Know Better, Do Better

One of my talents, as a writer, is to have a sense of humor in my stories. I tend to mock behaviors, attitudes, culture, and whatever subject crosses my imagination.  Humor engages my imagination, and it can be entertaining to poke fun at such topics.

I noticed when writing, a notion–which never fully left me–is the notion that humor isn’t the route to take with my writing. That said, I often fail hard at trying to be seen as a “serious” writer.

By “serious,” I mean writing in a sterilized, boring style, stripped of humor, and intolerant to anything that has aspects of entertainment or enjoyment.  I do this while being so ridiculously ineffective in storylines that in part, end up drying out.

I sorta mocked myself in this moment. I don’t mind self-deprecating humor, but a brother needed to be in on his own joke.

I wrote, in previous posts, how I was bad a creating protagonists/main characters because I made them safe, or they lived in a bubble. Part of making better characters, for me, is seeing where I undercut them—and myself. I wasn’t doing them, or myself a favor.

Creativity is a learning process, and if one develops a strength, then one should see the skill, acknowledge it, and explore it without killing your own asset. Self-sabotage is a beast, but in this case, learning and growing from these mistakes will help me improve my craft.

Writing will always be rewriting for me, however, I’d like the idea, premise, research, outline, and first draft of my stories—in all mediums—to start off with the authentic vision and voice this artist allows his talents to shine through without killing the creativity.

Frankly I can and will do better from this experience.

As always, happy creative endeavors.

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Damaged II

After the previous post, I looked at each of my characters to see the direction I steered them towards. A lot of my characters stated as an extremely passive. They didn’t act or react to their situations, nor did they reach for a goal, which is bad for story and character progression.

I also previously wrote that it seemed like “damaged” characters (manly from soap operas I used to watch) made things happen in storylines. Those characters with passion seemed to have the freedom to act. When some of these cats got knocked down, they got back on their feet, and tried a different approach.

The above actions are typically what I see with villains in many stories. They could be earnest, aggressive, and assertive. They didn’t simply react, they acted, they had goals, and no one was getting in their way. If you did get in their way, well, you were bound for trouble.

Heroes should be this way as well, and this may have been a blinding factor for me.

In soaps, many heroes (not all) can be passive, unsuspecting, and clueless to the world around them. The hero defined the genre of melodrama, which is, bad things happen to good people. To me, a soap opera hero didn’t have to do much in the story other than be the constant victim of a damaged character.

It’s only when the hero’s caught onto what was going on in the world around them, was he or she able to react, but it’s always at a late, late moment. By then the villain has made attempts to get their goals, got thwarted, and took a different routes to get what they want. The villain has had far more time to for character development and growth. The villain pushes the narrative with great urgency and strength.

Some villains typically do what the hero should be doing in a given story, which is make things happen.  It also suggests to me that the narrative theory is that those only who have desire act in a devious manner.  If you are bubbled and pure you will persevere though simply being good.  Total rubbish.

I believe characters must be active in their own story or they will be supplanted by another more engaging characters.  This may also explain the appeal of villains as secret MCs in storylines.  Think of how flat some storylines are when the hero and/or villains are cardboard. It’s what I’m doing right now.

As always, happy creative endeavors.

Damaged

This is something I’ve been mulling over since the time I’ve said in a previous blog that my melodramatic characters seem to have more action and reaction than the blank slates that are their counterparts in my other stories.  This still seems odd to me. Why does the melodrama story have more life than my other stories?

This is coming from a guy who has watched soaps for years. Back in the day, my Mom watched soaps and we weren’t allowed to change the channel while her soaps were on.  She watched primarily CBS shows, but from time to time, My Aunt and she mentioned liking Dark Shadows—which is odd cause my Mom does not do the supernatural—yet there she was watching it.

That said, I see a little of what my other characters were missing—Many of the characters are damaged in some way, and they play that pain out in their actions (most of the time).

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some sorry-ass storylines/resolutions, but I’ve seen some compelling ones too.  What I’m getting at is the characters are who they are, and they try to work with what they have.

Outside of the melodrama story, most of my characters have more flat performances, and never leave their stoic bubble, which I have to admit has been a problem for me as a writer. My creative energy gets sapped when the “bubble” characters stop causing things to happen, and are passive in their own story.

With the melodrama story, I made characters selfish, self-absorbed, secretive, self-righteous, hateful, and scornful. They never apologized for their actions or behavior unless it got them something they wanted.

These are also attributes I give to villains in the other stories, and they have the freedom to act.  SO I need to take a long, hard look at my main characters, and as opposed to torturing them, allow them to be dirty, damaged, and make things happen as opposed to staying in a bubble. I still can torute them. I just want them to be better.

Happy creative endeavors.

My Precioussss

I don’t quite nuance that title as well as Gollum does in the Lord of the Rings films, but that was the aim.

As I continue to research, write, and learn, I noticed a lot of my characters are very much blank slates to a point that things happen to them, as opposed to them making things happen.  My characters can and should be active and not passive in their respective worlds.

That said, some of my characters are all inadvertently in melodramas (bad things happen to good people).  For example, in my novel, the MC (main character) is a dancer, but really doesn’t do much—other people cause the trouble. He just happens to be in nearby, and gets dumped on. No fighting back, and barely even a snappy line or insult.

