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taerkitty

Five years ago she was a cover girl. And five years ago she disappeared from the media. ‘Died’ but only to reborn in order to dedicate herself in the world of supernatural – as she belonged there in the first place.

This is what I consider tell - it gives us facts, but, with the exception of the last bit about her belonging, it doesn't give us anything about her.

- Five years ago she was a cover girl. Did she enjoy being a model? Does she miss it? What did she like about it?

- Five years ago she disappeared from the media. What happened? Was there an uproar? Maybe people bandied about all manner of rumours. How did she take it?

The point is to go slower, to introduce us to her, to let us get comfortable with her. No, don't try to answer all these questions in the first chapter. In fact, you can get away with not answering any of them at first. Just have her do her thing, and in the background, you figure out how to drop these facts as you go.

It's important to have a full background for your character, yes. But it's also important to let the character grow, breathe, and become three dimensional in our eyes. It's important to reward the reader with that sense of accomplishment when s/he learns something new about the character.

1/21/2010 #31
Vulpine Ninja

Thanks Mizzuz Spock and taerkitty :)

- Five years ago she was a cover girl. Did she enjoy being a model? Does she miss it? What did she like about it?

- Five years ago she disappeared from the media. What happened? Was there an uproar? Maybe people bandied about all manner of rumours. How did she take it?

I get the picture now. I feel like adding/editing something now.

I have a complete background for that character, but I kind of respect that she doesn't want to be too attached to people. Indirectly I didn't give a chance for the readers to know her. I'll revise it to see if there's any neccessary things to be mentioned.

1/21/2010 #32
taerkitty

If I may, I have three stories up, and in all three I try to avoid an abundance of tell.

- The Human Touch is a 'dear diary' story, so it's pretty easy to keep it free of dispassionate exposition.

- Days of Madness is a first-person story as well, and it's is much more active than The Human Touch, so there's more to see.

- Foster's Gambit has tell, and lots of it. In fact, each chapter opens with a bit of it, but I envision it like a detective TV show or movie, where the episode starts slow, and there's a bored voice-over rambling on a bit. It's tell, but it's in keeping with the genre, and I try to keep it relevant to the character and tied to his mind.

Actually, all three are in first-person PoV. I'm not sure, but I find first-person PoV to be easier to avoid too much 'tell'. For me, tell is when the author states something that has no visible 'hook' to what the character is seeing / saying / doing. It's also when the author gives 'just the facts, ma'am' even if it's in a first-person monologue, such as "He entered the market. He knew this was the south gate, and that three others, each with their own gate, made up the Square." He may know it, but why is he thinking of it right now, other than to play tour guide for the reader?

Even in third person, try to describe what they did, not just lay out the emotion. Try to follow their eyes and make mention of things that catch their eye. Make sure it's always about the character.

The rest will fall into place eventually.

1/21/2010 #33
1.21 Jigawatts

Hello all. After perusing this thread for the first time, I found the discussions here to be really interesting. Reading this stuff motivated me to get up off my a** and consolidate some of my thoughts on a lot of the subjects that I’m really interested in that you touched upon here.

So, your friendly neighborhood internet connection error has decided to land and make first contact with this thread.

I’m going to start with the character questions posed by Vulpine Ninja, since I feel that I have a somewhat decent amount to say about them. This is going to be a really long post. So taerkitty, since you are a mod, if you feel it is inappropriately long, feel free to delete it / break it up, etc...

----------------------WARNING: MASSIVE BRAIN DUMP DETECTED---------------------------

“Sir, we’ve detected a high energy anomaly off the starboard bow.” Data started, glancing up from his console with the same, impregnated stoic face that the crew had always known. His eyes twitched for a moment.

“On screen.” Picard ordered.

And finally, the main viewer flickered for a moment to reveal:

How do you design/create a character? What are the steps/procedures that you use to produce one? How long does it take?

I think that before I answer this question directly, I have to define what makes a character to me, which is linked with what defines a person to me. This is important since our definition of what constitutes a conscious being / person sort of orients what kinds of structures that we feel needs to be present for us to feel that we’ve created a “character”.

For the most part, I feel that a person is defined by their emotional needs. Like, for example, when I interact with people, I sort of feel that I need to have some sort of gauge on what some of the paradigms of their mentality are before I can say to myself that I have a reasonably complete conception of who that person is. These kinds of paradigms are heavily influenced by what types of emotional needs that the person has, and where they came from, and they manifest themselves in all of the things we see about the person (how they act, etc…) whether they acknowledge that or not. (Once again, this is another topic I’m not going to get into here – the origin of our emotional needs). Note that even if I form this type of conception of a person, it may be inaccurate – I’m not going to get into reading people here. But the point is, that type of a conception has to be there, and by nature it does take a reasonable amount of exposure to that person to form.

I’d like to think that I’m very slow to make judgments, since I feel that there’s a myriad of factors that determine why a person behaves they way they do and why they take certain actions, and I feel that I’m not in a position to make a reasonably sound judgment of said person until I understand or at least acknowledge those factors.

Anyway, I digress. So when I create a character, in order to feel that my character is complete / meets my criteria for being a real person, I have to map them out psychologically and emotionally. I need to instill them with types of emotional needs, and understand how those needs create the mentality that affects who they are and what they do. I need to map out where those needs came from and how each character chooses to handle them, or cause them to evolve / devolve. Then based on that, I start to map out their interactions relative to other characters, and define what types of roles that they tend to play.

So, one can imagine that there is a lot of me in my characters. Nothing could be closer to the truth: I feel that I am best at instilling my main characters with emotional needs that I understand adequately – either because I currently have them or I have had them at one point in my life. I mean, I can try instill them with emotional needs and whatnot that I am not as familiar with (in terms of what it feels like to have such need or the different ways that people can choose to handle it), but it does become apparent that the character is somewhat underdeveloped or unnatural because I have to fill in the gaps with projections and conceptions that I have only heard/seen, not felt – resulting in characters that tend to be a little more stereotypical (because I had to rely on knowledge provided by the stereotype to fill in the character gaps). I still do create these kinds of characters, since my stories have many, many characters, but these types are never main characters.

As a starting point, what I do to get a pool of types of emotional needs is that I look back on my life and examine all of the mental / emotional turning points. I try to understand what kinds of defining feelings and emotional needs that I had at those different stages, how I chose to handle them, and what factors influenced where they came from and what caused me to handle it in a certain way. I ask a lot of what if type questions:

What if I had chosen to handle it this way instead of that? What if I didn’t make this realization or that realization? What if I were placed in these circumstances as opposed to those ones? Etc…

Once I answer those questions, I think about what mentalities / emotional needs may have formed based on the answers to those questions.

I kind of do this to a limited extent for the people that I feel I know fairly well. I take those emotional needs and scale them to the appropriate degree for fitting certain roles in the story at hand, and extrapolate them to fit the setting at hand.

Once those emotional needs are established, I think about variation in how a person can choose to handle them, starting with the way in which I chose to handle them and thinking about how other people have handled such needs – or appeared to have handled the perception of such needs. By handling – I mean how does one seek to fulfill that need, or modulate how that need affects their decisions. It’s more negotiation with that need. This will be fleshed out more in my example section, but here is a quick one:

Emotional need for constant attention / recognition – someone can handle it by trying to quickly attach themselves to the people they interact with (clingy), usually attempting to force connections to develop at an unnatural pace out of desperation. Or they can handle it by convincing themselves to find purpose in anything that’s popular – often becoming an outspoken proponent of such trend. Or they can handle it by (etc…the list goes on...)

Now, my experiences and that of those around me are highly limited, so I can never come up with an exhaustive list. It’s also apparent that I’m more familiar with certain mechanisms as opposed to others, but while I try to not limit myself to those – they do have a habit of showing up. The number of ways that someone can handle the presence of a particular emotional need is practically infinite when considering a wide range of conditions. But I don’t need one – I just need a few for each emotional need that I establish. I also have to make sure that the things which drove a character to choose to handle their need one way as opposed to another have a basis – this is usually how I create the basis for character back stories.

So now I have 2 of 3 elements needed for a character. Presence of Certain Emotional Needs + Array of Methods to Negotiate with Emotional Need + 3rd term = Character. This third term is Manifestation. Basically, I have to think about how does a character’s emotional needs and their handling methods show up in their behavior. Externally, what traits does this drive them to have? How would the fact that a person has these types of underlying superstructures show up in the way they conducted themselves? Short example:

Emotional Need: Attention / Recognition. Handling Mechanism: Attempt to leave strong impressions on those around them with limited commitment / exposure. Manifestation: Character is probably loud, obnoxious, tends to act in ways that people find difficult to ignore, is usually overwhelming to the people especially when they first meet him, dresses in clothes that stand out either in their general accepted-ness or the exact opposite, but not in the middle. Usually talks too much, rarely gives a person they are engaged with in conversation the space to reply / chime in. Not a very good listener, can often be very impatient.

So after all of that, now we’re cooking. Now we have a character. In summary:

1. Establishment of Types of Emotional Needs. Choose defining need, and scale it and all of the other emotional needs that the character has appropriately.

2. Determine array of negotiating mechanisms, why they choose certain ones over others, which ones apply more so in certain situations than others.

3. Map out how the presence of those needs and their respective handling mechanisms show up in the character’s external behavior.

Note that, this isn’t a one way street. A plot event may change a character’s emotional needs, or the way they handle them, so there’s room for variation in how these things show up.

Now, this hints at something that I haven’t defined explicitly. I see characterization as something that is done on one of three levels.

1. Surface: Habits and Behavioral Traits. Is someone loud? Quiet? Do they walk confidently? Quickly? Do they talk in a formal tone or a sloppy one? Etc…

2. Reactionary: How would a character react in certain situations? If insert event or set of circumstances happened to insert character, in what ways would they be inclined to respond?

