A to Z Challenge – U (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

UU is for unreliable narrators

“Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see”

We know that there are people who lie and chances are, you know of a person who deals primarily in lies.  But for whatever reason, when we read books our automatic assumption is to believe the narrator (or at least mine is, but hey maybe I’m naïve).

How could we not trust our narrators?  They are our eyes, ears, and entrance into a world we cannot see.

So we listen to them and depend on them for information.  But we shouldn’t always.

Sometimes it’s obvious at the start that we’re listening to an unreliable narrator – the author gives us a smirk and a wink right away by revealing in a bit of dialogue with another character that our narrator likes to embellish or perhaps the narrator him/herself will tell us straightaway that they like to fudge the facts.

There are some stories where you begin to have a sneaking suspicion that the narrator isn’t on the up-and-up.  Then there are other stories where the unreliability of the narrator is key to the plot of the story, and so the big reveal comes either at the end or a big turning point in the story.

But the art of the reveal is key in these matters.  Do you want the readers in on the reveal halfway in and allow them to see the truth for the second half?  Or do you want the reveal at the end, and have them wondering if anything they’ve been told is true?

Tricky, tricky, methinks.

My feeling is that it depends on the genre.  My favorite genres, romance and women’s fiction (if they indulge in unreliable narration, which is rare), would let the reader in on it at least halfway through the story.  But if you’re writing general fiction/literature, drama, or mystery – you’ve much more flexibility on when/how you decide to reveal your narrator’s true nature.  But be careful – if you haven’t left at least a few breadcrumbs along the way, your readers could be hurt or annoyed that you didn’t give them ample information to figure it out. ;)

Unreliable narrators/characters (and ummm…spoiler alerts):

  • Verbal, The Usual Suspects
  • Amy, Gone Girl
  • Natalie, Running in Heels
  • Narrator, Fight Club
  • Pi, Life of Pi – though honestly, I like his unreliable version way better, which was kind of the point.

A to Z Challenge – T (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

T is for Tragic

Not all characters have happy beginnings, or happy endings for that matter – these are the characters, the tragic and tortured souls, who pull at our heart-strings for years to come.

I’m the kind of author who likes to give her characters a happy ending.  But some stories and some characters, are not meant to have them.  No matter how hard you try, some events are not meant to work out.

Roman Holiday,” for example, while not a tragic story, has a tragic component – a romance that was never meant to work out.

 Audrey Hepburn is a princess visiting Rome, who plays hooky from her duties and Gregory Peck is an enterprising reporter, who first plans on publishing an article with pictures on the Princess’ shenanigans but finds himself falling under her spell.

*Spoiler alert* At the end of the movie, Audrey returns to her role as Princess and gives a press conference, which Gregory Peck attends.  After making a brief speech to the crowd, she takes questions and of course takes one from him.  He coyly slips her photographs of her visit and then the press conference ends.  Audrey leaves the room and so do all but one of the reporters.  We’re left in the room with Gregory Peck, waiting for Audrey to come back and tell us she loves him.  But she doesn’t come back.  Because she can’t and it wasn’t meant to be… and that’s exactly what it’s like to have a tragic component or a tragic character in a story.  No matter how much you’d like it to work out, even when you’re the author, you know it can’t end any other way.

Notable tragic characters/tortured soul characters:

  • Julián Carax, “The Shadow of the Wind” (if you haven’t read this novel you should – it was so beautifully written and such an interesting story…but seriously tragic character, you’ve been forewarned)
  • The Punisher
  • Quasimodo
  • It’s not a character but it still made me sad, so I’m listing it – the romance in Roman Holiday

T

A to Z Challenge – S (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

SS is for side characters

They’re not the focal point of your story, they’re not even the dreaded enemy of your hero(ine), but like it or not – side characters are still important to most stories.

Why?

Well sir, they keep the story’s momentum going and often make the story richer in detail and life.  While the tension is ratcheting up (but you’re essentially in a set up scene for something really big about to go down) , you need to reveal the truth about someone, you want to give your character advice, or in the romance genre, while your heroine is being taunted and tempted (but not yet thoroughly seduced), it’s time to bring in the side characters.  

