Category Archives: The Craft of Writing

Harry Potter and Characterization

Harry Potter

 I’m so sad.  In my efforts to deny that the Harry Potter movie saga has ended I delayed watching the second half of “Deathly Hollows” for months.  I bought it the day it came out and watched it – finally – I couldn’t delay any further.  But, I was sad.

 I, along with millions, have had a relationship with these books, movies and actors for a decade.  It is truly the end of era (metaphorically).  J.K. Rowling created something special, something that changed our world forever.  Pretty freaking note-worthy, if you ask me.

And how exactly did she and Harry Potter accomplish this?  By being ‘brilliant’. 

 The story is complex and compelling to be sure, but what I think held us all captive for a decade is the characters.  They joined our families, became part of our lives.

 Look at any one of the characters and tell me they aren’t a three dimensional believable person.  Even the really, really minor ones have depth.  No one’s all good or all bad.  Harry may be the best Seeker but he can’t dance.  Ron is completely loyal but even he got jealous and fought with Harry.  Draco doesn’t want to kill Dumbledore, doesn’t really want to be a Death-eater, he just wants to make his dad proud. 

 They have good points and they have flaws.  They have moments of weakness and moments of strength.  They have likes, dislikes, humor, friends, and histories.  They have a rich and varied life that we glimpse gradually throughout the stories. 

 I’m going to pick a side on the character vs plot debate.  Which is more important?  I say character.  Plot is important – it is, yet when I encounter a genius plot, if I don’t have at least one character I love, it makes no difference.  I won’t read/watch.  If, however, there is one or more characters I can love, then the story doesn’t have to have a great plot.  I’ll still read/watch… because I care what happens to those characters.  Rowling had both a great plot and great characters, but I think we love this universe because of the people who inhabit it.   

 As writers, strive to create great characters, but what we should strive for is to create real people, 3D people.  People others can love and root for.  People rich with diversity.  If we can all learn that skill, we will indeed be better writers for it.

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Writing Is Like Racing

A little history.  My CP and I spent all of last year working on our respective stories.  Both paranormal romances, hers is dark, mine is light.  Both had been written, revised, edited, rewritten and so on unto death.  Early this year, we were both frustrated and fed up with our stories.  You may remember my blog post where I talked about when to give up on a story.  This was that story.  Anyway, my CP has continued to work on hers.  Changing the story to the point it’s not a rewrite anymore, it’s really a new story with recycled (sort of) characters and world-building. 

So, a few days ago we were talking and she was venting about her continued frustration.  I can completely relate.  Writing can be really frustrating at times.  After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that had we just slowed down with our initial ms and wrote with more intent we wouldn’t have had to re-write a billion times over.  Now, for the analogy.

Who remembers Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall?  Remember how Cruise kept burning through his tires because he wanted to race balls-to-the-walls (that’s really fast) all the time.  He feels this is going to get him to the finish line faster.  Duvall, his racing manager guy, says No.  He needs to take his time and drive with intent (broadly paraphrased).  So, they have a competition.  Cruise gets to race his way and then the way Duvall wants him to.  They’ll time both and measure the tires after each to see who is right.  Cruise’s way blows out his tires and his time is slowed because of it.  Duvall’s way comes in faster and with tread still left on the tires.  Duvall wins. 

 Writing is like that.  I can race through my writing trying to get the initial story out but if I then have to spend the next long length of time trying to fix it because I didn’t add in enough sensory or emotional stuff, I’m not saving time.  If I write with intent to get the emotion, the setting, the characterization, and the sensory stuff in there the first time, sure – it might take me longer for that initial draft, but it will take me less time for the finished draft.  Moral: Slower and deliberate wins the race.  That’s my new philosophy.  What say you?

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From the beginning, again

I’ve been a slacker lately and I suspect it has something to do with my frustration.  Every time I think I’m getting this writing thing down, I figure out how much more I need to learn. 

So, I’m starting a new story, and I had a few chapter written, and I let someone who is published and a terrific writer, read it.  She shredded it… and rightfully so.  I’m still skimming the surface with the emotions, I’m not answering the right questions, not giving the reader a reason to care and still telling when I should be showing.  GRRRRRR

After much discussion with my awesome CP (she may be having similar issues), I am going back to the beginning and working on my craft.  I realize this requires a lot of writing as well as reading and studying, but the writing doesn’t have to be what I hope to publish.  Probably better if it isn’t, so I can just worry about the craft and nothing else.  Currently, I’m working on the emotional depth – in me and my characters.  If I can’t get there in myself, how am I supposed to be able to do it for a character?  And while self-exploration is up there with chinese water-torture, it is necessary to my writing, so I’ll do it. 

I told someone the other day, nothing is more important to me than my writing and I meant it.  There’s a quote I have on a post-it on my desk (can’t remember who said it), but I’ll paraphrase: Remember, they said it would be hard.  This is what hard looks like, but you can do it. 

Stay the course on whatever your endeavors are, fight mediocrity, do what it takes and succeed.  I can do this.  So can you.

I’ll go through this with ya’ll.   And hopefully we’ll both figure out some stuff.  Next post on what I’m doing exactly.

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