Character Development Gone Wrong

In an earlier post I admitted to absolutely hating my ten-year-old main character for being the brattiest, most annoying kid I could have come up with. To be honest, though, when I started thinking out the storyline I purposefully made him that way. Since he was a huge brat, it would be easy to make him go through some character development, or so I thought. I wanted to teach him to care about people instead of bossing them around and getting them into danger. I wanted him to become less of a lazy brat and actually start doing things on his own. However, I completely failed in this. The kid started out as a horrible person, which was enough for me to just despise having to write about him. I couldn’t even get around to his character development, as I’m only three books in.
Character development is good for any story. It is great. It is perfect for fleshing out characters, as it allows the writer to make the character overcome both external and internal obstacles. However, these internal obstacles sadly can get too big to overcome. I believe that our personalities are set – we cannot change who we are at the core, we can only change what we do with it. Sure, our beliefs can be challenged – so can mine. Maybe our personalities aren’t set in stone, but that doesn’t mean that this kid can go through a 180 degree turnaround.
Now, there is a big question left: how does one make a character develop in a way that feels natural, without them needing to be horrible people from the start? We, as writers, cannot force our characters to become people they are not. However, they can learn how to be a little braver, a little nicer or a little less reckless. Sometimes they have to. Even the laziest person would want to save their loved ones, right? Let them have to fight their internal battles to overcome the external ones.

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The Flawed Main Character

Every main character needs to be flawed, at least to an extent. Actually, every character needs to be flawed. No one is perfect, everyone has their own strange quirks and shortcomings. However, what are we as writers supposed to do when our own characters are driving us mad?
My series’ actual main character, a ten-year-old boy, is a total brat. He is bossy, arrogant and lazy, he’s a scaredy cat and he is driven by wanting to be perceived as ‘masculine’, although he really doesn’t have a clue as to what actual manliness entails. One hint, main character: it’s not about being a jerk to everyone around you. If it isn’t clear by now, I really cannot stand the kid. Why I ever picked him to be the lead of my series is a mystery to me. I actually had to quit the third book in the series for a while because I really did not want to have to get into his head again.
On the other hand, I liked the main character’s older sister much better. She’s eleven years old and aspires to become a witch. Although she is totally nuts in the main character’s eyes, she is so much more likeable to me than he is. She isn’t driven by some weird ideal – all she wants is to have fun and to explore the boundaries of the world. It may have been a horrible choice, but she is the reason why I decided to skip straight to the fifth book in the series, where she is the main character. A bad idea, huh? I’m guessing that most boys don’t enjoy reading about girls, especially not about young witches. With regards to my intended audience, it is not the greatest idea. However, as soon as I started writing about her, I immediately found my drive to write back. It may not just have been her, though. Another reason may have been that this is an actual ghost story with a likeable main character, instead of a story about a bratty boy who turns into a mouse.
I am not sure what to do now. I’m definitely going to continue the series. Possibly there will be another book about the girl. That is not the core of the problem, though. The real question is why the original main character turned into such a horrible brat that I couldn’t even stand to write about. I will have to fix that. He will get better over time, that’s for sure. That’s called character development. Until then, I will have to deal with him – and try to iron out his slightly-too-flawed personality. Thankfully, he is just a character in my head. He can change… Reality is, he has already come to life, so it’s going to be hard.
Has anyone else ever had that problem? Some main characters just decide to live their lives on their own… and it feels like there is nothing we can do to stop it. That may be the power of the writer’s mind, but it’s also a curse.

It’s “Just” A Game

I do not claim to be a hard-core gamer, as that’d simply be untrue. However, I can appreciate a nice game now and for. For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Age and its sequels, just like I indulged in Guild Wars 2 (about 800 hours over the course of a year and a half is not that much, though). Many people love games, as they allow them to play out a story and feel like they actually can influence what happens – others use these games to vent, rage and unleash the stress of daily life. To be honest, I do not just play fantasy games. I also adored the The Sims series, strangely for reasons close to the ones I mentioned before. I like storytelling.
One could claim that a game is just that: a game. They think video games are about nothing but aggression and killing virtual opponents. Well, while some games are like that, just as many are not. Shooters are not the only genre in the virtual world. Some games tell actual in-depth stories in the same way a book would tell them. The only difference in that case is that the player is involved.
What I’d like to say is that I think that games have become a valuable means of storytelling. While they are different from books and movies, it doesn’t mean that they are worth any less. They are a new medium – one that may be more compelling to its audience than any other one. In games like Dragon Age, the player can actually influence the outcome of the story by making choices, which is something not often seen in books – most likely never in movies. I know that books like that are out there, but they seem to be for kids only. Don’t get me wrong, I am the kind of person who loves children’s books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get it. Gaming has become a hype because it is so varied. There is something out there for everyone. The fact that some of these stories allow us to change their outcome often makes them more interesting, at least to me. Just like children, adults like this ability. They like feeling powerful. Not all of us want to read about a dumb hero wandering into a deserted building, only to find out it’s a trap and get killed. We want to fight back. We want to change his fate. That is the power of games.
As the world keeps advancing, new mediums of storytelling become available. I believe we should use them to their fullest instead of bashing them. “Just” games? I don’t think so.