3. Mentality / Emotional: What is the driving force for why they choose to behave and react in certain ways? Where did that force come from? What is its nature?

As I’ve mentioned in other threads – it is not necessary for characterization on all three levels to be conducted in a story. It depends on what kind of story you’re going for, who your target audience is, and what is appropriate for the world / story you’ve built up. Some stories can get along fine in the eyes of some with only 1st level characterization. I do feel, however, that it doesn’t usually work to do one of the deeper levels without the shallower levels. For example, I think it would be really difficult to do 2nd level w/o doing 1st level, etc. For me, I have to do all three, because I always start at the 3rd level.

As for how long does it take, well, it does take quite a while. It's also not something that I do all in the beginning - this kind of thing is an ongoing process that evolves with the progression of the story, so I can't say exactly how long it takes to go through such a process, because well...it's kind of convoluted.

What do you consider when designing/creating them?

I do believe I have inadvertently answered this question in my answer to the previous question. If you're asking for specific things like their appearance / costume, I'll provide that in the next post. I'm really sleepy right now.

Give a couple of samples of your original characters (Protagonist and love interest/archrival/villain/sidekick/parent/etc) and explain briefly on how you create them and the pair's relationship with each other.

I will provide samples in my next post, since this one is really long and I am sleepy right now. My next post will cover this, and will probably not be as long as this one.

1/24/2010 #34
taerkitty

Are you kidding? Keep going! I'm just reading along here...

1/25/2010 #35
1.21 Jigawatts

Give a couple of samples of your original characters (Protagonist and love interest/archrival/villain/sidekick/parent/etc) and explain briefly on how you create them and the pair's relationship with each other.

Alright, so I've finally had time to post some examples, and answers to the remaining questions. I should also warn that there are a good deal of spoilers and whatnot in these examples, but I don't think anyone here is actively following my story so I don't think it's a big deal. But just in case we get a newbie to the forum who happens to be someone who follows one of my stories (equal to the probability of winning the lottery), I'll put up the following notice:

Warning. Some Spoilers Ahead.

-------

I'll start with the jolly old cast of Tracer. Now, from a character standpoint this was a very different type of story for me, and was kind of an exercise in trying to write something more focused. The key thing here, is that all of the characters in Tracer actually have the same defining emotional need, and the diversity of the characters stem from the different ways in which they handle it and manifest those traits. The character interaction here is more focused on the interaction between different character types, and not too much on the evolution / changing of those character types (except for a small fraction of the main characters, such as Selphie). This is in stark contrast to the things I've written in the past (and to my other story, The Voice in my Head), and is the primary reason that I say that this story is easier to get into than my other one. The characterization focus is more on the 2nd level, and more thought has been put into the 1st level when compared to any of my other stories, and the 1st / 2nd levels of characterization are easier to recognize and easier to perceive for the reader. It's also more appropriate in terms of engagement. I'm not saying that I do it well, I just do it better than in my other stories. With this story, the reader is able to create a distinct conception of the main characters (doesn't matter if it's a correct or incorrect one, the point is that there is one) much earlier on than in my other work, even if on the 3rd level they may not be as well developed.

That being said, the defining emotional needs of all of the main characters in Tracer are the need for certainty - a grasp or a trace on the traumatic, formative events that had occurred in each character's lives and the need for closure. Hence the title Tracer, and the main mechanic of drawing (tracing) clearly defined symbols to "focus" the energy of one's spirit to produce what their mind sees fit. It's symbolic (literally and figuratively). One may notice that a common theme in this story is the atmosphere of uncertainty - of never being able to find out what one needs to find out. Gaping questions. Feelings that eat everyone from the inside, and how they choose to deal with them or fight them. The characters in this story are defined by how they've been forced to resort to certain methods for dealing with the uncertainty caused by traumatic events in the past, and how those interactions shape their future.

Before I go any further, I should mention that a "spirit slave" is a person who had developed a fear of something so deep that it caused their spirit to destabilize and their body to take the physical manifestation of what they were afraid of. Usually a monstrous form, but it doesn't have to be.

So without further adieu, the characters. I will talk about only 2 of them (I was going to talk about 5 characters, but then after writing it here I realized that the post would probably, once again, be way too long.) I know the question said briefly, and this may not seem like it, but I have pages and pages of stuff written about these things for all of my main characters so even though what ensues seems long, it really is the short version. I'm actually leaving a lot out, especially in terms of the subtleties.

Tristan Tydan: Main character. Short background: He's someone who grew up alone, and was taught to use rune magic by his parents who passed away when he was about 5 years old. Killed by a type of monster called a spirit slave. He's always sleepy, because he's taken it upon himself to be some sort of a night watcher - running around town and fighting off spirit slaves when they attack people, and therefore never gets any sleep. Because of this, however, he's been completely isolated from any other rune magic user, and is of the opinion that he's the only one at the beginning of the story. Over the years, this hobby of his has taken it's toll on his mentality, to the point that he has become extraordinarily disgruntled. He's spent his life fighting for no purpose, other than to survive since spirit slaves are attracted to his ability to use rune magic, and he has not been able to develop any other part of his life because of it. He knows nothing about this power he has, where it came from, and why he has to do what he's doing, but yet he has to do it to survive, and he has been doing so for 11 straight years. It should also be mentioned that he keeps his hobbies completely hidden, and therefore lives a double life - in one of which he is completely alone (rune magic user), the other of which he can't help but incline to be alone (normal life).

This has turned him into a very, very pessimistic and easily irritable person, and has completely shaded his ability to see the bright side of things. He's disgruntled. He's sick of everything. He's quite introverted (although not completely so), and can often be seen as indifferent toward others if he isn't close to them. He's not very empathetic to most people, and inside his own head he does have a habit of complaining often. Over the course of time, the uncertainty brought about by his past, his hobbies, and his abilities, have caused him to become extremely frustrated, but yet he can be called a masochist in the fact that he cannot get himself to ignore his problems. Because of his predicament, he's become so used to struggling with his own situation and feelings that he doesn't really know how else to behave. In this aspect he's got a lot of tunnel vision. He's stubborn and he can't step back to see things in a different light, because subconsciously he has so much invested in the way he's had to deal with things such that he's convinced himself that nothing else will help - he can't afford to accept the concept that all of his struggling and frustration didn't amount to anything. That is, until he meets his best friend at the beginning of the story: Selphie.

Selphie Hilare: Main Character. Short Background: She's someone who also grew up alone, due to similar circumstances. She was taught rune magic by her father when she was about 5 years old, and only learned one symbol - one which allows her to disappear completely so she can run away. She was also taught that rune magic was something that only family members could use, just like Tristan, and therefore is also isolated from the rest of the rune user community. Shortly after that point, her father turned into a spirit slave monster right before her eyes and lost all control of himself, killing her mother in the process and causing her to have to use the only symbol she knew to run away and survive. She believes that her father taught her that symbol specifically because he knew he was going to turn into a monster. Having been very close to her mother and father, the shock of that incident, the lack of knowledge about her power and what exactly happened to her father has instilled an emotional scar which she keeps deeply buried inside of her. The questions eat her up inside, yet, she is able to handle it in a very different way than Tristan.

Selphie is quite the opposite of Tristan, at least externally. She's cheerful, very outgoing, and friendly. Always has a bright smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. She tends to be generally optimistic about anything and everything, and is always empathetic even toward people she doesn't know. Yet, throughout her life, she's often encountered spirit slaves at night who are attracted to her magical potential, and has had to use her power to run away and hide. This has shaped the means by which she chooses to deal with the uncertainty brought about by her past: she runs away. Completely ignores her feelings, denies things to herself, structures her life around finding things to preoccupy and distract her, which is why she's involved in so many activities, clubs, and whatnot in school. Can't stand to be alone because she knows that she might be drawn to focus on the questions that lay in the back of her mind. Her personality and position have made her quite popular overall, so she has also made a habit of finding distraction by being involved in other's lives, garnering her many friends. This does evolve and change over the course of the story, and her character is, in my opinion, the most well developed.

Initial Character Dynamic: Tristan and Selphie

On the surface, their personalities are very complementary. Selphie is constantly making fun of Tristan's seriousness and his lack of implicit understanding of social norms. She's curious to a point, and often playfully invades Tristan's space if it isn't anything serious, just to get a rise or a laugh out of him. She is one of the few people that can get Tristan to laugh. Tristan on the other hand, constantly pokes fun at Selphie's overbearingly outgoing demeanor and her fluid mentality, often by sarcasm.

Tristan and Selphie met 18 months prior to the story. They both lived in the same town, which, one night, was destroyed by a series of really big explosions that originated on the ground level. The next day, Tristan retrieved Selphie from a damaged building during the rescue efforts. The explosions were passed off as a well planned terrorist attack, however both Tristan and Selphie know better because they were awake when it happened - they both know internally that it was a giant rune symbol that caused the explosion. They didn't tell each other that, of course, since they keep their abilities hidden from each other.

On a deeper level, it's more complicated. Overall, even though they don't know about each other's deeper past (until Ch.15), this incident gives them something in common - a shared traumatic experience. Because of this, they both believe that the other understands or has the same kind of pain that they have, and as they've gotten to know each other they have started to recognize each other's different take on dealing with it as something that they strive for. Selphie appears to be able to disengage herself from her pain, which is something that Tristan strives to be able to do. Tristan hates his predicament and his method for dealing with it, but it is the only one he knows that somewhat works, and in a sense he sees a sense of hope in the way Selphie is because it signifies to him that it is possible to move on, that is is possible to not have to struggle. He admires Selphie's "strength" in that manner, because she does what he cannot do, but wishes to and recognizes that he needs to. This works both ways, however, since Selphie views Tristan the same way. She's tired of running away and being scared, tired of always having to depend on externalities keep her sane, and overall, tired of not having the strength to stand up to her pain. Tristan's paradigm of struggling with his feelings and situation signifies to Selphie that it is possible to face one's pain, to look it dead in the eye and make progress in bringing her demons to closure. She admires his "strength" in that manner - he does what she only wishes she could do.

