Character Series Part 4: “Giving a Darling the Axe” by Christen Krumm

Hello wonderful readers!  Today I have a special nugget for you in our Character Series brought to you by one of my favorite people and #writenight authors, Christen Krumm.  She is a book lover, YA fiction author, a Litfuse Publicity Group‘s Nester, a lover of coffee, tea, and reading.  She has a super-hero husband, a daughter Elsie, and two sons Drew & Oliver.

You can find her at LitfuseFacebookPinterestTwitter, or you can email her at thekrumms@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

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“WARNING:  If you haven’t read/seen Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (aka: living under a rock like me) you may not want to continue reading as there are HUGE spoilers.  You have been warned.

Confession:  I love tragic romances.  I love killing characters – especially the main ones or the love interest (and with that, 75% of potential readers just walked out the door).  In my first book, The Black Knight (working title), there are a whole lot of character deaths.  Some of these had to die prior to the story beginning and others had to for the story to progress, but what happens when you have to kill that one darling character you want to hold on to?  How do you axe them without losing your readers?

First, you are not going to be able to please 100% of your readers 100% of the time.  I can’t promise the readers who adore you will not throw your book across the room when they reach that pivotal point of death for your character. As authors sometimes we just have to take that leap.  We have to do what our hearts (and characters) are telling us.

There are also wrong ways to go about killing your characters.  I think George R. R. Martin (creator of Game of Thrones) has this down.  From what I hear, (yeah, I’ve never seen/read this series) if fans start liking a character too much, he kills them.  “I will create character you love then kill them all,” he says.  I, for one, say this is a horrible idea, but then again look at the following he has.  So maybe he does have a point.  Maybe this is actually brilliance.  *Mentally makes note to kill all the darlings.*

And then, there are those character’s deaths that are a huge plot twist no on saw coming, but have to happen to continue moving the plot.  The best example I can come up with -the killing of Dumbledore in The Half Blood Prince.  Just think about it.  If Dumbledore hadn’t died, Harry wouldn’t have grown into the man he needed to be to defeat Voldemort.  Not to mention the Elder Wand’s progression from a unknowing Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter – bypassing Voldemort – no matter his efforts. The series just couldn’t have gone on without the death of this very special character (and tell me you didn’t throw the book across the room when it happened)!  Now as for the other 92 deaths in the Harry Potter series (note: exaggeration)…I’m not sure I agree they had to happen, but eh, I wasn’t the author.  Had I been, well, I wouldn’t be blogging about it now would I?

In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Sometimes we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” Sometimes the right thing may be to save the day, and sometimes the right thing is to kill the beloved character.  It won’t be easy (it never is), but it is the right thing.”

Thank you Christen for such a fun post!  Leave a comment for Christen below, or check her out over at her blog: christenkrumm.com.  If you liked what you read today, stick around and get to know Christen a little better on Feature Fridays this week!

 

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Character Series Part 3: “The Character Arc”

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So, in this Character Series, I felt it important to address what I call the “character arc.”  I can’t honestly say that I have studied this, or that it’s the correct terminology, but I am referring to the emotional journey of a character.  It is important to address this because so many times I have read books where the character is stays flat throughout the story.

We as writers are essentially in control of taking our characters through their journeys – holding their hands and becoming their voice.  It’s our responsibility to put a character through trials, joys, testing, peace, and turmoil.  If we don’t then there is really nothing to read about is there?

There are three things (in my opinion) that create the perfect opportunity for a character’s emotional growth, and a couple of them relate to Joseph Campbell’s A Hero’s Journey.  

1. The Call – For a character to emotionally grow, something has to happen.  There has to be a change either abrupt, sought out, supernatural, or naturally dramatic.  Essentially, the ordinary world MUST be rocked in a way that will send the protagonist on a journey to find “self.”  We know that the majority of our human nature response is to fall into rhythms and patterns.  We tend to get comfortable in the ‘norm’ of our lives, whether that is a job, family, misery, depression, business, etc. So, a character’s normal world has to be altered forever sending them in search of meaning and purpose.

2. Testing/Trial – I think we would be naive if we thought that life didn’t come with these two things sewn into the fabric of each personal journey.  It is imperative that a character experiences setbacks to the goal of finding one’s purpose and true sense of self.  I have a very wise uncle who said that “pressure builds character,” and yes, I am going to say it….Diamonds are only rare and beautiful after experiencing extreme temperatures and gobs of pressure.  Would they be beautiful if they didn’t?  Would we value them?  In the same vein, our characters must experience pressure to build the character they need to save the world, overcome illness, die in grace, or defeat any enemy.  Who wants to read about a hero who is self-centered and whiny, or one who couldn’t be bothered to sacrifice something for the good of a cause?  It’s in the testing and trial that a person gains all they need to finish their personal race.

3. Choice – This is probably the most important element in my opinion.  There is always a choice.  Even if someone experiences trials, that doesn’t mean they are ready to be a hero.  It is only by choice.  We need our characters to, at some point, rise up and say “I choose this.”  They have to chose to get up again.  To slough off the person (even if they were a good person) they were before and continue on to greater things.  Our characters must choose to acknowledge their giftings AND their weaknesses, to accept help, to lead with understanding, and extend grace, even forgiveness.