Why Having a Writers’ Mind Improves Your Life

Having an active life outside of writing stories definitely stimulates the creative mind, but the opposite is true as well; having a creative mind improves the quality of daily life for sure. It may be because I am still a kid at heart – from the American point of view, I still am a (college) kid, so this may be a strange thing to say. When I started going to the gym for the first time in my life a few days ago, I had been dreading the moment for ages. However, when I arrived it turned out not to be bad at all. I decided to just go for a run on the treadmill, as the other devices seemed a little threatening for someone without training. As soon as I got up there and started running, my mind went wild. Why was I running? Was I fleeing from someone or something? Who or what was it? Ignoring the fact that I actually did not move from my spot at all, it was a great method for keeping my mind busy while my body started to ache. I had to keep going, no matter what, or the enemy was going to catch up with me. I hope I didn’t say anything strange or made any weird noises, which I sometimes do when in thought, but at least my imagination made this physical torture a lot more bearable. I’ll go back there as soon as possible.

It may be a little geeky, but I doubt I am much of an ordinary person. I know everyone likes to claim that about themselves, but seeing the other people’s faces around there allowed me to deduce that most of them were not having any fun at all. I guess that is the beauty of the writers’ mind; it allows us to turn an ordinary day into something amazing, even when nothing at all happens.

Picture-perfect; Pictures in (Children’s) Literature

For the youngest children and the early readers, there is an abundance of picture books – the kind of book where pictures take up entire pages. They love them, as the images help them to create a picture of the scene in their own mind. However, as these children grow older, the pictures in their stories disappear, mainly because they want to feel “grown up” and not go back to the “childish” style of actual picture books. When I was a child, I thought this was a shame. I actually loved the pictures in my books, no matter what they looked like (black-and-white or coloured). Sadly, those books weren’t ever available, at least not for my age range. Sure, I loved reading and I would generally be content with the plain old written novel, but something often was lacking. I wanted to know what the characters looked like. I wanted to know where they were. Children’s books never went into detail, although that detail was exactly what I wanted, and still want nowadays. I believe that novels should start containing some pictures again, if only for the small group of people like me.

To be honest, I do not like comics. I also do not enjoy graphic novels. For my literature courses, I’ve had to read Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which I thought was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Not because the story was bad – it was a welcome change in the depiction of war novels – but because I absolutely hated the (sometimes gruesome) art. Some books do not need pictures – not if they involve torture, murder or piles of burning mice. The same goes for comic books; to me, they are too picture-heavy and often too over-the-top. I do want to read an actual book, not a comic. I just wish that book would sometimes contain a simple pictures.

Maybe it is just me, but I actually do not enjoy having to think up a character’s looks by myself. To me, whatever I think of is not right. It is not what the author had in mind when they wrote it. It may sound pretentious, but I like the idea of actually looking into the author’s mind. Of course, this does not really work this way, as the author most likely is not the person to provide the pictures. Still, as far as I know they typically have at least some say in what the product is going to look like in the end. If the author agrees, I will agree that it is right.

Now, I have a question. Would anyone else like some visuals in their literature?

My Sources of Inspiration, Part VI: Night Terrors

Having a lively imagination is both a blessing and a curse, especially for those who aspire to use their creative mind. On one hand, it is an amazing ability to always be able to come up with new ideas. On the other hand, coming up with these ideas might not always be the best experience, even more so when they appear at night. I am prone to nightmares. It might be because horror is my preferred genre, but the mind is sadly stronger than most actual horror movies and books. Still, I cannot say I suffer from these dreams. I am pretty much used to them; they come to me daily, although “nightly” may be more fitting in this case.

I would like to advice those who, like me, love to write and experience the same as I do, to keep a dream diary. Having nightmares might not be a nice experience, but there is a good side to almost every bad thing. In this case, you could use these strange dreams to trigger the imagination even more to come up with the best idea ever. Alright, that may be an overstatement, but the point still stands. Keeping a dream diary – by writing in it right after you wake up or else the dream will be forgotten – is a great way to both train the mind to remember any form of inspiration and to have this notebook full of imagination-triggering adventures.

Personally, my nightmares probably are not that typical. They usually concern me being alone in a house that isn’t mine where I encounter ghosts, other strange beings or like last time, this horrible mannequin in an attick. Thing is, while it was one of the strangest dreams I had ever had, in the end only two aspects remained in my mind: a little girl ghost who loved to dance and play piano… and that horrible lifeless doll. As soon as I woke up, I loved it. I love having nightmares.