This has caused them to develop a very caring attitude toward each other, and is one of the reasons why they have become so close over a relatively short period of time. The impact that each of their presences has made on each of their lives became something that they both value deeply, and either of them would literally go through a burning fire to help the other one out. On the deeper end, they're very protective of each other and empathetic to each other, even if on the surface they don't seem that close or that similar.

This dynamic does change and evolve over the course of the story, since the paradigms that they operate on and the roles that they play relative to each other change. This is why I called this the "Initial" character dynamic.

To answer a question I get a lot about this - am I planning to turn Tristan and Selphie's relationship into a romance? The answer at this point is well, I don't know. I didn't intend to initially, and I don't necessarily intend to right now, but it wouldn't be unnatural or a far stretch to do so. I don't know what I'm going to do in this aspect, but I do have to decide soon because the point in the story where it would be ideal to make such a transition is not very far away.

So, To round it up, I was going to talk about three other characters: Ayane Hoshino, Damian Eberhard, and Callista Windsor, the last of which would have lead into a good discussion of Mary Sue characters, because when I've described her to some people, she may be thought of as a Mary Sue before I explained her role in the story. But since I'm not describing her, I'm just going to jump into the discussion. In another post, because I can't concentrate right now because there's two other people in my room and they're being noisy.

As a final comment, one of the main issues with my writing is that even though I've written a lot about the characters and I've imagined pretty thoroughly how their interactions are (among other things), a reader may read one of my stories multiple times over and not recognize these things. That's one thing I'll talk about in a post where I focus on my attitude toward writing at the current moment.

1/27/2010 #36
Anise Cary

Ok all, just started reading this thread so I'm copying and pasting questions, answering them then going back for more so this may end up long.

In your mind, what makes a good story? The characters? The plot? The setting? The theme? The climax?

not sure what really makes a good story but it has to grab me and pull me in, I read many genres so that isn't usually an issue for me, my biggest turn off is poor grammar and bad editing, hazard of my job I want to correct it, being an English teacher it's what I do, I work to help my students' writings while making a tremendous effort to let them preserve their style of writing, that's given me a whole new perspective. I know too I've started to look at writer's profiles and I keep their age in mind when I review. I read 11-15 yr old writing all the time, I know what I expect from them, if I see something I would give a bad grade I don't read it. This may be a bad thing and I'm sorry if that bothers others but for me I'm finding it hard to separate as I expect someone a bit older to turn out work that is more refined. Summaries do catch my attention, one reason I feel I need to work on my own, I think they're not so great.

What do you look for in a story when reviewing?

I pretty much answered this above, i look for grammar and editing errors just by nature, I also look for character description and look to see if the dialogue is congruent with the story and setting. I always try to point out the things that I remember that stick out in my mind as being good. I actually have taken to sitting with a small notepad to take notes on so I'm prepared to write a more detailed review

What makes a good review, in your author's eyes?

Well I love praise, I have to admit it makes me smile. I also like the constructive criticism. I'm too close to my work to see it objectively, I need a fresh perspective sometimes and it's hard for me to take that step back.

Do you rewrite? How often? How extensively? Touch-ups, or from-the-ground-up?

I am a rewriting, revising, editing perfectionist. My story Love and Secrets is 8 yrs old, as in I started it in 2001. I write for a while always in a notebook there's something to me so intimate about pencil to paper, then I type and revise as I type, then I print and edit that, and type again, at some point I go back to writing new parts of the story and the process starts again.

One more topic to talk about, if the spirit moves you: writers and confidence

I am so not confident in my work, I'm one of the worst, it's taken me forever to get up enough courage to share my work. I'm working to change that. I think what I've seen on here from a few others is totally dead on though if I see a summary apologizing for weakness I won't read it (note to self": check my summaries) I've been sharing my stories with my 3 best friends since high school two of them are also writers, I'll have to steer them to this forum as they just registered here as well, they've always told me my stuff is good, but I've never been one to take a compliment well. My goal now is to project that confidence. I love my stories so everyone else should too bc they're awesome LOL ok maybe not that much ;)

How do you design/create a character? What are the steps/procedures that you use to produce one? How long does it take?

honestly I don't know how much I create a character, it's odd but most of the characters in the stories I've written seem to almost spring to my mind as a whole, I may have to work on physical description but they come fully equipped with personality, sometimes yelling in my head if I've left their story alone for too long. The few I've conciously created I work to keep them as individuals. Many of my chars are in some way based on myself (yep I'll willingly admit I star in at least a few of my own stories, well in some way anyway) and my friends and family. However I try to give them an individuality, they are not my friends, they are unique in some way. That's what takes the longest but I'm not sure I can nail down a time, I've never really thought through the process that much.

What do you consider when designing/creating them?

like above my biggest consideration is to make them individuals not copies of my friends, I also ask do they fit the story and that includes their names, are the believable within the context of the story

Give a couple of samples of your original characters (Protagonist and love interest/archrival/villain/sidekick/parent/etc) and explain briefly on how you create them and the pair's relationship with each other.

I'll start with Julie and Steven, the main chars in Love and Secrets, quite honestly Julie was very much started as being my clone and Steven the clone of an ex-boyfriend. As I wrote Julie began to take on characteristics physically and personality wise of my 3 closest friends until she was an amalgamation of the 4 of us, as are her two friend Valerie and Sarah. Steven then logically became a combination of several of my ex-boyfriends with my picking and choosing pieces of each of them to use for him. In particular in a chap not yet posted Julie mentions Steven over hearing his parents argue over who had to take him when they divorced. This really happened to one of my exes (still a good friend) his parents bounced him back and forth between them year to year, between two different states til he'd had enough and file for emancipation. I always thought this was so strange for parents to do and it just called out to be part of Steven's history.

The story I'm working on now on paper, untitled as of yet, the characters Jen and Zach are originally based very loosely on my husband and I, it was a story that began as a nugget of what might have happened if we'd met in high school instead of in college. Jen however did not want to be me, she is quite different, her interests are not mine. Zach still maintains some similarities personality wise with my husband like his jumping to conclusions, but physically he is a totally diff person.

What do you like about hir?

Ok going with Julie here. She's brave in a way I'm not sure I could be. Raising her twins alone after her husband is killed. And yet she has incredible fragility and is incredibly self-conscious in some ways. She loves with her whole heart, she's afraid to give less than all of herself to someone she cares about. She puts others before herself (such a mom)

What would you think if s/he involved you in a typical escapade for hir setting, background, and genre?

I'd be right there with her, she was me to start, she'd get along well with my friends and I fitting right in, I'd jump right in and plan crazy adventures with her, in the setting of her story I'd do what any good friend would do and give her a good kick in the rear (that part is yet to come up)

You all have really gotten me thinking, I never really concentrated on how I created my characters b4, I just did it. This is a really enlightening discussion.

1/27/2010 . Edited 1/27/2010 #37
taerkitty

LONC - wow, that's a lot to swallow, short form or no... (And good job writing that much with two noisy people in your room.)

As always, I'm amazed at the level of thought and detail. I'm not sure what you mean by 'level 1' and so on, though.

Anise-Cary - I agree - bad presentation, and I just can't get into that 'flow' that I treasure in a story. Then again, so do the other points you raise, such as bad dialogue or poor character description.

For me, creating characters are just a matter of coming up with a situation, and putting someone in it that does not scream "fail!" So long as that person doesn't trigger disbelief, I start developing the situation, and watch the character develop with it.

In "The Human Touch," the prompt gave me the characters already: rich woman offers a gentleman a substantial sum for companionship. Made her a widow, made him an adventurer. This day and age is too well-known to be a classical adventurer, so I set it between the World Wars. So, let's make him and her departed husband war buddies, that'll give her a nice moral quandry. Morals... hm... let's have her be imprisoned by propriety, and so on.

By the end of the story, Constance Macallister was quite real to me, though I never spent a thought or a word on how she looked. I knew how she sounded, the words she'd use. It was a 'dear diary' story, so I could even imagine her elegant handwriting.

1/27/2010 #38
1.21 Jigawatts

LONC - wow, that's a lot to swallow, short form or no... (And good job writing that much with two noisy people in your room.)

As always, I'm amazed at the level of thought and detail.

Thanks - I think about these things a lot, and I've put a lot of thought into the development of my story concepts/ideas/world than what it shows in my actual writing. Hence my pen name. I have a lot to say about story-creation in general, and right now I plan to eventually post stuff on:

A discussion of Mary Sue / Gary Stu characters

My attitude toward writing, and what my main problem is (maybe someone here can help me out?)

My thoughts on the subject you brought up earlier on about writers and confidence.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'level 1' and so on, though In my first post here, I outlined my model of 3 levels of characterization. Sorry if I didn't make the appropriate reference in my second post. -_-

As a preface to my main problem, which I'll flesh out in another post, I'll start by saying that I am an ideas guy. I feel that I develop strong story concepts, characters, worlds, and whatnot externally since I think about them a lot, but I cannot, for the life of me, actually execute them decently. I've even advised some others in helping develop levels of depth in their stories, as well as a conceptual model to help their execution, but I can't seem to do it my own writing. It's like knowing how to build this awesome car, being able to plan out all of the science and engineering of it, draw it out in shiny blueprints and all that, but not have the tools, money, parts or knowhow to actually put the car together in the manner intended. That is the nature of my pen name. I'll extend this analogy in one of my future posts.