Oh side characters, you unsung heroes and heroines of plot, we honor you. 

Notable side characters:

  • Lydia (Pride and Prejudice)
  • Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
  • Silent Bob (though he is also a fun author insertion)
  • Dumbledore (HP series, all those fabulous quotes and plot devices he throws in Harry’s way are mighty helpful)
  • A heroine’s friend in any non-series romance novel.

R is for Rubes – A to Z (WR)

For the A to Z challenge, I’ve been examining different types of characters from books, movies, and television.

Perhaps one of the most endearing aspects of reading about a character is seeing a little bit of yourself or someone you care about within them.  It’s not a Mary Sue for the reader, but in many ways the most beloved characters of all time share similarities with the author’s readership and it allows the reader to form a magical bond to the character (that’s a big part of becoming beloved after all).

Sometimes readers share negative attributes with characters, often you see this in cautionary tales, meant to scare readers into whatever behavior the author deems appropriate.

And sometimes, even we authors see parallels between our own lives and characters that we love (whether we’ve created them or not).  Just like readers, sometimes these parallels are positive and sometimes they are not.

Rubes are naïve characters (sometimes foolish), who are often taken advantage of by all sorts in books – villains, twists of fate/plot, and even sometimes our own dear hero(ine).

We are all meant to take a turn as the fool in our own life stories and it was a year ago today that I realized that I had been cast in this particular role, probably for quite some time.

But I want to tell you something – something that all of we former rubes have learned:  you won’t be a rube forever – and if you let it, your time as the fool will make you wiser and will help you find the strength you never knew you had.

  

A to Z Challenge – Q (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

QQ is for Quirky

Quirky characters aren’t boring, limp lumps of uninteresting – they’re different, silly, cool, and fun.  And when your character is quirky, hilarity is sure to ensue.

Many romance and mystery heroines are quirky, which leads to silliness, hilarious/awkward encounters with the hero and other random people, strange discoveries, and most likely, discovery of clues/bodies/plot devices due to clumsiness and all around bad luck.

Notable quirky heroines

  • Bridget Jones
  • Becky (Shopaholic)
  • Stephanie Plum
  • and many, many romance novel heroines

A to Z Challenge – P (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

P is for Paramour  

Merriam Webster defines a paramour as “a person with whom someone is having a romantic or sexual relationship and especially a secret or improper relationship.”

Oh my, that seems like it’s right up the romance genre’s alley..

And it is ;)

In romance novels, the young heroine is often seduced thoroughly (honestly, who wants a half-assed seduction?) by a dashing paramour…and they live happily ever after.

But outside of the romance genre, and even in some stories within the genre, the paramour isn’t necessarily a hero(ine).  As with any character, the paramour is flexible.  He or she may only be a plot device (telling our hero/heroine of the true nature of their spouse/partner), an informant on the antagonist’s movements, the key in unraveling the antagonist, a rival/antagonist, or someone’s alibi in a murder mystery.

When writing them, I think the most important thing to highlight other than their obvious <ahem> skills, would be their facial expressions.  A knowing smile spread slowly across the paramour’s lips or a plump pout of lips….these may sometimes be overdone, but my oh my are they ever so much fun in any proper paramour.

Happy Saturday. :)

A to Z Challenge – O (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

O is for OccultistIMG_2592

An occultist is a person versed in the occult arts including witches, wizards, sorcerers, psychics, enchantress, voodoo priests/priestesses, and necromancers (that one always sounds particularly creepy, no?).

While back in the day, these characters may have had a more antagonistic role in stories (think Rasputin), many genres have grown to includes them as protagonists in magical, alien, and sic-fi worlds.

Before you create an occultist character, make sure to do proper research on their tools/abilities (if you’re using an already existing archetype) or write a proper background before creating a new character/world.  Make sure you stay consistent in the rules.  As a reader, I can suspend disbelief to a certain extent.  What I cannot extend, is the belief that a character would act way outside the norms that have been established earlier in the story/series or in ages old lore.

