This week: A Whiny, Selfish HeroEdited by: Cinn
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And I'm back! It has been about one month (practically to the day - "Action/Adventure Newsletter (February 26, 2020)" ). What can I say? I just can't seem to stay away from an adventure. Who knows? I might even ask to be assigned full time again. This newsletter was definitely a challenge for me at times, since I don't write fiction generally. But you know... it grew on me. And I'm writing another next month.
As always, here's a poem to kick things off.
Sam paused on the stairs. He had forgotten a thing.
In Leland’s room a copy of Thomas Merton lay on the floor.
The air was full of gnats of possibility. What was the story?
Sam looked at the clock twice. The day was dropping
softly away while Sam’s sneakers made the wood stairs creak.
The wood was sure it was wood. Alice got home from the store.
The bags had to be unloaded as the day went and went.
Then the sundown kitchen grew quiet.
Sam crossed his legs one way, then the other way. He had chosen
purple corduroys. They were pants of the day; one possibility.
On the tilted table sat the damaged typewriter.
What about Thomas Merton? Did he know the central story?
Someone was quietly reading by the fireplace but not Sam.
Next day there was badminton with the troubled carpenter
and the story of an awful egg salad, causing laughter;
but Sam had forgotten some thing. Then Alice brought in
the brownies and minor pleasure colored the house
and there went the evening. J.J. came downstairs
all gleamy from her bath. She had three reasons to get downtown fast.
Sam picked up a novel by Sukenick. The clue must be nearby.
Between Sam and the page swarmed the gnats of possibility.
~Excerpt from "Time in a Brown House" by Mark Halliday
Everyone is sick of hearing about the virus (no pun intended). I might be more sick of it than the average person too, since I'm a retail sales manager. I feel like I've seen the best and worst of humanity in small doses every day. From two little old ladies fighting over a 2-pack of Clorox wipes to the guy looking for disinfectant spray for his sick, elderly neighbor.
My last two weeks have been packed with action... definitely inspiring. But I know not everyone has been out in it. That's okay because it also brings to mind several questions that might help with character development. So here are some things to think about:
1. How does your character deal with disappointment?
Here are a few examples to get your gears turning. I think that we all tend to thing first of how WE would react in a situation, and sometimes it's difficult to make our characters different from us. But I bet that none of these will be surprising (and no one would do ALL of them).
A child who doesn't get a cookie A crying tantrum
An entitled wealthy woman Threats (lawyer, write to congressman, speak to manager, etc)
A regular Joe just doing his best A smiles and "It was worth a try."
2. If a plan doesn't work, how quickly do they land on a new plan?
Your character runs along a path, trying to escape. And a fiery branch blocks the way (or a gunman, or a rabid dog, or etc). How long does the rerouting take? Is it instinctive or calibrated?
3. To what degree is your character generous or self-serving?
A 100% generous character may be suffering from Mary Sou/Gary Stu disease (as in, idealized so much they become unrealistic). Would your character risk his life to save a child? A woman? Another man? Would the character give up a kidney to save his sister? To save a stranger? How much water would he or she share in a drought... all of it, a cap full, half of it, none of it? What's their rationale for their choice?
Hopefully by the time you all read this, you will be able to move freely throughout your communities and lives. It has been an interesting time to "people watch", and I won't soon forget the sound of carts rattling with fury or giant stacks of toilet paper balanced and teetering their way through the aisles.
So how about one last prompt for the road: People run through a store, frightened, grabbing items as they pass, too frenzied to squabble or pick up anything they drop. Why? The story starts here. If anyone gives it a try, submit it. I'll share it in my next newsletter because, while I might not be your regular editor anymore, I will definitely be back.
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Do you try to make your hero characters flawed (i.e. realistic)? If so, which are your favorite traits for your hero to overcome (or not)?
Here are some responses to my last newsletter, "Character Gender: But why?" :
Bye for now Cinn sure I will miss you.
Well... I guess you didn't have to miss me for long, huh?
Thanks so very much for featuring my activity in your excellent newsletter!
Happy to do it, love! Looks like you got lots of participants, which is always more fun (if not for the judges ).
Sometimes gender is important, especially where a romance-type story is concerned.
Hmmm... I guess if it's traditional. I think LGBTQ+ representation is getting more and more common. There are only a handful of story lines that would truly be gener-specific. Say, an accidental pregnancy. Much rarer for LGBTQ+, I'd imagine.
I had a character who started out female and transitioned to male as a part of the plot I hadn't planned on.
Always happy to hear that, love! I have yet to write a gender queer or trans character myself. Though I imagine that most have that type of voice... gender doesn't much matter to most of my stories. To be fair though, I don't write many!
I have a flash fiction story in my portfolio that I wrote, intending the main character to be female, but every review I got noted the character as male. It was really interesting to me that I hadn't actually specified the gender and so many presumed the opposite of what I had imagined.
I've heard that before too. Weird, isn't it? The few times I've had that, it was for very practical and relatively cold types of characters. Because you know... women are neurotic and packed full of feelings. It is interesting to go back and try to figure out why it's reading that way to other people.
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