Monday, August 14, 2017

Resume Weaknesses in Characters

As an author on social media, I encounter a lot of posts by other authors. Many of them I pass on by but some of them are quite interesting. Then there are those that are odd.

I recently came across a post that was asking about weaknesses and main characters. This is an interesting topic because it delves into characterization.

I noticed that one of the responses was what I can only describe as a resume weakness. It was the kind of weakness that you give in response to an interview question asking what your greatest weakness in the workplace is.

I have to call this a cheater cheater Pumpkin Eater. If the greatest weakness that your character has is that they "try too hard to save people" or they "work too hard" to support their family, that's not a weakness. That's a virtue.

A real character weakness is one that makes the character somehow flawed, not a better person. If your character's weakness is actually a virtue, that does not make them more real, and it doesn't make them more relatable.

Resume weaknesses do not improve characterization. They do not improve your character as a relatable person. They do not make your writing better.

They do turn your character into a Mary Sue. They turn your character into an idealized version of whoever you are trying to characterize. And they make your character into someone who isn't as relatable.

No matter how hard we try to turn our weaknesses into subtle virtues, weaknesses are weaknesses. Flaws are flaws. And characters are people that should have both weaknesses and flaws, as well as virtues and nobility. Otherwise there just a cardboard cutout of a character.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Two Reviews of Too Wyrd - This is a good one!


Too Wyrd, by Sarah Buhrman
Some books just get you. They just catch you right - and Sarah Buhrman's first book in her Runestones saga does that with me. 
It's the story of single mother Nicola - who discovers her sister is mixed up with a cult and sets out with her best friend Joseph to try to rescue her. The kicker? Nicola's also a heathen witch. And it turns out this cult actually could bring about the apocalypse. 
Plunging headlong into a world of urban fantasy, with Norse gods and the possible coming of Ragnarok, this is a great ride of a tale. It kinda slows up a little bit in the first third, but then rushes onward towards... maybe... the end of the world? 
Nicola is a great character, brittle with the authorities investigating the supernatural shenanigans but passionate in her friendships, and a reluctant heroine, drawing on her own strength even with the cost that using magic imposes upon her. 
If you're a fan of urban fantasy, this is squarely in the genre - with a great female lead character, and a swirl of magic and mythology. Honestly, I enjoyed this more than Jim Butcher's Dresden series - definitely a world worth discovering. 
AI Rating: 5/5
- Leo McBride

You can also find a video review by Diane Morrisson HERE!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Loss and Life

Loss is an inextricable part of life. When a loved one passes on, it can be emotionally difficult... and not just because of mourning losses. There is also pressure to be emotionally supportive to others. And to make major plans and decisions about how to care for your deceased and their assets and belongings.

My last grandparent died about a month ago. It marks a huge milestone in my life, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Sure, there's the idea that an entire generation of my ancestors has moved on, bringing me closer to being the eldest of elders. However, the biggest milestone is that the funeral and accompanying events are the last time I will intentionally interact with my extended family, save a single cousin on one side of the family.

This may seem like a harsh tactic, but it is actually about removing toxicity from my life. While I have never had to deal with it directly, a variety of abuses has gradually colored my interactions with the larger family to the point where I feel it is inappropriate to spend my time with these people just because fate gave us a random connection.

For my own health and for the health of my children, for my own family's safety and sanity, I say to my cousins, aunts and uncles... "Bye Felicia!"

Don't get me wrong, most of them are harmless. Maybe a bit too hung up on "normal" (which I am not), or on... Okay, I don't even know. They are all just way too mainstream and snotty about stuff, and my tolerance for such things is very low.

They gossip. They emphasize money. They are willing to look down on people for things that can't be helped. They are hypocrites about their morals.

There's just a lot of baggage there, and I don't feel that any benefit to dealing with that would be worth it. So, there ya go.

This means that my loss is about more than my grandparent. I am losing an entire branch of my family tree... or two. It may be my choice, but it is still valid to mourn the losses of what might have been.

So, this loss feeds the beast of creativity, and I will accept what comes of it. And I solemnly swear I am not writing my entire family into my next murder scene. Not the entire family... lol

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bathos and the Dramatic Scene

Recently I came across an article that was talking about a topic near and dear to me. It referred to something called bathos. This is a technique in which humor or sarcasm is used to undercut drama within a scene.

There are a lot of reasons that this is a topic that I enjoy. Primarily, it's because that is what I write. I love a little bit of sarcasm some snark a bit of humor right in the middle of the action.

The article stated that the use of bathos was undermining the true emotion of a scene. I have to disagree with that statement.

The example the article used was in the movie Doctor Strange. Apparently, the use of humor in the scene in which Doctor Strange accepts the cloak while looking in the mirror, undercuts the drama of his acceptance in his role.

I recently watched Doctor Strange for the first time. My husband was with me. When this scene occurred, we both laughed. It wasn't because the drama of the scene was undercut. It wasn't because there was somehow something less dramatic about accepting one's responsibilities. It was because both of us immediately thought: that's exactly what a magic cloak would do.
Magical items are usually a bit annoying and child-like...
Just sayin'

And that's the thing about bathos. It shows a certain reality. When you do something dramatic, usually it goes badly, or at least wrong.

You try to make a dramatic point and then trip over your own feet. You make a dramatic entrance and promptly fall off the stage. You make a dramatic speech and somebody starts snickering. That's how life works.

There's a boat there... must not have practiced with that...
Even though I never knew what the name of it was, I've used bathos in all of my writing. That's how life works. We try to do something seriously and it ends up being hilarious. We try to do something dramatic and it ends up being anti-climatic.

Perhaps the problem isn't that drama and emotion are being undercut by bathos. Maybe bathos shows us the reality of how life undercuts drama and emotion.