I encourage you to re-read all of your favorites and examine why the protagonist was so easy to connect with.  You will probably find one if not all three of these things present in their journeys.  Also, ask yourself as a writer: “Where do I want my character to be emotionally/as a person by the end of this book?”

Hopefully this helps in your writing journey!

From,

The Unprofessional – Neysa 😉

Links:  A Hero’s Journey

Character Series Part 2: “The Bad Boys” by Sara Ella

Today I am pleased to say that I have guest blogger and writer friend, Sara Ella here to talk about villainous bad boys and why we love to hate, hate to love them in part 2 of our Character Series!

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Who doesn’t want to be rescued? We all long for the hero to swoop in and save the day. For good to conquer evil. For love to prevail. Boy meets girl. They fall in love and live happily ever after. The end.

Well, I’ve got news for you. That plot line just plain stinks. Odd that a lover of fairy tales would say this, don’t you think? I mean, seriously, give me dragon slayers, all-powerful kisses, and fairy dust any day. I cry at the end of movies like The Little Mermaid (“I love you, Daddy”) and Beauty and the Beast (“It is you!”). I get all tingly inside when I get within a mile radius of Disneyland. I mean, I used to work there for goodness sake.  So what’s the problem?

No one ever gives enough credit to the bad guy, or girl. I mean what little princess ever says, “Mommy, please can we go see the Evil Queen…plleeaaseeeee!” as she tugs on your arm at the “Happiest Place on Earth”? Truth be told, most kiddos are terrified of villains, and rightly so. I can tell you from personal experience as a former Disney entertainment cast member that no one wants to shake hands with the drunk cat from Pinocchio.

But guess what? As much as we hate him, we need him. Bad boys create conflict (insert sinister laugh here). We would never say it to his face, but Mr. Unhappily Ever After is the single most important layer in the Fairy Tale Ending cake. Without him there’s no story. Without him, just kiss intrigue and suspense goodbye. Bad boys make us care. And if I’m going to read your story or watch your movie, I absolutely have to care. Otherwise you’ve lost me.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this coin, shall we?

Divergent the book. I know, I know, say what you want about the series as a whole, you know you couldn’t put the first book down. I couldn’t. Here we have a heroine with a mind of her own. A girl who doesn’t swoon at first sight. Tris knows what she wants. She’s not weak-willed or weak-minded. Yada, yada, yada, I thought we were talking about bad guys here?

Oh…right.

So the obvious bad boy…er woman, is Janine or on a larger scale Erudite leadership. But I want to go smaller, deeper. So let’s talk about Peter.

Here’s a bad boy I loathed….and I mean I wanted to punch him right through the pages of Divergent. He was awful, rude….and then there’s that scene where he….oh, you haven’t read it? Sorry. I won’t spoil it for you.

What I’m saying is Peter was a great bad boy. He caused problems, conflict, tension. I never stopped fearing he was going to sabotage Tris, or worse. Props, Veronica Roth. Job well done.

And then there’s Divergent the movie. Don’t misread me, I loved the film. Would see it again. The film made me want to give books two and three another chance. But there was one very minor element missing in the movie.

Where did Peter go?

If you’ve read the book AND seen the movie, you know what I’m sayin’. Peter, this dude I totally hated, was lost on the screen. They turned him into this big goofy, kind of annoying but not too much of a problem, bad guy. They totally butchered that scene where they’re about to throw Tris…..of, right, you haven’t read it. Oh, never mind. I don’t care. Spoiler alert…..

In the book you have this highly intense scene where the peak of loathing for Peter scales the walls of the Dauntless compound. I mean I HATED, absolutely detested him, in this scene. Then in the movie it was like *shoulder shrug*. Thanks, Hollywood. I officially stopped caring.

In order to love the hero/heroine we need a bad guy who is the polar opposite. The more I hate him, the more I root for the good ones. The worse you make him, the more I want to see him rot. If you make him so awful and then redeem him believably, even better. There’s a twist in the plot I didn’t expect. Enter, Mr. Gold/ Rumplestiltskin.

I love me some Once Upon a Time. It’s like ABC took a survey of people exactly like me, liking all the things I like, and then made a show out of it. The real world and fantasy world clash. Twists on classic fairy tales. This show was made for Sara Ella.

I remember when Once just started, how much I hated Rumple, as he is affectionately known to Belle. This guy was the epitome of villains. Grotesque, black-hearted, and vile to the core. Fast forward to season three. Now he’s my favorite character. Why?

Because he’s the redeemed bad boy. He’s not all good. He’s still him. Mr. Gold still has all those traits about him that make him the perfect bad boy, but he’s also human. He’s a living breathing character who has the ability to change his mind….and his heart. More than anything, I wait for the next episode of Once so I can see what’s going to happen to him. Him…and Hook.

 

See, what’d I tell you? I love my bad boys. Come on, Emma! What is your deal? Just kiss that eyeliner wearing pirate already. You know you want to.