Favorite occultists:

  • Hermione  (Harry Potter) –  she is the brightest witch of her age, you know.  And she fights against the patriarchy.  ;)
  • Cousins O’Dwyer in Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch Series – magick, rhymes, and Irish brogues?  You know I’m down with that.
  • Antagonist (that’s right, I refuse to be a spoiler) in Nora Roberts’ “Divine Evil”…which gave me nightmares when I was in high school, but was so fabulous I really should re-read.

O

A to Z Challenge – N (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

N is for Nerds

N Nerds, those cerebral cowboys, have crept into literature, movies, and television when the popular kids weren’t looking – and it makes us glad.

As a fellow nerd (who seems to be growing in her nerd super-power lately), I enjoy seeing other nerds in stories – solving mysteries, saving their friends with expert knowledge they’ve found in books or online, researching ne’er do wells (Ha! another word for N), and my personal favorite, reading.

Notable Nerds:

  • Sherlock Holmes – forget the highly functioning sociopath thing for a minute, at this core, Mr. Holmes is a nerd.  And to quote the woman (Irene Adler), “brainy is the new sexy.”
  • Hermione Granger – ha, like I even have to explain this one! We all know she’s a giant nerd and the only reason Ron and Harry didn’t die in just about every book.  On behalf of nerds everywhere – Harry and Ron, you’re welcome.
  • Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) – okay, maybe she wasn’t a full nerd, but she was exceedingly well-read, which is an important attribute of nerdiness and one of the things that Darcy found super sexy…btw – Darcy, the original nerd fanboy? ;)

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A to Z Challenge – M (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

M is for Mary Sue

Ah yes, we’ve come to the Mary Sue character.  If you haven’t met yet, simply look into the mirror.

IMG_2585

Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for the male equivalent) is an idealized character, often an avatar for the author or form of wish-fulfillment for the author.

As characters are birthed from the brain of the writer, there may be some thoughts, feelings, or experiences that are shared between some characters and their creator.  If you are in the “write what you know” camp, some similarities are possible and that’s okay.  Drawing inspiration from real life can make your stories feel more vivid and real, but be careful not to put all of yourself into the main character.

Creating a Mary Sue and inserting yourself fully into a work of fiction should generally be avoided.  Why?  Mostly because it’s a rookie mistake as well as lame and lazy (though there are some instances where it has worked, but it is RARE).  Also when an author creates a Mary Sue, they tend to make her/him overly perfect and therefore annoying or worse – not interesting.  Most people enjoy reading about characters with both light and dark in them, with flaws to make them more interesting or relatable.

Part of the joy and fun of writing fiction is dreaming up different kinds of characters and how they’ll react in different situations.  So don’t Mary Sue in your novels.  Save writing about yourself for your blog…or that memoir when you’re famous.  :)

M

A to Z Challenge – L (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

L L is for Likable

Do your main characters have to be likable? ehhhhhhh…well, it depends on the genre. For my genre, romance – yes, your heroine should be likable (though any romance reader will tell you that there are SCORES of annoying romance heroines).  I’m of the opinion that the hero should be likable as well, but there are writers who make their heroes extremely assholic – and there’s a weird readership for that to be sure (though I am not part of that group).

For all other genres…I think you have some wiggle room.  There are some heroes (and heroines) that are deplorable  – there are some that are strangely charming despite their bad nature but there are also main characters that have no redeeming or likable qualities…and still these stories can be interesting.  I generally prefer to have likable characters, though not angelic – I like my characters to have elements of light and dark in them.

Notable unlikable characters

  • Walter Sparrow, “The Number 23″ – this guy was not redeemable or likable, but the story was interesting (as well as super creepy).
  • Frank Underwood, “House of Cards” – while he’s a deplorable person, we somehow are still interested and intrigued by his story (though I’m hoping for some kind of Shakespearian justice).