1/27/2010 #39
Vulpine Ninja

Allow me to butt in first XD

A discussion of Mary Sue / Gary Stu characters - my opinion

My first exposure to 'Mary Sue-ism' is from a fanfic when I was around 10 or so. At first I thought it was cool to have yourself in a fanfic, that way you can actually become your fave character's love interest. I actually considered writing one since I like to imagine that I am an extra character in this or that anime lol. But somehow I refrained from doing so. Then, a lot of Mary Sues are just... plain... modest, easily liked by the cast etc. There's when I start finding Mary Sue element is boring. Then comes Encyclopedia Dramatica's definition of the term, which is LOL but made me even more afraid of having a character that represents myself.

Then when I develop an alter-ego, I picked up the anti-Mary Sue method so that the characters may not instantly like the character (example: Vulpine in "Curse of the Hybrid"). But i came up with this character because there is no other character out there that I can relate to 100%, so why not do one yourself? I plan to make Vulpine as a medium for me...um.. obscure thoughts. Then there's another story I thought of, which at first the hero reminds me so much of myself that I accidentally regarded him as the male version of me. Then I studied his comrades (after a long time of development) and discovered each of them has a part of my thoughts. So the six of them is like... fragments of my soul or something.

Actually even famous people out there did their own Mary Sue/Gary Stu. One example is Daisuke Ishiwatari, a character designer for Guilty Gear. The anti-hero, Sol Badguy is his alter-ego. With 'Rock You' engraved on Sol's gear, this shows that Ishiwatari is a fan of rock music (especially Queen). Another one with Gary Stu is The Saga of Darren Shan, by Darren Shan himself. The protagonist hero is just a normal boy living a normal life until something happen yada yada, yanno the typical thing. But as I read the whole saga I began to forget that Darren Shan is writing about 'himself' and becomes more like... the author and the hero are just two separate entities with the same name. Another Mary Sue suspect is Bella Swan of Twilight... or so the anti-Twilights say. Well, to dream about meeting a vampire and in the book there's a part where Bella dreamt of Edward (that is where I decided to stop reading though).

Well I don't think it's wrong with having a character to represent you, but do consider whether that character will be well liked or not.

My attitude toward writing

most of the time, I write for fun. For These Falling Apples, I just wanted to realize my slash fantasies. My real plan is to draw the comic, but I wanted to test my writing and how far I could get. Since I'm not competent for fantasy themed yet, I'll try out slice of life first. It's going well so far except for my lack of time to write it. I'm slowly breaking into the fantasy genre while I'm on the way to finish that one. So for this first fic evar, criticism doesn't matter much to me - I just want to deliver something that is a hell lot different from other slashfics.

I never give a damn about whether I'm 'telling' or 'showing', I didn't even know those two styles. I just go with the flow. Some stuff are better of 'told' than 'shown'. until I see you guys talking about it here so I began to wonder. I'm gonna take that as a new challenge for me. You see, I'm the ego type who'd tell people it's up to me what I wanna do... but the truth is, I do keep in mind on what others say. So same goes for my fic, I'll write whatever I want, I may brush off a critic but I'd consider taking it to analysis just to improve myself. I want people to like the story, if I want that I must satisfy what the readers want, no? After all, "customer is always right". it's like business; you want to succeed, you should give what the consumers need/want. So I take the criticism optimistically, in hope I can use that advice/suggestion to improvise.

But most of the time I focus more on delivering whatever I want to deliver, of course.

1/28/2010 #40
Mizzuz Spock

I'll start by saying that I am an ideas guy. I feel that I develop strong story concepts, characters, worlds, and whatnot externally since I think about them a lot, but I cannot, for the life of me, actually execute them decently.

+1

I have lots of ideas that fall through because I don't know how to bring them to life on the page. I think it's because I have a film-brain. I'm so used to watching movies, which is where a lot of my inspiration comes from, and my mind is already set that THIS is how something should look/sound/feel. Yet I can't translate all these movie-visions into writing as well as I'd like, and this frustrates me.

My problem is physical/actual visual detail, oddly enough, because when I write, I find it all a challenge to slip in. My film-brain is already seeing it and feels it isn't necessary to talk about it, because it's focusing on character interaction, but the book-brain is screaming, "Look, pal. You can't just say, 'They gazed out over the hill at the city below' and then not describe what they saw. That's cheating the reader!" To which Film Brain will respond, "Dude. They've been to the movies. They know what it should look like. If it was going to be an unusual site, I would've let you do your thing."

*sigh* :/

So the six of them is like... fragments of my soul or something.

Just like Voldemort!! :O

Ah, but joking aside, I do that a bit, too. xD

It helps to make your characters seem more real, especially if you give them a trait that you understand all too well. I don't find it a problem to write your characters as if you were them or have one kind of act as your avatar through a story, what I have a problem with is people who makes their character-selves "perfect."

The Problem With Mary Sues:

Another Mary Sue suspect is Bella Swan of Twilight...

Erm. Yes. I can go on and on about Twilight until the cows fly around the world in 80 days, go out for some ice cream, and finally come home, but I'll just point out the basics:

The story is told in first person.

The way Bella is described is similar to how Stephenie Meyer looks.

Whenever something bad should happen to Bella, she doesn't work her own way out of it. (She really doesn't even try.) And somebody always shows up to save her.

Every guy appears to have a thing for Bella. She's just soooo irresistable.

Bella reads all of Stephenie Meyer's favorite books.

There are many, many more things I could point out, but Mizzuz does not wish to rant about something she hates so passionately... Well, she does, but she knows you wouldn't want to read it. xD

Anyways, Mary Sues are the worst when the world revolves around them...and I mean literally. If a character THINKS the world revolves around them, that's a different story. I have read stories time and time again when Mary Sues tried to do something that should have caused SOME kind of problem (there should have been conflict), but the rest of the characters just bent backwards for her and the seas parted, and she was given the keys to Heaven...

And I hate those ridiculously long, annoying, fancy names: Julianna Grace Dominique von Lassater. (I can't even come up with a good one by myself, but you get the point.) Those usually accompany Mary Sues. Or some name that means "beautiful." Ugh.

I'm okay if someone creates a new "self," but I'm not okay when that person is too pretty, too popular, too perfect, and gets everything they want without conflict. Conflict seems to know that Mary Sues are just trouble and they're all like, "Eh. I won't bother."

My attitude toward writing:

I write for myself. If people happen to like my stuff, that's awesome, but I don't expect them to.

1/29/2010 #41
Vulpine Ninja

It helps to make your characters seem more real, especially if you give them a trait that you understand all too well. I don't find it a problem to write your characters as if you were them or have one kind of act as your avatar through a story, what I have a problem with is people who makes their character-selves "perfect."

lol Voldy~ But I split my soul long before he did. Wait... in HP's timeline he did it first but I did it before HP introduces the Hocruxes...

Anyways, the six characters unconciously become parts of me because I wanted to deliver they way I think via the story. Like I said earlier, they're my medium. A bridge to connect author to readers. That story, although it's another typical good versus evil fantasy story, I kind of implanted moral values into it. Er, I forgot if it's a complicated one or an innocent one because I thought of the story when I was an immature 15 year old XD.

There are many, many more things I could point out, but Mizzuz does not wish to rant about something she hates so passionately... Well, she does, but she knows you wouldn't want to read it. xD

Don't bother. ED and Uncyclopedia totally wrap it up. I've read about how the Mary Sue-ism is found in Twilight saga and it's very convincing. I couldn't bring myself to read all of them cos it fails me less than halfway in the first book, so I read the summary/spoiler in wiki. Basically I know the story vaguely, but not in details. In general, some spoilers encourages me to read the books, but some spoilers can already tell me "this book is not worth your time". Sadly Twilight saga is one of the latter. Storyline is too typical and predictable - so called 'dark romance', as critics say. I thought dark romance should be more complicated and tragic (like Within Temptation's Heart of Everything album)? I have a dark romance (story) idea in my head, and it sure reflects my sceptism towards love.

One reviewer (apparently a feminist) criticized that Bella is a shame for womankind because of her uselessness, but Meyer brushed it off by saying something like... not all women are 'warriors'. Which leads to a new topic...

Female Protagonists

The leading woman. The heroine. Let's discuss... everything about it. It's either, as the main character, or the second next to the male lead (not neccessarily the hero's love interest). Like... do you like female leads? Y/N and why? In your opinion, who's the best/your fave female protagonist(s) (including non-novel characters) and what do you like about them? And state the criterias a female lead should have (to make her loveable, likeable to audiences). Oh and you can add other stuff if you wish :3

I'll post my opinion later.

1/29/2010 . Edited 1/29/2010 #42
taerkitty

The leading woman. The heroine. Let's discuss... everything about it. It's either, as the main character, or the second next to the male lead (not neccessarily the hero's love interest). Like... do you like female leads? Y/N and why? In your opinion, who's the best/your fave female protagonist(s) (including non-novel characters) and what do you like about them? And state the criterias a female lead should have (to make her loveable, likeable to audiences). Oh and you can add other stuff if you wish :3

I like a female character to be just as competent as a male character, but free of the 'Y-chromosome poisoning' symptoms: excessive machismo, the need to be the alpha, and the tendency to 'think with one's fists.' That's not to say I want pacifists; some of my favourite heroines are very action-oriented, but they do so for good reason, they fight wisely, and the fics (all of them visual) don't turn into a "bullet ballet."

Some of my heroines are my wise-acre answer to a question someone once asked: "Who are your favourite Disney princesses?" to which I replied, "Nausicaa, Mononoke, and Sheeta." I love the blank looks.

I also love Ellen Ripley, but only from the second movie. They really undid the characterization in all subsequent films.