Here’s another bad boy I love to hate…hate to love? What’s so great about this show is the backstory woven throughout. What made these guys villains in the first place? Were they always that way? Inquiring minds want to know and oh boy, does Once tell me.

I get just enough to empathize with the character, but not too much where I still don’t hate them. No matter what you do with your bad boy, you’ve got to leave a little bit of loathing there, simmering, festering. We have to know there’s always a chance he’s going to make the wrong choice. Otherwise, I’m moving on to the next source of conflict.

So, don’t forget, if you’re writing a book like me, you need a bad boy who….

1. Creates conflict/tension

2. We hate enough to care about the hero/heroine. The more we hate him, the more we love them.

3. Is redeemable, but doesn’t lose the qualities that make him who he is. Flaws.

What about you? Who are your favorite bad boys and what is so great…I mean bad, about them?

Thanks for having me on the blog today, Neysa. Happy reading!

Sara Ella

Happily Ever After is Never Far Away | Psalm 45

http://saraella.com

http://twitter.com/saraellawrites

http://facebook.com/writinghistruth

Character Series Part 1: “Compelling Character Components”

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So, as I have titled my blog page Lyric & Longhand, I must no longer just own up to the “Lyric” part.  I am starting my first series on writing.

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional or published author.  I do not have a degree in English or Writing (Bachelors in Vocal Music – Commercial Music), but I am an avid reader who enjoys writing as a serious hobby.  It has become a vital way that I process the world around me.

A little background on my writing experience would be that as a tiny person I loved to write stories and had a wild imagination.  As a youth, I loved poetry, journaling, reading, and have shredded many embarrassing words about – well, we all know, don’t we?  As a college student I may have excelled more in my upper-level English courses than in some of the music classes.  As an adult, I found that my love for reading could bloom without the confines of projects, essays, term papers, and altogether stifling enlightening research papers. *coughs*

So, it is with the knowledge of a reader and an aspiring writer, that I come to you with this Character Series. I, with the help of my awesome #writenight crew (two of the most amazing friends, writers, and early-story-confidants a girl could have) will tackle everything from villains, character arcs, to the ‘bad boys,’  and compelling heroines.  So, without further ado: What makes a character compelling?

To make a character compelling is to literally evoke a “powerful, irresistible” reader response or “devotion.”  In my reading the characters that I find most compelling are the ones with these components:

Number 1:  Flaws

Are you writing a character that is 3 dimensional?  Because even though the idea of a perfect person is intriguing, it is unrealistic.  The characters, especially the protagonist in your story, need to have flaws. They need to be relatable on a human level, even if your novel is fantasy fiction and the person has a special ability or gift, they need to have a human based connection to the reader.  Examples of this could be physical (i.e. the hero who has a scar that mars half of his face, yet is still attractive because of his kind eyes). Another example could be a personality flaw (i.e. the heroine who can’t keep her opinions to herself, yet is unfailingly honest and trustworthy).

Number 2: Motive (Loss/Pain)

What is a characters motive?  That drives your story.  I know that plot is a huge component in writing, but I am in the camp that feels it is important to have the characters choices, reactions, non-actions, etc. drive the plot.  Is your protagonist searching for affirmation as a person?  Have they lost a family member or friend?  Have they never had friends?  Have they always felt out of place?  Have they been oppressed?  Have they had a good life, and are entitled because of it?  On and on…  What the reader needs is something to relate to again.  Readers want to know why a character is motivated to become the hero, hero’s support, or a villain.  People are products of environment, biology, and situation.  Write from a place that captures the interest of your reader – make them wonder “why?”  a character is “the way they are.”

Number 3: Mystery

Ok.  So this one is big for me.  I don’t read mystery novels per-se, but this is a component that should be in play in any novel.  As a reader, I always want something to surprise me, something I wasn’t expecting.  A reader keeps reading because the plot isn’t spelled out for them.  A character needs to possess within him or herself keys that unlock our compassion in moments of loss.  Keys that unlock a desire in the reader to “ship” their relationships.  Keys that unlock our willingness to defend them in a book group.  Whatever it maybe, we need to be able to find things out about these character, and love them through it or have an “Aha” moment as to why they again are “the way they are.”

Number 4: A Glimmer of Hope

When I am reading a character (because lets get real – I read characters, not books), I need a glimmer of hope.  Even if things are bleak in the story, there always has to be a that glimmer.  The possibility that the impossible will work out, and save them all.  The possibility that a hero or heroine could rise up with the smarts, tools, or power to change the current situation they’re in.  When hope is lost you stop changing, and no one wants to read a static character.

Number 5:  Love

This one goes hand-in-hand with hope, and is probably the most important of all.  We want our characters to find happiness and love.  It is a human connection that on some level, we all desire to make.  If our character has love (or the hope of love), they have the power to overcome because that is a driving force.  This doesn’t have to be romantic either.  It can be the love for a child, friends, or family.  We see in Harry Potter, that he was driven by love and the fear of loss.  He wanted to protect his friends who were his only family, and as readers we were on that journey with him.

Hopefully, this will help us writers write for our readers, and for readers to delve a bit deeper.  Why do you find your favorite character so compelling?  Who are some of your favorite characters?