The one time he was active is when he was placed in a situation where he had the option to run or fight. He chose to fight. I LOVED that scene. Totally my fault for the lack of an active role, though.

The MC was too precious to me to be active, OR to have true flaws to address and explore within the story. This is killing my stories from the inside. It plays a part in why I sometimes stall time after time on projects.

Let’s face it, I can procrastinate with the best of them—I’d clean my room before I spent the day writing (my personal flaw).

Ironically, the one melodrama story I worked on, has a very active character doing bad things while struggling to maintain the façade of an upstanding man of the town.  His actions cause problems as opposed to waiting, and he reacted to events. Dude has so many flaws, I was like this is good.  I have to know more (my nosy self).

Perhaps I should view my other stories as melodramas, and then I will dare to break them away from their precious, protected blank slate. I’d like to move forward in writing. A bother has to evolve creatively.

As always, happy creative endeavors, and don’t get stuck like I did.

Weird Ideas, Gaming, Goofing, and Writing

If I learned anything in my life, my goofiest ideas are often the most interesting angle I can have on a story, and should write them down even if thy don’t make 100% sense. I have lists of nonsense words I keep just so I can review and use them later, BTW.  🙂

Yesterday was a slow day where I recovered from the after effects of a migraine, and tried to take things slow. I had a few ideas for some things for the novel and they still don’t make 100% sense, however, maybe they shouldn’t, at the moment.

If given enough time to think on them, I’m sure they will add a nice layer to the story.  I still feel I have a LONG way to go with this novel. It never feels right or complete.  I need a writing life coach.

Happy creative endeavors.

Southeast Location

I took a few days away from working on my series that was inspired from my jokes, and after yesterday’s blog post on story styles, I felt inspired to revisit the concept with more thoughts.  Let me also add that I will have to do some research, so we’ve gone into a new stage.

As per past posts the story revolves around a man who has global influence, and is trying to work with his dysfunctional family.  My initial thoughts is he was trying to find his voice. That still holds true, but I think he has a new role he’s trying to please a lot of people while remaining true to himself.

I think the MC/hero/protagonist starts and LLC, and it grows like wildfire. His mom is in charge of the business as she manages him, the finances, and the demands.  She has become the an influential person who is the closest to her son.

Location was another aspect I worked on.  The story takes place in Charleston, SC (or outside the city). This is personal, as I am from the south, and I know this region well.  The main setting is the business which is set in a restored southern mansion.

Needless to say I need to brush up on businesses, and southern mansions, because I’d like for this to be a strong aspect of the series.   This also made me think of ideas for the series.

Below are some notes I made as thought this out:

  • Getting sued.  I know it’s an LLC, BUT I imagine people want access to the MC unfiltered.
  • The MC has a unintentional monopoly no on can match, and this sets some people’s shorts on fire.
  • People want favors at the MC’s expense.
  • People want Mom’s favor and try to bribe or blackmail her,
  • MC has to learn when to say “no,” and not being a people pleaser when the business has policies he and his mom are ironing out.
  • Mom and MC are having issues over policies.  Some she insists upon, others he insists upon.

Tomorrow I may post something I found to be a problem: I want to create some other relatives that have positive influence on the MC.  I’m thinking an aunt (Mom’s sis) and a Uncle (Dad’s brother) who may or may not work for him.

As always, happy creative endeavors.

Softening the Villain

I write this with two particular villains in mind who I thought were the most interesting characters in their respective films. I’m speaking of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and Darth Vader in Star Wars (original trilogy). Both characters held a lot of mystery and a particular brand of evil that was interesting to watch unfold.

What I did notice is when both characters became the central character of their own films, their stories and characters changed, and in many ways we saw they were not evil, but misunderstood, and that has in effect, cut off their true potency.

When I first talked about both characters, I suggested they were more like tragic heroes with a fatal flaw. They had desire, motive, and they made things happen.  Both Maleficent and Darth Vader paid the ultimate price for their actions. Only one of them remained relentlessly evil, while the other had a change of heart.

That said, when looking at the film, Maleficent, we see that Maleficent is the victim, and it is her trust that is betrayed. This betrayal turned her into a spiteful person, who acts out of malice and revenge.

This is a completely different character from the original, who was pure evil, didn’t give a damn how you felt, she was going to do as she pleased.  Granted that would make for a dark live action film (kids may be scared of her), but let’s be honest, she was the mistress of all evil. That’s a huge part of her appeal.

In the prequels of Star Wars, we get to see Darth Vader as Anakin Skywalker. It could be argued that it was only after Obi-Wan defeated Anakin, and left him to die in Revenge of the Sith is when he really turned evil.

Up until that point, Anakin was cocky, murderous, and extremely petulant. After he was defeated, humiliated, and left to burn alive is where he suffered, got angry, and realized the totality of his actions–which had been vile, and sadly this did not make him regret who he became. I would dare say that’s when the story starts.

Maleficent’s origin film allows for her to be re-branded as a dark heroine, while Darth Vader’s origin attempts to depict his tragic fall from hero to evil.  For the purpose of the Maleficent film, the character’s evil roots were purged in favor of a more kid-appealing villain, while the Star Wars prequels took a route to fill in gaps.

Both de-mystified their strongest characters with mixed results.