1/29/2010 #43
Anise Cary

The leading woman. The heroine. Let's discuss... everything about it. It's either, as the main character, or the second next to the male lead (not neccessarily the hero's love interest). Like... do you like female leads? Y/N and why? In your opinion, who's the best/your fave female protagonist(s) (including non-novel characters) and what do you like about them? And state the criterias a female lead should have (to make her loveable, likeable to audiences). Oh and you can add other stuff if you wish :3

I like stories about strong women. I hate those horror flicks where the woman runs away in high heels, twists her ankle and lays there to die. I try to write my female leads to be strong but sensible. They don't need a man, if they have one great, but they don't need one. Maid Marian by Ella Watson is a great book, it's the Robin Hood story told for Marian's POV, interesting twist on the tale and def a story of a strong young (as Marian is only a teen in the story) woman.

I think a good female lead needs to be able to make decisions on her own, she should be able to defend herself with words if not with actions, though a woman that can kick a little @$$ is always good. One that isn't afraid to take charge.

For example in LOST: I loathe Kate, she's impulsive, never thinks through her actions, gets others in situations they don't need to be in and is never apologetic about it. Juliet on the other hand, is decisive she's a forward thinker, she takes charge when need be, accepts suggestions from others though makes her own final decision. She can be a supporter to another leader. She's not a whiner. She does what needs to be done, such as sacrificing herself at the end of last season to detonate the nuclear bomb.

OK so do you all like to read stories in normal formats or unique ones, do you write in fairly standard narrative format or try out other things?

yeah in case you can't tell from my stuff I like the unique, I love free verse novels Sonia Sones and Ellen Hopkins are incredible authors. I never wrote anything other than a fairly standard narrative until college, then I played with a story that was in diary form, with phone calls, and e-mails thrown in, when I went back to it a few years ago I added instant messaging. I have a partial story written entirely as message board posts. I have the free verse and the dialogue only. But still the majority of my work is narrative fiction. I enjoy finding the unique so long as it doesn't detract from the story line itself.

1/29/2010 #44
Vulpine Ninja

A heroine that i'd love is... NOT a Mary Sue (easily liked no matter how 'normal' you are), NOT a damsel in distress, NOT a super nice girl, NOT too naive, NOT too bad-tempered, NOT persuasive, NOT b1tchy, NOT-... [the list goes on]

Honestly, a lot of female leads are annoying. I prefer male ones.

However, there are a few that deserves a thousand praises. My fave female leads are:

1. Haruhi Fujiouka from Ouran High School Host Club; I never liked reverse harem, but I love Haruhi cos she's not your typical love struck girl with men surrounding her. She's blunt about love, and she finds it amusing when girls squeal over handsome men when they're doing nothing but act charming. she doesn't care much about what's going on around the school (reminds me of my own ignorance), all she cares about is her studies and house chores. She had to disguise as a male student, and she didn't mind. Her father is a tranny, and she didn't mind. Another guy accidentally saw her changing, and she forgave him cos she knows he didn't intend to peep. she's seems normal, but she's remarkable.

2. Tsukishi Makino from Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers); It's not my fave manga/anime/drama, but I love Tsukushi because she's 100 times better than Bella Swan (cos their situation is a lil similar, but to me much graver than dealing with vampires). The hero Tsukasa is as protective as Edward, but Tsukasa is an arrogant brat and it's fun to see those two quarrel their way towards romance. When Tsukushi is in a pinch, she'll always deal with it herself. There are times that she needs to be rescued, but she's tough enough to stand up against her enemies. And she can kick some a**!

3. Tifa Lockheart from Final Fantasy VII; Her first appearence is as a bartender, clad in quite sexy clothing that'll keep customers coming to the bar. But her theme song played at that moment tells us that she's not really the flirtatious as she looks. She's a kind and sweet girl, and very loyal to her friend (and her subject of affection) Cloud. They made a promise when they were kids, and when they reunited when they're older. She has feelings for Cloud, but couldn't bring myself to tell him... and she has more reason to hide her love when another girl (Aerith) came into the picture. Throughout the game, she doesn't seem jealous. even if she is, then she hides it really well. She even refers the Aerith as a best friend. it has nothing to do with me but I felt her pain, cos the one who has always been there for him is Tifa, even if she knows that he still thinks of Aerith. She loves him so much to the point that she plays along with the 'accidental lie' he told everyone, cos she doesn't want to shame him. In spite of her clothes and sweetness, she's an awesome fighter too. She's so strong in so many aspects that I want to take her as a role model! (although she ain't real).

Can't remember who else, but these are the ones that comes to mind atm.

most female characters that I like are the strong warrior types and mentally sophisticated. I often admit that have huge crush on Kallen from Code Geass. I love Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. I kind of like... girls who are as strong as men, they may not need men cos they can defend themselves and at the same time they reserve some femininity inside them (not a total tomboy or butch please).

1/29/2010 #45
Vulpine Ninja

OK so do you all like to read stories in normal formats or unique ones, do you write in fairly standard narrative format or try out other things?

Again, I fail to notice the difference, but I think I can read both as long as the language is beautiful and the story is intriguing.

1/29/2010 #46
taerkitty

Exactly. If the level of craft is high, then it's good. Linear stories are easiest to tell, so those starting out (or even of average level like me) have a better chance of executing well. Unconventional formats are trickier, and the risk is higher. By 'unconventional', I mean stuff like diary stories, or 'bookending', where the reader has a preview of the scene just before the climax, then the story starts at the beginning and proceeds linearly until the climax.

Digression: The idea with a 'bookend' format is that the lead-in (the preface, as it were) is to tease the reader because it's interesting, but incomplete in context. By the time the reader encounters the climax, s/he'll still have the first time s/he read it in mind, but now it makes sense.

This is not to say we shouldn't experiment with formats. We will still grow if we don't, but I feel we won't grow as fast. However, I also hold firmly that we grow fastest from failures, so that will be the likely result of our experiments.

Please remember that my 'The Human Touch' is something i wrote long ago, and I selected because I felt it best captured the 'journal voice.' This is not representative of my ability to produce alternative-format works. It was a happy accident that it worked so well. Make no mistake, I am no expert here.

1/29/2010 #47
1.21 Jigawatts

A discussion of Mary Sue / Gary Stu characters

I'm of the opinion that defining what constitutes a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character is somewhat all over the board. So I'll start off this post with my definition:

To me, a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character is one whose presence in the story is so overbearing that it takes away significantly from the importance of other characters' roles and other aspects of the story (assuming there are other aspects of the story). I believe that character being a Mary Sue type is independent of what trait set that they have or what they're like in a vacuum, and has more to do with the role that they play in the story. I don't think putting yourself or an author avatar in your story makes them a Mary Sue, since the effect that they have on the other aspects of the story may vary. I don't think that a character having an awesome trait set makes them a Mary Sue if the presence of those traits are not relevant to what the focus of the story is.

But, if the presence of a character does any of the following things, I call them a Mary Sue:

a) Render the presence of another main character pointless, that is making another main character seem replaceable or significantly degraded.

b) Draw significant attention away from other aspects of the story - setting/environment, plot, presentation - such that the latter are mainly presented as afterthoughts.

c) Be such that the story revolves around them in a vacuum and them only.

There's probably more that could be added to this list, but that covers the main points.

Mary Sue characters tend to be perfect, or at least perfect in terms of what's relevant for the story. Perfection is difficult to ignore in a story, whether because it's overbearing in itself or because it throws a monkey wrench in the way the story fits together. Many authors make such characters because they are idealizing or because They also tend to be author avatars. That's because many authors create those characters to simulate that kind of attention dynamic for themselves - they want to feel like they're the show-stopping attention grabber on the block, they want to be important, they want things to be about them - it's an emotional need. And creating an author avatar character of a Mary Sue type is the easiest way for an author to indulge in that.

That's why Twilight has become popular. The story sucks from what I know about it. The writing sucks, and while I haven't read it, some people have shown me excerpts and I'm pretty sure the majority of people on this site can write better than her. The insert basically everything else about it is standard or substandard. But its fans overlook that, and it became popular because it appealed very strongly to an emotional need that is widespread in its fan base demographic, the need to feel taken care of, to be exclusive, etc. People will overlook that so they can indulge in the simulated feeling of those needs being met. Many people have a strong emotional need to be a Mary Sue! That says something in a socio-cultural context about what kinds of things go through those people's minds, but I won't get into that here.

I have read stories time and time again when Mary Sues tried to do something that should have caused SOME kind of problem (there should have been conflict)

Totally. Mary Sue type characters are created such that they can get away with damn near anything, regardless of its nature. That's also another aspect - authors create those characters so they don't have to feel guilty - the imposes on their idealization. The concept of being someone so awesome that you don't have to feel guilty about anything you do is something that's appealing to many people. Again, another socio-cultural implication. I really need to stop myself from mentioning that.

But in the end, the author is just indulging, same thing that many of us do when we write. It's just a matter of degrees, and while I won't criticize / blame an author for making such a character, I will tell them that I dislike their character and it really just doesn't work for me.

I'd like to include an example here of what I mean by showing a character that's the converse - one of the ones I didn't describe in my character samples. She's a character who people think is a Mary Sue when I describe her to them, but is not due to how she fits in the story. After the second and third paragraphs, you will think she's a Mary Sue. Hell, I would.

I should make it clear that this character is NOT my avatar. She's just an example of how a character can have an awesome trait set but still not fit the Mary Sue definition posed above. If your definition automatically equates Mary Sue with Author Avatar, then this character doesn't qualify as a Mary Sue at all.

