Posts Tagged With: opinion

Opinion time! Near-invulnerability in a protagonist?

I’ve been kicking around a new story idea for a while, and while I won’t give too much away, I can reveal that it’s going to be a middle-grade fantasy story with lots of comedy, adventure, etc.

Right now, I’m working on fleshing out the main character – who we will call MC for ease, as I haven’t worked out a name yet. The concept with MC is that his father is a sorcerer, but MC himself is absolutely incapable of doing magic — not just that he has no talent for it, but he literally has no access to magic whatsoever.

Now, MC needs a “shtick” — you know, that one element that makes him special, that gives him the edge he needs to be a hero. For example, Harry Potter may not have been a very good wizard (at least in the first books), but he was an excellent flyer, which he uses to navigate many obstacles through his various adventures.

The first “shtick” I thought up was invulnerability. MC’s father is called the “dragon sorcerer” — not because he’s a dragon, but because he just really, really likes dragons. My thought is that the sorcerer did some dragon-magic-funtimes to MC when he was a wee babby, and this ended up burning the magic out of MC, but in return gave him skin as hard as dragon scales. Note that his skin doesn’t actually look like dragon scales — it’s just magically tough.

Now, near-invulnerability … that has some serious pros and cons. The main con, of course, is that he’ll be invulnerable (or close enough) — which means that, whilst on his adventures, readers will never really worry about his safety, due to the aforementioned invulnerability. On the pro side, though, there’s lots of fun stuff going on here — he’ll be reckless, because he knows he can’t be hurt, which will get him into all sorts of sticky situations. He’ll have a hard time connecting with other people, because his dragon-scale-strong skin has always made him different, singled him out from his peers, and they might even resent him. And he’ll also have a sort of superiority complex — an aloofness, if you will — because on some level he knows he’s superior to others, at least in that one aspect, and that’s a dangerous thing for a 12/13 year old to think.

So I guess my question is — do you think that fairly major con outweighs all the pros?

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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What’s your opinion on ambiguous endings?

I, personally, get annoyed by ambiguous endings. I like my stories very clear cut — if I invest multiple hours of my time getting to know and care about characters, I want to know definitively what happens to them.

This has put me at odds with several of my friends, especially when we go see movies. For both Inception and Life of Pi, my friends walked out of the theater going “Wow! Amazing movie! I can’t believe that ending! What do you think really happened? Was it real? Was it a dream? Wow!” Apparently they really like to say “wow”. Anyway, then they turned to me and asked me how I liked it, and I had to truthfully respond “Meh”, because of my aforementioned fondness for clear cut endings. They then proceeded to sacrifice me to Enigmaticus, the god of ambiguous endings, but I may or may not have actually died because the ending to this story is left deliberately vague and you’ll never know if it was real or made up!

See how annoying it is? GAH.

Anyhoo, all that being said, I’ve recently been plotting out my NaNoWriMo book, and when I got to the end, I realized that there were two ways the story could end. Two extremely different ways. Both are totally viable options, and both would leave some really cool ideas and questions in the reader’s mind. But I’m having trouble deciding which one to go with. So I thought “Screw the rules, maybe I should just cut the story off right before he makes the choice and let the reader decide what happens!”

Of course, I immediately felt very guilty about this thought, because, again, ambiguous endings = evil incarnate (at least in my mind). But the more I think about it, the more I like it. And the more I hate it.

So I guess I’ll pose it to you lovely people — ambiguous endings: good or bad?

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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Do outlines stifle creativity?

I’m feeling introspective today. Bear with me.

I feel that there are two types of book memories. There are the big memories, like a major plot point, where you look back and think, “Aw man, I never saw that coming, that was so cool!” And there are the little memories, like a line of dialogue you thought was so hysterical you fell off your bouncy ball laughing. Both are important, and both are necessary to create a great story.

I’ll tell you why I’ve been thinking about this. I’m always reading about writers who swear by their outlines. And they have a good point — how can you make sure you include everything you want to include in the story if you don’t have it written down? Unless your memory is unbelievably fantastic, in which case never mind. But I’ve tried making elaborate outlines, and here’s what happens: it becomes a plodding, paint by numbers exercise in soul-sucking futility, and while I hit all the big memories (the plot points), the little memories are much, much harder to come by.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m horribly disorganized anyway, so maybe outlines and I just don’t mix by default. But when I have an outline that I’m trying to turn into a story, I follow it step by step, doing exactly what it says, and I feel like I lose some of the spark that comes from just attacking a project with a handful of characters in your head, and a vague idea of where they’re going to end up.

So when I go back and look over what I’ve written, I’ve hit all the relevant plot points — oh boy, have I hit them. But that’s all the characters do. They’re so focused on getting from one pivotal scene to the next that they never stop to have fun, or say an amusing quip, or do something ridiculous, like have an impromptu game of laser tag and fall into a vat of space jelly.

I feel like outlines stifle me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. At the same time, I’m sure there are perfectly brilliant authors out there who use outlines all the time, and produce stunning pieces of literature. It probably just boils down to personal taste.

My personal strategy is to jot down very brief notes on what will happen in the story, and then make up the details as I go. For example, in Chasing Nonconformity (the sequel to Imminent Danger), I know that the gang will head to the planet Chingu to retrieve something very valuable that they’ve misplaced. I have several plot points down for what they’ll do when they’re on the planet, but other than that, they can really get up to whatever the heck they want. At the moment, Eris has decided to go shoe shopping. And why not? I can always cut it out later if it doesn’t work with the flow of the story.

That’s the beauty of writing a book — you’re the author! You can write whatever you want, and you have no one to answer to except yourself! Well, and your fans. And your friends and family. And the general public. And reviewers. And the …

Maybe I should start that outline after all.

 

Unrelated media of the day:

I’ll be honest, I haven’t kept track of what I’ve posted under the Unrelated Media section, so I have no idea if I’ve shared this already. Oh well. Don’t watch it if you’ve already seen it! Or do watch it. Whatever floats your tiger-infested lifeboat.

In today’s unrelated media, Buzz Aldrin raps about how awesome it was to be an astronaut.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 99 Comments

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