of her characterization.
It left me thinking on some old writing advice I read years ago: Each character should have three hobbies, at the very least. Now, ignoring the blanket aspect of that statement (let’s just say I have that opinion concerning a lot of writing advice, that anyone reading tips and tricks for any aspect of writing should carry a huge bag of salt and take those grains regularly), I was, at first, skeptical. Wasn’t three hobbies too much, especially for characters who were very young, had little time/energy/ability to devote to these hobbies, and/or their environment was not conductive to cultivating the skills that accompany these hobbies?
But then I considered myself and could think of those three minimum hobbies in a heartbeat. I enjoy writing, reading, and trying to break video games. I then considered my parents: my mother enjoys watching movies, gossiping on social media, and reading; my father enjoys reading, woodwork crafts, and trying to break operating systems. Look at enough people, at their skills, at what they enjoy, and you can see patterns emerge that complement who they are. My mother is sociable and enjoys a good story (and, from my observation, the trashier the better), while my father is inquisitive and contemplative. I struggle with activities beyond my room, especially if they involve other people and the outside world, and I like to think of myself as curious and intelligent.
As people, they make sense. For writers, characters that make sense, that don’t trigger the reader’s “oh, bullshit” reaction and shatter their connection with the story, are what we should aspire for.
In case if it wasn’t readily apparent, prequel week turned into “four bits of varying quality” until I won the gold prize for feeling both sick and realizing that, if these pre-story events could be easily summed up in a sentence, trying to stretch them into a three-four page one-off that doesn’t completely suck is an incredible challenge. In fact, I can pretty much tell the stories that were missing Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Hold onto your butts because these were major doozies.
Wednesday: Rilke, with Ava’s support, challenged Uriel for the Emperor job. Rilke won. The denizens of the Court of the Moon barely reacted because they are pretty much a bunch of blank-faced apathetic jerkoffs with unspecified magic and awesome clothes. Seriously, that drabble was all about talking about how awesome the Court of the Moon dresses. I want black dresses with shifting rune symbols on them.
Thursday: Queen Artemis of the Court of Summer and Helena, High Druid of the Triune, bum out on some ramparts at Summerdawn Keep. They’re observing a patch of the Wald shifting about while also talking about Princess Lorraine and Lysander, Helena’s student. The Great Eclipse happens. We know from the letters on previous days that Queen Artemis is going to die during this, so this bit had all the narrative tension of cottage cheese. Next.
Friday: Lysander is running around the Dawn’s Rest while Wald rips it apart because, spoilers, the Great Eclipse made the Wald and Wastes extra pervasive and extra nasty. He finds Princess Lorraine, they spat out a bit, ends on a hang with them trying to evacuate the Dawn’s Rest while also getting their asses kicked. Of course, a previous day revealed that Lorraine survived the Great Eclipse. Not much of a cliffhanger when someone can just scroll back and go “Oh, yeah, she survived because she’s getting letters from Natanael.”
Basically I was unhappy with Monday and Tuesday’s entries, especially compared to Saturday and Sunday, because I was trying to stretch out little sentence summaries into actual stories. If there’s anything the spectators of the Internet can learn from my past week of flailing, it’s that trying to put a lot of extra wheels on a unicycle, especially if you want to keep it a unicycle, doesn’t really work.
On the plus side, Shadows in Summer is turning out to be a delightful romp and I’m sure I won’t keep to that thought past the end of this week. National Novel Writing Month is really just my self-loathing writing process in full-out overdrive where there are days where I can kick out thousands of words and they’re all as awesome as brownie lava cakes, and then there are the days where I stare at the screen while my eyes roll upward and I go, “Holy fuck this is really awful” and I find someplace to curl up and hide from Microsoft Word lest it decide that I really need to pay for the transgression of being awful by making my computer explode.
But I’m finding, in the craziness of these first dozen or so hours, that post-it notes are beautiful and miraculous things. Seriously, due to the amount of beloved relatives who decided to have birthdays on the first day of November, I have spent more time dotting out little snippets of dialogue (either overheard or happening in my own head) and little ideas to be tossed into the storm of nonsense as I work.
So I guess my newfound NaNoWriMo knowledge is to invest in a butt-ton of sticky notes. No joke, there’s a pad by my computer, a pad by my bed, a pad in the car, and a pad in the purse. The desk is all ready more pale-yellow than oak now.
Anyway, best of luck to all the other crazies out there and…I might get back to posting daily, now that I’m feeling less sick and less hatey towards stuff that I don’t have to force myself to write.
To Princess Lorraine of the Summer Court, does King Natanael of the Winter give his most respectful of greetings.
I extend my deepest condolences for the losses you’ve suffered during the Great Eclipse. Know that your steadfast neighbors to the north share in your time of mourning. Queen Artemis was an inspiration to us all and the world is certainly darker having lost her.
As for the Council of the Courts, I accept your invitation to Emberstone Keep. Please be certain that the mirror in the northern antechamber is uncovered on that day, as I will be traveling by the usual method.
I also, with your grace, would bring to this meeting a most intriguing individual. It is no falsehood that we suffered less losses in the Great Eclipse, but it is equally true that it was not by our tenacity alone that won us the day. Without their intervention, this letter would have gone unwritten.
Their present leader has expressed interest in speaking with the Courts of Season. Please do me the honor of introducing him to you, as well as to the Emissary of the Eight Winds.
May the summer’s sun bring you comfort.
King Natanael Continue reading
Warriors claim the Wastes
Witches tame the Wastes
– Court of Winter proverb Continue reading
Speaking of those who chase winds instead of the ladies, I have a matter of great comedy to share. Think of it as the matter I regard with my half-smiles, this millennia-long temper tantrum from a indignant, unlucky queen and, more to the point, the temper tantrum the Luminary and Emissary keep pinned to their office walls! If you cannot find the breath to laugh at that, Rilke, then I daresay you can hardly draw breath at all.
Have you noticed, that the vultures gather at our walls? The middle will challenge at the next full moon and, by saying that, the future shifts in your favor. Foresight is so grand a gift that I would be tempted to invite destruction just to spread it, except I will not, for I am no fool long given to dust.
And neither are you.
Ava Continue reading