Callista Windsor - Main Character. Short Background: She is someone who grew up in great affluence, being the daughter of a Mycean noble who was the prime person in line for the throne in the years prior to the story. If her father did become king, that would have made her princess, which is something she would have hated very much. Her father was an extremely powerful rune user, one of distinction in the community, however he eventually contracted an ascended version of the spirit slave virus (major spoiler, but i don't think it matters) that was making him lose control of his power and he could not find a cure for. Due to his power, if he was to turn into a spirit slave he'd be damn near unstoppable. His daughter, Callista was the result of "Project Callista", which was a program initiated by her father to create a living (human) weapon that was capable of defeating him in the event that he could no longer hold back the virus. Callista knew she was a living weapon, but didn't know of her purpose until later on. Since Callista's birth, she was trained to be a weapon - her father used rune technology on her body to grant her superhuman physical abilities and the capacity for those abilities to develop, as well as some passive rune resistances. To train her to become strong enough to defeat him, her father placer her as his bodyguard while he became involved with organized crime syndicates behind the scenes - exploring the black market for a means to cure himself and making all sorts of enemies along the way. Callista then developed into a very well trained assassin, garnering the codename 'The Hand of God', striking fear into and making many enemies with the underground rune user community and the organized crime syndicates, each mission serving to cultivate her abilities further and further. Eventually, that day came when her purpose was revealed - to defeat her father because he was turning into a spirit slave - something which traumatized Callista deeply, being told by her father that destroying him would eliminate the existence of spirit slaves once and for all. That day, her father started to transform, and with great internal /emotional conflict, but to fulfill her father's wishes, she used a very specific technique that she had developed with the help from her father to kill him. Afterwards, the presence of spirit slaves disappeared for a while, but then they came back. She was then left with the burning questions of what was it that caused her father to turn into a spirit slave - why was it that killing him was the only way, and what was it that drove her father (who was an intelligent man) to determine that as his course of action (something that's very important to the plot). Also, there's the question of why didn't her father's death do what she was told it would do - since the spirit slaves reappeared after a short lapse. Because of this search for answers, she moved away from her old life and started the rune user group that Tristan joins in the beginning of the story.

She's educated, suave, very intelligent, has an intuition for complex things, already has the equivalent of college degree and is attending high school because she wants to catch up on parts that she missed in her upbringing (this isn't the only reason she's attending high school, the more primary reason is that it makes it easier for her to work effectively with the other members of the rune user group, who are all high school students). She's rich as all hell, having inherited her father's mansion upon his death, and owns a 6 bedroom house where her and all of the members of her group live. She is the kind of person who commands authority just by being there. Strong and confident in a refined, respectful way as opposed to a b*** way. She's alluring and beautiful, having started a short modeling career after her father died (and before spirit slaves started reappearing). Looked up to by a lot of people for her personality, looks, and what she represents, and she's passively intimidating for the same reason. She's not outwardly arrogant or crass, but internally she knows she's superior to lot of people.

In terms of capability, every bit of her confidence is justified. She's one of the most powerful rune users in existence at the time of the story. Her body is impervious to bullets that wouldn't penetrate class IIIa body armor, resistant toward rune magic attacks below a certain level, and she can move at almost sonic speeds at sea level. (Vulpine Ninja may be quick to point out that moving at these speeds would create bow shocks at local points on her body that would be very noisy, and a pressure differential in the surrounding fluid that would destroy things in the vicinity of where she's moving. Part of her ability is to artificially mess with the pressure differential so that doesn't happen - hand waving but I won't explain it here XD). Oh, and did I mention that she's only 17?

Take a moment. At this point, you're probably thinking W**. This chick is ridiculous.

As cool and badass as she is though, most of those traits aren't relevant to her role in the story. She's intelligent - so she gathers a lot of info for the group's missions, but not to the point where she knows the answers to everything - she's still looking for answers like everyone else, and she always has more questions than answers - she's just doing the best she can. She has a college degree and that whole thing, but that's not important in the scope of the story, and while it may make the rank and file at the school seem small, it doesn't degrade the role of the other main characters because that kind of knowledge isn't relevant in the story. Alluring and beautiful - that's cool but plays no other role really. It's not a trait she can use to help attack the events of the story, and other characters aren't compared to her in this respect. Looked up to - yes, by the general public, but her team members know her faults well, and a lot of people from her past have devoted their lives toward trying to kill her for revenge - she carries a strong guilt that she isn't proud about but is not something she denies. Modest but not overly so - she won't brag, but if you push her buttons enough she'll destroy you. She's also really stubborn due to confidence in her own abilities, often refusing to acknowledge her limitations because of the desperation to fulfill her convictions and getting in over her head. Has to fight off the instinct of being intoxicated by her power - something she almost fails at doing at the end of the introductory arc. She also has somewhat of a motherly / hero complex concerning others in the group, something which the others find a little annoying at times and also gets her in over her head.

Now for the physical traits. She's one of the most powerful rune users in existence, cool, but she can't use that power at the time of the story because her Tracer was partially sealed in a battle that occurred prior to the story. She can only use it for a limited time, and when that time runs out she can't use it at all until the seal degrades - which takes a very long time. Also, she's a high profile target for a lot of people and using her Tracer even for a bit would attract loads of unwanted attention. Her speed and battle prowess are often more than enough to enable her to not need to use runes for many low level battles, but for the battles that are important (one which I've just written recently), it is shown to not be enough (she almost dies and people have to step in to save her).

Overall, she has her role to play in the story. And even though she's badass, the nature of the story is such that being badass in itself doesn't cut it for being able to meet the challenges that face them or for fulfilling all of the roles that need to be fulfilled. Her traits allow her to play her role very well, but that doesn't mean she can fill any of the other character's roles, which are just as important and necessary for making the story work on a plot/character/impression basis. She's amazing, but the story isn't about being amazing, so that fact is not something that takes away from the rest of the story. In the end, she's just doing the best she can, just like all of the other characters. And that is why, even as crazy as she is, Callista Windsor is not a Mary Sue.

This reminds me of a line - one of Callista's defining quotes:

"Power is overrated. The worst epidemic to plague our minds is the desire to treat its acquisition as the final solution to all problems."

1/30/2010 . Edited 1/30/2010 #48
Vulpine Ninja

she's not a Mary Sue... but she's a super Mary Sue!

I was planning to talk about my 'avatars' but forgot cos I proposed the Female Lead topic.

I select a few of them..

1. Agent Vulpine (from the spin-off title Curse of the Hybrid) is my most prominent alter-ego of mine, and is often the one I used in display pics or any art in the form of expressionism. I have to say that, she's more of an Anti-Mary Sue because I decided to make her not easily likeable, because the real me is unpopular XD. Before she became Vulpine, she's just a normal kid who happens to have a huge responsibility as a (super-power-less) hero. I have a story for that, but I'm not gonna spoil it. If you've read CofH, I think she mentioned that the curse was her own fault, and decides to be responsible for her own rash actions. In her life as Vulpine, she's distances herself from everyone and only talks when it's necessary. She has a good reason to be cold and walk alone - which is to avoid hurting other people (due to the 'voice' and the mutation). She does feel lonely, but for the sake of others' safety she'd rather not make friends. She takes the loneliness as something positive, and tells herself that she's not alone because the 'voice' is always there for her. As time passes, she values solitude so much that having a company annoys her (except in group missions, she had to follow orders). She's trained to hide her emotions, but in order to keep people away she'd have to give an angry glare. She's extremely obedient to her mentor (Bloodthirst) for she was the one who found her. As a student in the academy (for the child assassins), she isn't the best example but her results are above average. She studies alone yet help her classmates when they're in trouble (with studies/assignments. only when neccessary. no casual talk!). As an assassin, she's very silent when locked in combat. Her most significant dialogue would be "yes/no, sir/ma'am!". As both student and assassin, her best discipline is only her punctuality, while the rest.. she can be lazy and disorganized. Oh yea, she paints when she's bored.

2. Raphul (A dead fic I already banished from fp) - An extremely bad tempered, unfriendly and arrogant guy, which accidentally became an alter-ego of mine. He dislikes meeting new people, it makes him uncomfortable. Moreover he loathes women. Now you're gonna wonder why... cos the truth is sometimes, even if I'm a girl I can't seem to understand how a girly or womanly mind works. Because most of the time I can never share their exitement, their shop-a-holic behaviour or their despertion for a man's attention. Raphul is derived from how I feel about women in general, and it turned into hatred. XD

3. Violet D. Norton (unwritten fic) - the female lead for the dark romance story I mentioned. Her character is actually derived from Vulpine, and also the twist I made in the common poetry that goes 'Violets are dead, roses are too'. An image of a two women called Violet and Rose, dead in their coffins comes to mind. Therefore it's gonna be a murder mystery. Violet is the most Mary Sue character that I own, because everything about her is manifested from myself when I was in a relationship. Just so you know, this story will be parallel to what happen when I was with my ex (but of course, I'd tell it in a symbolic way). Like Vulpine, she's quiet and unapproachable. Yet Vulpine has a bit more confidence while Violet has low self esteem (well my confidence goes up and down like sinusoidal wave). Upon meeting her first love, she finally found happiness. Yea the typical stuff. A couple of years later she had to separate from him because he found a better job. He promised that he'd write, he promised that he'd return... but after years of waiting she never heard a word from him. worried, she came to look for him, but when she found him to her surprise, everything is not what she had hoped to be. Now my ex was a virtual womanizer, and I was a jealous b***. Violet would portray that jealousy, but not in an apparent way. I barely confront my ex about hitting other women (even if's just online), so Violet chose not to reunite with him (yet). I befriended the girls he hit on, so Violet befriends the girls who seem close to her so-called lover. Violet works as a writer in a magazine, hoping her he would somehow notice her articles but it was all in vain (I did emo journal hoping to get his attention but BAH. he sucks as a bf). ok SPOILER starts now: Violet murders the girls of his harem, it's a symbol of how I felt when I see him flirting. Violet commits suicide in the end - which means, I've killed that hopeless romantic side of me. 8D Worry not, this means that I'm totally over it. I just want Violet to represent women who shares the same fate.

