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Writing Exercise: Using the JerkMuse - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Writing Exercise: Using the JerkMuse
Today's writing exercise focuses on drawing inspiration -- and profit! -- from negative experiences.

1) Think of someone you hate; it must be an individual, not a category.  This is your JerkMuse.  Think about an occasion when the JerkMuse really pissed you off.

2) Jot down a brief description of the person.  Write at least a few paragraphs of the interaction scene.

3) Modify the JerkMuse into a character, the Antagonist.  Change at least a couple of key details that are not critical to the scene: size, sex, color of eyes/hair/skin, etc.  Always change the name if you know it; make it start with a different letter and have more or fewer syllables.  Pencil in some kind of motive why this character is a jerk.  It is the Antagonist's job to get in the Protagonist's way; this should be someone the audience will love to hate.

4) Modify your role in the scene to create another character, the Protagonist.  Change some details and the name.  You don't want to create a Mary Sue, so give this character at least one flaw and virtue.  The Protagonist is the character the audience should be rooting for; this should be someone the audience will sympathize with.

5) Adapt the scene to fit the new characters.  You may need to change the context and details somewhat.  Often what sticks in memory is conversation -- it's okay to keep snappy dialog if you've got it.

6) Now for the fun part: spin out the story so that the Antagonist, after annoying the Protagonist greatly, is horribly humiliated or gruesomely killed or otherwise disposed of.  In broad strokes, this works in any genre: romance, mystery, science fiction, etc.  Keep the constructed characters in mind as your puppets, but use your own real emotions  to fuel the intensity of the story's mood and tone.

...* The Antagonist should juuuuust touch victory with a fingertip before it is ripped away!  This is more realistic, more sadistic, and more gratifying.

...* The Antagonist's crushing defeat should derive significantly from inherent character weaknesses.  (An Antagonist who is habitually cruel to animals might wind up spurring a horse and getting bucked off.)  The Protagonist is allowed to take advantage of this with a well-placed boot to the rear.

...* The Protagonist's ultimate victory should also derive significantly from inherent character strengths.  (A smart Protagonist should outwit the Antagonist; a muscular Protagonist might wind up wrestling the Antagonist instead.)  This is all the more gratifying if the Antagonist has been taunting the Protagonist about that particular trait.

7) Revise as necessary, using your usual process.

8) If at all possible, sell the story for money.  Few things are more satisfying than making money off people who tried to ruin your day.  Buy yourself some chocolate, or a book, or some other treat with the money.  Also, it is much easier to keep your temper if you can concentrate on what you are going to do with this next JerkMuse once you get your hands on the keyboard.

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Current Mood: busy busy

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Comments
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 11th, 2010 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL! I love it. I'll have to try that.

I put part of myself into all my characters, whether protagonist or antagonist. If I don't, the characters feel flat and lifeless. It can be big things, tiny things, or even really vague things. With Nokwahl, I gave her a traumatic childhood like me, but much worse. Her partner Alex gets really pissed about crimes against children, as do I. And Nokwahl's human lover Sam feels more like an Ah'Koi Bahnis than like a human, again like me.

As to antagonists... that's not always so clear. *Thinks* Well okay; the insane god Mordith had some huge traumas during his childhood, and isn't really evil. Ironically, his mother (who really IS evil) keeps him insane. (I say ironic because my childhood trauma came from peers, not family.)

Hmmm... most of my antagonists tend to be complex. My second, unpublished Nokwahl novel has the government of Vaish as antagonist, and that because they're pissed at their advice regarding humans being ignored. I'm trying to think of other individual antagonists... that I can figure out what part of me they share... drawing a blank.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 11th, 2010 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)

*bow, flourish*

>>LOL! I love it. I'll have to try that.<<

Happy to be of service.

>>I put part of myself into all my characters, whether protagonist or antagonist.<<

With me it varies. Some of my characters really have a lot in common with some aspect of me. Others are not much like me at all. And they aren't necessarily like each other either. But when there is a connection, I find it useful. *chuckle* Some of the connections are just in places people would never think to look.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 11th, 2010 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Go for it!

That sounds like a great plan. Let me know if you decide to post it?
valarltd From: valarltd Date: July 11th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did that.

I was having trouble with a certain nurse. I gave her a sex-change and put her into Shell-Shocked. Profit.

People despise Connor Woods. And I'm sure some of that negative energy is flowing right back to her, since I haven't had trouble from her since it came out.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 11th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good for you!

I'm happy to hear that worked out for you.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: July 11th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Mary Sue. The scourge of fan fic...
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: July 11th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes. I like this. It's VERY nice to see your demolition job on particular individuals end up in a national newspaper.

(And a salutary relief that the individuals I shamelessly and joyously libelled don't read that paper!)
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: July 11th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did that, though I never tried to publish it. I was furious on behalf of someone I am *very* protective of, so I took the person who had hurt her and ultimately made him fall off a cliff. It helped.

I've never met the model for that villain. I suspect that's probably just as well...for her.
msstacy13 From: msstacy13 Date: July 11th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't generally go to this much trouble, but,
as I may have mentioned previously,
since I'm writing a novel set in London, 1940-1,
disposing of minor characters in grisly situations is a bit of a hobby of mine.
Heheheheheh.
madshutterbug From: madshutterbug Date: July 11th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's not quite the same, nor is it particularly different... one of the reasons I enjoy photographing the Otterz Mob (see icon for one of 'em) is the grief I took as a grade-school age child for someone seeing stuffed toys at my house while delivering school assignments when I was out for strep/tonsillitis.

Otterz Mob Adventures are among some of my more popular photographs.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 11th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

0_o

Some people are just barbaric.

My partner and I collect weird stuffies. Let's see, we have Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, a Deep One, a Shoggoth (from the Cthulhu Mythos), a melted snowman, a Siamese-twin cat, Fluffy the three-headed dog, and Dark Matter.

Hmm ... maybe I should try photographing them some time.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 11th, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Writing related word of the day:

Boustrophedon
–noun
an ancient method of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and from left to right.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Boustrophedon
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 11th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, vaguely related... I've been considering doing something that is vaguely opposite of a Mary Sue. Take a villainous version of myself, file the serial numbers off, insert it into the story. The villain would still get roundly and soundly defeated, but zir motives would be similar to what mine are when I'm feeling antisocial. IE, a villain bent on conquering the world "for humanity's own good" to try to force humans to behave because he's fed up with the crap humanity does.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Go for it!

>>Take a villainous version of myself, file the serial numbers off, insert it into the story. <<

That's worth a try.

>>IE, a villain bent on conquering the world "for humanity's own good" to try to force humans to behave because he's fed up with the crap humanity does.<<

I actually have a character for whom that worked: Kovid, my warlord-wizard. Poor guy just wanted to be left alone to study, but the raiders simply would not stop trampling his onions.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 12th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Go for it!

LOL!
datalore From: datalore Date: July 12th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is such a great idea. :)
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