And in case you need examples of how this works in real life, just Google fail videos on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Letting Go: Getting Help as an Author

Being an author is a lot of work. Never mind the word counts. The marketing can take well over 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. And there's no set goal, unless you set it yourself. The more marketing, the more potential sales.

As a mom of two, working at home over the summer, this can be a problem on multiple levels. I am constantly having my attention drawn away from my work to my kids and their ever increasing appetites for both food and entertainment. But I am running out of steam, quickly. It doesn't help that we threw a move, a funeral and hosting a party on top of all of this.

So what's a workaholic to do? Outsourcing.

I hired a VPA (virtual personal assistant) to help me with posting and such. She's salary, so I can just give her projects as I need them done. Good to go. She is also available to cover for me when I over-book my takeovers and such. A decent PA will run between $75-200/mo, which isn't too bad for the way she's boosted my reach, gotten me contacts, and covered my butt.

My next step is a nanny. Holy mackerel, I never thought I'd be considering a nanny! I'm not rich AT ALL, so this is really weird, but...

We don't need daycare. We just need someone to help out for a few hours a couple days a week. Someone who can take the kids to the library, or the swimming pool, or just to run through the sprinklers outside. I'm thinking $100 for 6-9 hrs each week.

Given that there's only a few weeks left before school starts, that's not a terribly huge expense, and I'd pay 2 or 3 times that to get them into a daycare or to a day camp. It's just unrealistic to go that route when a temporary, part-time solution is available.

So where's the problem? With outsourcing, the problem is always about letting go and trusting. You not only have to trust someone else to do the job for you. You also have to trust yourself - to be able to handle or deal with anything that isn't just how you would have done it, whether it's that the other person failed or not. It's a painfully psychological thing - we like things the way we like them.

But I like my time more, so I'm trusting.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

*Bonus points if you did David Bowie's voice when you read the title*

I have moved! I am in a new place with some new things and some not-new things. The city is new (ish - I've lived here before, a decade ago) and I love it! The kids love it; the hubby loves it.

Okay, so lots of love and stuff. But moving is hard.

Obviously, it's physically hard. We already agreed that the next time we move, we are hiring some guys to lift stuff for us. There's a company in town called "College Hunks Moving". They have my vote.

We moved nearly 200 miles, while simultaneously sending kids to day camp, cleaning and selling a house, and working (me from home, hubby from that place he goes to every day). We had two yards to mow, two electric bills to pay, and a metric ton of stuff to transfer, either physically or electronically. Just changing addresses is two full days of work!

Speaking of which, moving is mentally hard. There are so many things to take care of. It's an epic level of adulting that I'm just not sure I want to tackle again without the help of a personal assistant/secretary. I would like to point out, though, that I managed to time mail changes and shipping of deliveries to such a fine point that we missed not a thing!

Well, we did, but that was because our move-in date was delayed a full day due to them updating the floors before we moved in. They made a good choice, but it was a stressful 24 hours, which may or may not have involved me driving a fully loaded moving truck at top speed down a city street, with a car towed behind, while talking to the UPS guy on the phone.

Speaking of THAT - turns out I'm a pretty bad-ass truck driver. Just sayin'. I backed that baby over lawns and around bushes, drove through narrow streets, even took the truck (with car still in tow) around a round-about and through narrow residential streets lined with expensive cars (here-after referred to as residential HELL).

Moving is also emotionally hard. Never mind the surprising ways that memories come flooding back as you pack up a place that has been home for seven and a half years, a place where your children grew up.

There's an emotional tie to such a place that springs up in surprising ways. Like the realization that you won't see another peach harvest from the trees that you planted. Or the way the snakes rustle in the grass, bringing up thoughts of how they keep the mice away. Or the emptiness of rooms as they are cleared out.

Then there's the second stage. After all the packing, lifting, moving, stress, worry, unloading, etc., you still have the maze of boxes that require unpacking. Food stuffs in one box, office supplies in another, two dozen boxes of books (cuz we are all bibliophiles here).

So, a minimum of one box per person gets opened and ostensibly put away every day. We have some furniture to buy, either to replace stuff that didn't make the cut or survive the move (damn you, particle board!), or things we need to make up for the differences in space that we now have vs what we had before.

So, yeah, changes, and moving is hard. But we got everything taken care of, and we are getting it slowly unpacked and put away. Now, I need to go shopping for a new night table!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trauma and Writing: the Dark Side of Being an Author

I have three blogs. On one of them, I posted about Hidden Trauma and opened up about a deeply emotional situation that had recently come up.

Oh, you say. That's all well and good, but what's that to do with writing? (You may have a British accent in my head... 😜)

One of the things I try to do with my writing is to describe pain and emotions in a very real and visceral way. I don't just say "her face turned red with anger". I say "rage crawled up her neck and over her ears, narrowing her vision and tightening the muscles in her neck and scalp".

Same emotion, but if you've ever been really pissed, you recognize the physical "symptoms" I've described in the second quote. I want people to be able to see what I write in terms of emotions and not just say "yeah, I've been mad". I want "OMG, that's just how it feels!"

But the thing is, in order to do that, I have to not just feel things, I have to NOTICE what I'm feeling. I have to remember what muscles clench when I'm afraid, what temperature my hands are when I'm scared. I have to remember the full physical sensations of getting the breath knocked out of me. I have to pull back the sharp feeling of a cut.

Because of this, and other reasons, and despite my natural tendencies to hide or suppress my emotions from others, I force myself to be open about what I experience. I push myself to share, in part so others will share similar experiences. I make myself write down the sensations instead of pushing the discomfort away.

I analyze my own traumas... for you, my readers. (Cue guilt-trip music and fade to black... lol)