There are others, but only these 3 are my faves.

ok anyone wanna say something else about female leads?

1/30/2010 #49
1.21 Jigawatts

she's not a Mary Sue... but she's a super Mary Sue!

Elaborate - what's your definition of a Mary Sue?

1/30/2010 #50
Vulpine Ninja

Elaborate - what's your definition of a Mary Sue?

I don't have my own definition, but you can consider that I'm agreeing with what the majority's definition of Mary Sue. I've stated my opinion in my post above, it's not a direct answer but it should give you idea on how I view the term. To put it short, Mary Sue = Bella Swan (don't make me prove the equation!!).

And when I say 'super Mary Sue', it means, yea i did go W** that your avatar is like that, but at least she deserves to be liked (she's strong, intellident, independent etc). Callista's character is the type of girl I can look up to.

1/30/2010 #51
1.21 Jigawatts

Whoa LOL. Callista Windsor is NOT my Avatar by any stretch of the imagination. (** Tristan is my avatar in that story. Also do note that I am a guy.

I am nothing like Callista - I actually instilled her with majority of the traits that are opposite of mine. I created her more to fill that role of a character to look up to - and to be the antithesis of the type of women I grew up around.

I'll list Callista's traits and where I am relative to them:

Strength / Confidence - Are you kidding? I'm confident (and barely so) in one area, and one specific area only. My confidence level otherwise varies wildly, and its limited at higher values.

Educated - Depends who you talk to. I'm honestly surprised that I got into the lab that I'm in, because everyone there is really intelligent and a lot of stuff goes over my head. Plus, I'm decently educated in one area, not so much in most others.

Suave - Totally not me. I don't have a social intuition or a sense of humor or etc...

Intuition for complexity - Again opposite. I have to map things out explicitly for me to understand something, I have no intuition in that area.

Command Authority - I only get authority if I'm the most knowledgeable about a subject in the group considered. My personality has nothing to do with it.

Looked up to - Well, by a very specific group of people that I don't think counts toward this I guess.

Refusing to acknowledge limitations - I always try to acknowledge my limitations, sometimes too much so.

Stubborn - Well, I can be.

Protective - I'm barely able to watch out for myself.

Haha I used her as an example for the Mary Sue thing to demonstrate my point of its not the trait set that determines Mary Sue status, it's the effect that the character has on the story. But she's not my avatar by any means O.O

1/30/2010 #52
Vulpine Ninja

Oh sorry! I misunderstood!

Okay, so that means... Callista is not a Mary Sue at all, since she's not even you. I mean, as far as I know Mary Sue/Gary Stu only refers to a character that's supposed to represent you, but portrayed as someone who's instantly liked for being nice or w/o doing anything useful at all.

No offense, but I thought you were a girl O_O. Sorry about that too. But for me it's ok for a guy to have a female avatar. A lot of guys I know have female alter-egos, I dunno why and how to explain it. Probably to show their softer side? I have 3 male avatars (one of them being Raphul) which symbolizes my desire to play the role as a man (doesn't mean I like girls tho). I almost made Vulpine a male character, but I decided to make her biologically female but play the role of a man (instead of taking the usual woman's task). Since there's no existing character that is just like her, I thought I should be the one to do it. I want a new breed of femme fatale for a change. XD

1/30/2010 #53
1.21 Jigawatts

No offense, but I thought you were a girl O_O.

LOL. I tend to get that a lot when I'm on these forums. I don't know why per se, but I think it has to do with the manner in which I talk about things, and the things I tend to talk about. I find that most guys are generally more reluctant to admit uncertainty or limitations, and are not usually driven to examine a lot of the types of things that I do. There's a lot of cultural pressure there - guys have historically been expected to fill certain cultural images like always being sure of themselves and not acknowledge limitations in order to fit into this whole alpha dynamic. I also feel that the majority of guys in general are not inclined to think about their own mentality because they never had a need to - their social/cultural role has historically been more clearly defined in a perceived positive light. This tends to cause them to not feel the need to question the mentality that develops from accepting that role because it puts them in an acceptable position.

For me, when it comes to uncertainty, I'm just being honest. I'm fully willing to deal with the fact that there's a lot in between being on track to get somewhere and actually getting there, between potential and results. But just because there's uncertainty doesn't mean I won't make it, I'll do my part as best as possible, I just acknowledge that there's a lot more factors that go into it happening than me. As far as limitations go, I admit my limitations at any point in time, but I believe that those limitations can change - they can become more strict or be removed completely - depending on the conditions and what type of person I develop into.

When it comes to questioning mentality - when there is the presence of a clearly defined, static cultural role for a group of people (guys in this case), it creates at least two groups: the people who fit with it and the people who don't. I was someone who didn't, although that doesn't mean I fall into the opposite of that cultural role. But because of the lack of fit with that role (and most other predefined ones, including the opposite), I've had to invest a lot into examining my own mentality and develop based on what I've learned (liked/disliked) about those predefined ones, so I can create / fill a new, unique cultural role that I feel fits me.

All of my avatars (Tristan / Slade) are like that - they evolve into characters who see and deal with the things that aren't always apparent, and fill roles that people around them didn't know needed to be filled.

1/30/2010 . Edited 1/30/2010 #54
1.21 Jigawatts

Hmmm. I've never had a female avatar. I can see guys having them, but I find it difficult for me because I'm not as sure if the kinds of things that I'll make go on in their head are appropriate - meaning I'm unsure it's appropriate that a girl feels a lot of the things that I'm familiar with or handles them in ways I'm familiar with. There's a whole gap of understanding that I'm uncomfortable with so I generally don't do female avatars. I'm confident that it is possible for a guy to feel them and handle them in those ways - because I'm an example.

Out of all of the stories that I've written, only one of them has had a female as THE main character (the one I wrote before Tracer - my 6th story, which I will never post anywhere!). Tracer has two "THE" main characters, one of which is female and TVIMH has four "THE" main characters, two of which are female. In both of these cases though, the avatar is male (Tristan / Slade) and the main lead is a pair (Tristan/Selphie, Slade/Clara). I've usually never focused on a female as the main lead, however - I've only done so as part of a main lead pair. I'm considering a female main lead for the next story that I'm thinking of writing, but it's all just ideas at this point.

play the role of a man (instead of taking the usual woman's task) Yay for no gender roles! LOL, in my stories I try to not have gender roles - or if they're there, they're temporary (they still pop up unintentionally though). I mean, I don't just take the conventional gender roles and reverse them (which is what a lot of authors do - they take the girl and make them play the guy's role and vice versa) - because I feel that if there was an attempt to place my characters in gender role categories, they're all quite a bit of both so the dichotomy breaks down. At some point in the story, each and every character will be filling a guy's or a girl's conventional gender role, or most of the time a role that doesn't really fit too well with either stereotype, so I feel that it doesn't work too well to categorize them like that. I'm not sure if I do a very good job of it, but I try.

There's a bit in TVIMH that mentions this explicitly, in terms of the military:

“Well, our whole summer training was focused on getting us to ‘harness our magical potential’. I mean, think about it, our soldiers are a lot different than those from other countries, because being able to draw strength from sources other than your own muscles is a requirement to be admitted into the military here.” Slade explained, “All of our abilities – magical and physical – draw strength both from our bodies, but they draw the majority of their strength from being able to use our…dare I say it…gate!”

Everyone nodded.

“Yea…it’s all energy based. I mean, that’s why our troops tend to be at least slightly stronger than those from other countries – both mentally and physically.” Snowe added as she slipped a piece of bread into her mouth, “It’s also the reason that there’s no need for a double standard.”

“That’s true. In terms of physical bias, guys tend to have the advantage because of our body structure.” Dillan chimed in, shaking his head as he glanced into everyone's eyes, “But magical potential isn’t biased toward one gender or the other.”

1/30/2010 #55
1.21 Jigawatts

I'm actually curious now - what is it that made you think I'm a girl? Was it in line with the reasons I've specified above? LOL

1/30/2010 #56
Mizzuz Spock

I'm actually curious now - what is it that made you think I'm a girl?

I always thought you were a guy. (Though I did have a fifty-fifty chance... xD)

I must admit, I'm guilty of stereotyping. I have yet to meet a girl who wanted to go into engineering. Or one who liked charts. :/

And, to keep this post from being too OT, I'll ask some questions:

How do you feel about stereotypes in writing? Do you play on cliches or go against them? What are some good cliches that you feel should/could be used more often? What are some cliches that should just kick the bucket?

1/30/2010 #57
Vulpine Ninja

I feel like I owe an explanation when I said this but play the role of a man (instead of taking the usual woman's task). I'm gonna elaborate it, but don't worry it's still sticking to the topic.

I am aware that there are a lot of femme fatale out there, even in legends we have Joan of Arc and Mulan. Then there's superheroines/villainness like Wonder Woman, Elektra, Catwoman, Aeon Flux. Next there are video game babes like Lara Croft, Chun Li, girls of Dead or Alive. Moreover, combative+tough anime girls like Kallen Stadtfeld (Code Geass), Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail), Kaoru Kamiya (Rurouni Kenshin), Jo (Bakuretsu Tenshi) and many more. However, not all these girls satisfy what I look for in a unique femme fatale character. What do they have in common? They may be as competent as men, but looking at the way they dress and act, they're appearence still shows that they're women (whether you're politely dressed, in skimpy clothes). Although the mission is tough, they can still use their sex appeal to get away with it. Oh yea, and tomboys don't neccessarily crossdress as a guy.

