April 9th, 2018


Likeable Characters

This post asks if your main character should be likeable.

Let me be blunt: if I don't like the characters in a story, regardless of its format, I am unlikely to consume it.  Why would I spend hours with people I don't like?  If I enjoyed that, I'd go to parties.  There are better things I could be doing with my time.

That said, my taste in characters is pretty diverse.  I don't care for flat or stupid ones.  But I like unsullied heroes, and I like antiheroes if they're written well.  I like complex characters who grow and change, who face and overcome real problems.  I don't want them to be perfect, because I enjoy seeing them struggle with their flaws.  I just don't like assholes.

Sometimes, of course, a character grows on me.  It was someone else who spotted Shiv's real damage, which got me interested, and the more I explored, the more I liked the pesky litter fucker.  And then his fan base grew from about two people, to dozens; he's now one of my most popular characters.  He's still kind of a dick, but it's easier to put up with when we know why, and he's actually making effort on a few things he cares about, such as professional development.

You can write unlikeable characters if that's what you enjoy.  Just understand that you'll be paddling upstream with many readers. 

Color Studies

For you artists and art fans out there, here's a terrific piece on color studies.  It explains what they are, how they work, and how to use them.  If I need to color something, I can usually do the trick in my head, but for a major project I may well lay it out with color chips so I can make visual comparisons side-by-side.  As an art fan, I love  the kind of color study where the artist lays out a bunch of variations of the same thing with different colors of background, foreground, subject, details such as clothes or flowers, etc. 

In the River Valley set, you can see how the last three combinations work best.  The yellow grass gives the most contrast, while the green is the most vibrant overall.  There's no better way to learn the application  of color theory than to stand in front of such a set and discuss why you feel that certain choices worked or didn't work. For instance, the very orange frames would work if painting Australia, but the blue stream would need to be much brighter and probably have some green along its margins, because that's how things look in that setting.  As is, it just kinda looks like someone popped a red filter over a camera lens.  Similarly the grey ones could go for somewhere foggy like Scotland or California, but you'd probably need to add  colorful details such as tiny pink wildflowers to keep it from being completely blah.

Turning Points

Turning points are vital in storytelling.   They support the major changes that most stories need to make a satisfying conclusion. The most common flaw I see is a failure of justification in the Battle of Wills (where did the strength come from?), the gesture of goodwill (what justifies making it or accepting it?), or other situations where the character's change of mind or the effectiveness of an action is not justified.  If they keep doing the same thing that failed earlier, but it succeeds now without changing anything else, then that's jarring and frustrating to me.  I want to see the character make a discovery, change a variable, or do something else that creates real leverage to divert the path of the story.

Magpie Monday

[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is running Magpie Monday with a theme of "strength." Leave prompts, get ficlets! Boosting the signal extends the length of your fill. The goal for this session is $100 in donations; if we meet that, the author will immediately post the entirety of the sequel to last month's bonus story, "Accidents in the Home," which focuses on Graham and Shiv, and rebuilding some of the young man's coping skills. This is nine parts long, over eleven thousand words.  So if you've got pocket money, watch the Magpie for things you'd like to sponsor -- and if what you really want is that sequel, you're basically getting the new stuff free.