On Characters and Mac the Defender (And Ramblings)

Characters are probably the most important element in a story, if you’re me. Without a good, memorable character, a book is bland and lifeless.

So, I thought I’d burden you with my thoughts on characters, today. And other things that tie in, of course. At least in my brain. Aren’t you so excited? You should be.

Now, we ramble.

Every writer, in my limited experience (feel free to correct me), puts something of themselves into a character. If it’s too much, and too badly written, the readers will call it a Mary Sue and be done with it. But we’re not focusing on those, right now. This is about me. Focus. Geez.

Anyway, with me, I have a tendency toward writing male characters, with dark and troubled pasts. Abuse is certainly an issue, and they have a lot of the same problems I have. Depression. Suicidal mentalities. An urge to protect others from going through what they’ve been through. An obsession with not being weak.

Heck, I was writing all my characters with depression before I knew I was depressed. It was the only reality I knew, and I thought everyone was like that. Surprise, surprise, Mac.

In my writing, my characters get better. At least, they start down the road to recovery. I guess that’s me, protecting them the best way that I can. Because I feel the need to protect people (and animals) that are going through, or have gone through, similar things.

My cat, Moe, is terrified of everything. My dad and I found her in an add, and drove out to get her. The first time I saw her, she was cowering in the back of a cat carrier, and she hissed at me. When I picked her up, holding her against my chest, she started to tremble. She stayed quietly on my lap the entire way home.

At home, she curled up under my bookcase and wouldn’t come out. I would have been fine to leave her be, but she had two knots in her fur, so I took her out and cut them out. Imagine my surprise when I realized she was purring. After that, I started taking her out and giving her attention for a couple minutes every day. Slowly, she started warming up to me.

It’s been three years since I got her. She’s still a skittish little stinker. But she sleeps on my bed. And my roommate’s. She attacks receipts in the middle of the floor. She comes to me or my roommates unfailingly when she wants attention. She rolls over and lets you rub her belly. Her purr is audible. Of course, you still have to be careful not to approach her too quickly or speak in the wrong tone, and I’m crazily protective of her, but she’s gotten so much better. It’s wonderful, for me, to see how far she’s come. How far my characters have come.

And yes, how far I’ve come.

It’s My Story

“This is my story. It’ll go the way I want, or I’ll end it here.”

—Tidus, Final Fantasy X

My story. My life.

All our lives are stories, and God is the great author of it all. Want to know what’s funny about it? Writers love to torture their characters. You think your life’s going crappy? Well, God is up there, fanboying about how cute you are when you’re in trouble. Look at Job!

As an aspiring writer, and long time fan of many story mediums, I have made plentiful studies of stories and tropes that within them fall. I know how the story’s supposed to go.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way? When the heroine of the story isn’t the one to rescue anyone from the villain, but just Hostage #38? The hopeless girl who’s head-over-heels for the hero? The background character?

That thought bothers me. It always has. This is my story. I’m the heroine, aren’t I? I should be saving people! I am not to be upstaged by some jerk in a cape!

This logic has led me to shun my wallflower nature, and do some surprising things. I’ve confessed to my somewhat uncomfortably older (and emotionally withdrawn) former colleague my huge hero-worship crush on him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.

But, among my two best friends (namely, my sister and my best friend), I am not, nor will I ever be, the hero. I am the antihero. The brooding loner who’s so awesome it hurts. My sister’s the hero. Our friend is the sidekick.

Well, this story is a work in progress. And the author isn’t nearly done getting His torture in. So, days go by. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my protagonist role, and be rescuing people from villains right and left. But, my friends, it is not this day. This day, you can find me stuck in my comfortable complacence, dreaming, but too lazy to fulfill those dreams.

I guess I’m just waiting for The Call To Adventure. So, my goal for this year? Live a life that makes a better story!

Happy National Hangover Day, everyone!

For the Love of Character!

Just finished an amazing book: Warchild by Karin Lowachee—a science fiction novel. Most genre fiction of my admittedly limited experience focuses on the world. They wow you with ships and space travel, magic and unicorns, princesses and dragons and orcs and ogres and weird new aliens and different planets, Earth as it will be or once was, and so on. The characters themselves are bland—just like a thousand other characters out there. You know little about them besides their names and generally what they look like, and you forget about them as soon as the book’s over.

BORING.

I can’t muddle my way through books like that, which is why I’ve had to stay away from the fantasy/sci-fi sections of the book store lately. But I’m always on the lookout for something to restore my faith in genre fiction. Warchild has been one of those. It’s not perfect, but I’d say the main character is just as strong and interesting and dynamic as the main character in some hoity toity literary novel.

(Note: It’s not a gay romance novel. Goodreads users have listed it as LGBT and m/m romance. It’s not, though the other books in the series might head that way. The main character in this one’s asexual.)

O, genre fiction! O, refuge of my childhood! Where did the character development go? What happened to personal challenges being overcome? Heck, what happened to the people, and why am I surrounded by cardboard cutouts? It’s all about flashy toys, now.  Or, if the characters are passably human, how It Got Worse and Darker and Edgier.

And that’s why I stick to the fiction and literature shelves. But still, I keep hoping. Searching the vast stacks of books at every bookstore and library far and wide, just hoping I’ll find something special that will restore my faith in genre fiction.