Which now leads to female crossdressers (internet term is "Reversed Trap"), namely.... Haruka Tenou (Sailormoon), Odine/Juliet (Romeo x Juliet), Haruhi Fujiouka (Ouran) and Mizuki Ashiya (Hana-Kimi). Sadly, only the first 2 I can consider femme fatale while the other 2 are just normal girls who had to disguise themselves. Still, although they pose as a guy they still have the desire to become more womanly, especially Odine, who's so frustrated to be raised as a boy for years (which is quite reasonable). Haruka Tenou is a butch, and is often seen as a man, but she is in skirt in her Sailor Uranus costume. One example of a girl who willingly chose to be the man is King (from Art of Fighting/King of Fighters series). She started dressing up as a man when she wanted to participate in kickboxing tournament, in order to win money to take care of her ill little brother. If i'm not mistaken, in the recent games she's probably trying her best to be more feminine for the dude she fell in love with.

Okay next up are characters who are raised as a boy, but does not really dress up as a boy. Kanna (Sakura Wars) is from a Karate family and grew up in a manly environment. As a result, she becomes a manly adult woman, yet it still does not hide the fact that she's a woman because of her big b***. Then there's Ryou (Otomen), whose father raised her as a boy by playing wrestling, kendo, etc when she's a kid, and really suck at cooking. but as a teenager her boisterousness isn't so obvious because she's genuinely sweet and gentle.

So I was like... ok fine. I'll make my own femme fatale + reverse trap formula. I could make Vulpine a man if I want to, just to show my desire to be 'the man' (bcos I'm not the kind of girl who dreams someday my prince will come). but I want to give birth to a different kind of female character. disguising as a man (in missions) is part of an order, which she does not object and truthfully has no definite feelings about it. In the assassin's school, she still has to wear the girls uniform because it's a rule and it didn't mind her at all. Gender roles really don't matter to her, as long as she's useful to the organization.

1/30/2010 #58
Vulpine Ninja

I'm actually curious now - what is it that made you think I'm a girl?

From your posts, you seem to be the kind of person who thinks deeply - well, for your character and story development. I dunno, I think it's rare for a guy to do that. not that they exist because a lot of guys I know refuses to think THAT much lol. Don't worry it's not a bad thing. Moreover, I somehow I have the impression that fp/ff.net have more girls than guys.

I must admit, I'm guilty of stereotyping. I have yet to meet a girl who wanted to go into engineering. Or one who liked charts. :/

Ahem...I almost dived into the world of engineering. But I chose to learn the fundamental studies that makes engineering came to be. Charts are fine with me... I think. XD

How do you feel about stereotypes in writing?

It could be annoying. It could be a turn off cos it might remind you of another story you've seen/read. Especially if the cliche is obvious and overused. Some cliches aren't noticeable, cos the way the author presents it WINS.

Do you play on cliches or go against them?

I try to go against them as best as I can. But it's not easy to throw them away, so I may still use a cliche but how I deliver it won't be so typical.

What are some good cliches that you feel should/could be used more often?

The themes. Stuff about friendship, comrade bonds... consequently leading to the usual good versus evil thing. Cliche I love most would be anything that goes encourages you to love nature, save the trees! save the world!

'Opposite attracts' is common, sometimes it irks me, sometimes I'm ok with it. So I'm gonna be neutral about it.

Happy endings are overrated, but still important. I don't mind a tragic ending for a good reason. but one should try to write a mix of happy and sad ending.

What are some cliches that should just kick the bucket?

Pure love crap. Ok, I don't mind having pairings, but please don't use the same quotes over and over again... like.. "I want to be with you forever", "I'll be there for you no matter what" yadda yadda "you're my life!" (lol Edward Cullen). I think... the lovers should be more creative and logical if they wanna express their love. And the true love thing, yea I know fictions can be a fairy tale, but try implementing a bit of reality when it comes to relationship. There's a possibility to be fed up with your spouse and look for a new one, or there's a possibility you'd get into a huge fight with your best friend that could affect your life forever. Twisted stuff like these would make an innocent fantasy story twisted. That's why I came up with characters like Drake and Julyanna (as mentioned above) to play the j*** and the victim.

Sometimes a story would do fine without romance, and it'll make you feel that the protagonist does not need a definite lover. (examples are... The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonata series, Interview with the Vampire)

emo and naive protagonists should be pushed into the pit of death too.

I have to say something about 'quarelling' too, cos in a lot of animes, there are too many quarrelling scenes and repetitive misunderstanding moments. Bleach and Ranma 1/2 is so full of it that it gets boring.

1/30/2010 #59
1.21 Jigawatts

Ahem...I almost dived into the world of engineering. But I chose to learn the fundamental studies that makes engineering came to be.

That's interesting, because I was the opposite. When I was high school, I originally wanted to major in physics in university, but at the last minute when I was applying to university, I decided to change to aerospace engineering (going on to do a 2nd degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in materials science). I've always loved physics and was a total nut about it in high school, actually most people tell me that I come off more like a physicist than an engineer and my attitude is likewise. I still love physics, but decided to change for a very specific reason, although before I blab about mine, I'm curious - what was it that had you change from engineering to physics?

How do you feel about stereotypes in writing?

In main characters, I don't mind the presence of stereotypes as long as they're appropriate - and as long as it seems that the author understands the origin and deeper nature of the stereotype. The latter is key - just because a stereotype is there isn't bad, but if it is there without justification and the appropriate conditions, that indicates that the author used the stereotype because they lacked a sufficient depth of understanding for the facets of the character they created and relied on the stereotype to fill in the gaps. It usually appears unnatural and too clear cut - and that is something I really don't like.

In characters that aren't important or main, I don't really mind stereotypes at all.

Do you play on cliches or go against them?

If I can help it, I go against them. In my later stories, I'd like to think that I haven't had a problem playing into them regarding things that are really central to the story because of the way I approach creating the story concept, but they definitely have a habit of popping up for me in my presentation style and things that are less central to the story. I don't think the presence cliches are bad as long as they aren't key elements of the story, or as long as the key elements of the story don't rely on them.

What are some good cliches that you feel should/could be used more often?

Hmm. That's hard to say - although I agree with VN that usually cliches involving friendship and group bonds are good. I also tend to like the use of scientific (or seemingly scientific) reasoning to get through problems.

Cliche I love most would be anything that goes encourages you to love nature, save the trees! save the world!

+1!

What are some cliches that should just kick the bucket?

OK I have a lot to say here. I'll try to keep it as short as possible:

Dependency-type romance. That drives me nuts. I can't stand to see a romance being driven by one character playing the innocent dependent one and the other playing the unyielding source of love/strength. I'm of the opinion that a strong relationship should be formed on a much deeper basis than "Oh, you fill my emotional needs, I love you!" and "Oh, I'll be your goddamn hero, I love you!".

As far as good vs. evil goes, I don't feel it should kick the bucket, but it isn't something that interests me very much if it relies too much on that dichotomy. I'm of the opinion that everyone has a reason or a trace for taking the courses of action that they do, and I tend to like stories where the conflict doesn't necessarily come down to a conflict of good and evil, but rather a paradoxical conflict. Where the enemy isn't clear cut, where the course of action to take isn't always so apparent. I feel that good and evil makes it too easy, too apparent to determine the course of action, and I am intrigued by plots where succeeding isn't just determined by overpowering or outsmarting the enemy, but also by the main characters being able to struggle to see through all of the apparent BS and perceive the hidden but correct course of action. (Two video games - SMT: Persona 3 / 4 are very very good examples of this). I also find it to be more realistic that all sides are simply doing what they feel makes sense to them - no inherent good or evil - and the conflict comes from the clashing of the paradigms that each side has been driven to believe in. Although one side does have to win out in the end, I like it when it is possible to understand a bit or even sympathize a bit with the villain, and when the victories aren't super clean. In my stories, I try to make it like that - the side which wins out is the one which I usually believe in the most, but the losing sides are ones which, even if I don't believe in their paradigm, I show the reasons (which can be understandable) that made them do what they did (even though it doesn't justify it).

Naive protags - as mentioned by VN - I would also agree should die. I can accept if a protag starts out naive, but if they stay that way the entire time that makes me !@##$!@#.

As far as emo protags go, I don't have a problem with them under certain conditions. I'm alright if they're emo as long as it's understandable or as long as the conditions around the character warrant it. Good character development in this case would show them change as the conditions change or things force them to change. People can be broken - people can be depressed for very valid reasons, and I think having an emo protagonist is alright as long as their depression seems natural. A character must be emo for a valid reason, and for me, must be willing to changing that if conditions change or other things happen that don't warrant them being emo. Now, what I hate hate hate the most, is if a character is forcibly emo - that is, if being emo is just a part of their personality that exists without justification, or exists without the appropriate boundary conditions. For example, if a character is emo, then things happen in the story which would naturally lead them out of being emo, but they still choose to be emo even when it isn't warranted anymore, that makes me !@$#%@#@. I feel that emo should not be an inherent trait of a character's fundamental personality - but rather a mentality which was created (but not inherent) due to stuff and can be destroyed likewise. And one example of good character development in this case would show the creation and destruction of that mentality.

One cliche I don't tend to like are characters that try to be too cool or too stoic. I feel that every character is human - they have emotions, they are moved by things and resistant to others, they get scared, happy, etc, and they simply handle it or modulate it in different ways. Now, I don't mind if a character seems or comes off super stoic due to the way they handle their emotions - I just mind if the character is portrayed as not having any emotions incited in them period. The key is that they have emotions, even if they don't let them get out or manifest openly. If a character is too nonchalant in the face of absolutely everything or too robotic, it sort of makes me think "come on, who the hell do you think you are?". It makes it too unreal for me.

1/30/2010 #60
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