Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Muse-ings. Characterizations.

Inspired by this post that I read last week over here.

I've written, twice, on the concept of fantasy fiction characters, and both times, the essays have been (in my opinion) much too long. So I will try to be succinct.

Although I am unpublished, I guarantee that I can create a character that
a) You will be fond of.
b) You will hate.
c) You will understand / empathize with.
d) You will not understand, to the point that it will frustrate you. (My favorite!)

Moreso, I will not cheat to do it. There are no divine interventions that grant super powers in my world. There is magic, but magic has boundary and cost. There are weapons, but they are not over powered. There are beasts, and they are not all either easily beaten or indestructible.


Not how. WHY.

I don't need a character sheet (but they're spiffy neato, and I like to be organized).

Every character type can be explained, there is no need to be original.

Take Vikings, they're always hot. Er, sorry, Danes. Natural conquerors, the coastal terrors?

(This is a real Viking helmet, by the way. Look Ma, no horns!)

Nope. They lived on a bloody damn rock filled island. They were good at building ships because the deep hulled ships got ripped open by underwater glaciers. (You think they KNEW that longships would give them naval superiority? Heck no. It was just a natural result.) They didn't have enough farmland to support their goats and veggies on their giant icy rock, so they went to trade.

People were rude to them. Trading took too long. They ... uh... didn't have anything TO trade, really, that was the point of going out to the sea (besides the fishing was decent half of the year).

They TOOK what they NEEDED to survive as a people. Then, their success led to more Viking babies, and they needed LAND to fit all these families once they figured out how to do that... so, uh, maybe they got carried away (and that's the part that excites everyone).

Vikings? Glorified fishmongering farmers, man. Yet, in the right context, that's great stuff!


I'm getting carried away again. Everyone has a story to tell. Are Vikings less sexy because they were really just farmers? Nope.

Don't worry about creating the Uber Original Character (TM). Don't worry about the Mega Original World (TM). That stuff can come later, if you're inclined.

Most of the literature classics that have endured time were because the prose itself was just that good. The characters that endure time are ones that people can relate to, because they feel they know the character. That's a reflection of the writer.

No lists, just a couple of KISS rules:

1) Just make them interesting enough to write about. Plain Bob in Plainville wearing Plainsocks and sucking on oatmeal all day is not interesting.

2) Challenge your character with something. And describe *that* in a way that is interesting. Plain Bob gets struck by lightning! (Hey, it could happen to you!)

That's where your mileage may vary. I like subtle coincidences, not massive acts of OMG'ness. I like stacking circumstances like tiny silver coins upon a scale, where each character has a teetering point, and the reader doesn't get to know where that is.

But other people like to do the "If you don't find/do the THING, then - generic tremendous catastrophe - will take place." (Oh noes! optional.)

If *I* did that, the catastrophe WOULD happen (that's not a spoiler, I hope), because frankly, people just aren't that good under pressure. Sorry, it's true.

You don't get to decide what will be interesting to other people. No matter what you write, someone's gonna hate it. Someone else is gonna love it. Bell curve, FTW.

You can be smart and increase your chances. But it won't be by character sheets. It'll be by answering WHY.

Characterization: The HOW is WHY. Make it understandable and interesting. That's all you need to know.


  1. What was it? *Be interested...* something or other?

    Greetings to both Wolfe and the Raine. Lovely site.

  2. Well, Hiya Luna! "Be interested, be interesting." Good memory!

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you don't mind that I pimp out your prose on the blog roll. We 'aspiring' types gotta stick together.

    See you 'round. :-)

  3. Ehh...I just write filth.

    Appreciate the shouts, nonetheless. :)


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