As a writer, I’m always analyzing my characters. I’m evaluating them: how they work together; are they innovative; are they nothing more than stereotypes; are they effective. So many questions, and important questions, to be asked of your characters, and important to answer. If we want to continue to grow as a literary community, and we do, then we have to do our part to contribute. What is beautiful is that we are doing that more and more. We are adding more complex female and POC characters and the world is better for it.
So when I look over my characters, I have to find my voice in them, and find my particular trend… and I can safely say that I know what I like to do. I’m a Ying-Yang writer. I like balance in my characters. If I have a wild-card, then I need to have a cool-headed character next to them. Often this manifests in a female-male pairing. No, I’m not just talking romantically (because I happen to subscribe to the fact that women and men can just be friends with nothing more attached). I like balance. I want a female character on the same ground as a male character. Maybe that comes from my own experiences with friendships. Or maybe that comes from my desire for equal friendships like that. I’m not sure. But I find myself doing it all the time.
In Turned/Red, I have Red alongside Hunt (though I throw Mal in the mix). In my current novel, (working title Ghost Crown), Katja is beside her brother Emil (I also love writing brother-sister relationships that are functional and not confrontational. Blame Joss Whedon and Firefly). I like balance. But I like to show that women and men can work alongside each other, or even in opposition to each other, and that their gender doesn’t play a part. They happen to be a woman or a man, but that doesn’t define them. So I pit them together or against each other. I make them equal and I balance out the leads.
Or make them non-binary. Spin that balanced top.
But I do it with women characters too. Red is balanced by Mal. Katja is balanced by Milanka. Even the men are balanced: Hunt by Byar and Emil by Goran. Hot/cold. Passion/Pragmatism. But then I like to take those balance points and flip them. Suddenly the passionate one is logical, and the logical one has done something spontaneous.
And then I like to tear that balance apart. It’s an emotional moment, but also a plot moment. I’m a character driven writer, so this makes sense. I need an emotional trauma to turn the tide of the story. Sometimes, that mixes into the plot based story-telling some writers favor, but it’s more about sharing the world through a character, and these moments define us as human beings, so why not a fictional character?
By now, you’re probably thinking that this traps me. I’m stuck finding the balance between my characters instead of letting them be insanely complex or difficult people. Not so. A character isn’t always the level-headed one. Sometimes they switch. That’s human nature. If you look at your own friend base, you’ll find the strange balance. For many of us, that’s a group of people. We all play a little part in balancing us out as a whole. For me, that makes a well-rounded and multi-dimensional story. Balance. It swings one way or another, but the way it swings, the direction, and how you find that balance is the fun and intensely difficult part of story telling. It’s also how to create a multi-colored world. It rounds it out, fills it up, and creates humans.
For each writer, it is different. Some will balance with physical descriptions. Some do it with emotions. Some with alignment (good vs evil). Some do all of these. They’re all good. But we have to make sure to expand upon that starting balance point, and tip it over. I think that’s why I start with my female-male duo or passion-pragmatic duo. Then I tip them over the edge and see where that takes us.
Whether you start with a duo or a trio or a group of nine beginning a journey to destroy the ring (I could write a whole post on how that group balanced each other. Just look at an elf and a dwarf), tip that balance. Spin it. Drop a rock on one side, and see how they slide and fall.
In the early morning hours, you know them, they’re the ones were you roll over at 2am, open about ten apps and hope for sleep, I came up with an interesting idea… One -shots. I used to write them all the time. I wrote fan-fic one-shots, original fic one-shots… anything. There were a great way to get juices flowing, explore a character voice, and just simply: practice. In fact, during that 2am desperate search for sleep, I realized I missed writing them.
I came up with an idea. Mainly, I came up with the idea to keep my first novel’s world in my head. I didn’t want to lose the world I had built in favor of the new one that seems to be taking over (ahem… Srebrov and my paranormal-fantasy). I decided that one-shots, a great exercise, would really help my world-mushing problem. Why not write one-shots in Faeree, Turned/Red‘s world? Write from perspectives of characters never met in the novel, or explore bits of their early life? It would be a fun way to further explore what I had created…
And why not share those experiments? I’m all about transparency of the process… and encouraging others to do the same. So this first one is up on Fictionpress. Eventually, I hope to collect them into a small companion book, but for now, they’re available to read there.
I hope you enjoy!
World Painted Red: The Nanny
She was tasked with a simple job: steal the baby for the queen. But nothing with the Imperial Queen is ever that easy. A one-shot in the world of Faeree first introduced in E. Logan’s Turned/Red.
I recently uncovered my copy of A Feast of Ice and Fire: the Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook(which I HIGHLY recommend for the historical goodies in there). I did it to gear up for the next (and last, let me cry into my pillow please) season. In the forward, I was struck by how the authors of the cookbook commented on George R. R. Martin’s feasts, and how often he writes them. I never paid much attention when I was reading the books. I was too much in the world, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why author’s put food in their books.
In this new project I’ve realized how important a component food has become. There are whole scenes around meals, which makes sense for a fantasy novel, but isn’t it that way in life? Don’t we have the most amazing conversations over a plate of food, or a glass of our favorite drink (be it wine or grape juice)? We are at our most open when we are sharing a meal, so it makes sense to bring that forth in a written work. There’s hardly an easy out if you are sharing a meal. You either suck it up and stay, or you make a dramatic exit. Either are writing gold. It forces your characters to follow through with their words and actions. They don’t get to swing a sword, slip away, or any other easy out. Not that forcing them to stay is easy writing. On the contrary. The next thing you know, you’re writing a scene you weren’t sure you were ready for, but your characters were. And in the end? The narrative is better for it.
Food always places a culture. For my new project, which I brought up in my last post about world building, my new place has some touches for a Croatian heritage I’m only just now discovering, so I’ve made a conscious choice to use Croatian and similar style foods. Even if people don’t know what burek or kifle is, there’s instantly a feel associated with those words, and that spelling. It’s a feel I want to imbue my story with, not to mention I like the idea of planning a meal around this new tale.
And there is such a rise in cookbooks inspired off of books/tv shows/movies. I have an Amazon wish list full of them. (Arguably, I love historical cooking, so anything that even hints at historical recipes is instantly in my “need” list.) Eating, and socializing around that act, is purely human. Of course, as authors, no matter how “other” our characters are, this will always reveal some sort of truth. Even Turned/Red had some of my favorite, poignant moments, around a table and coffee.
We need food to survive. And the social interaction that it involves, even if it is just one person. If we want to be true to life? Food is on the page, whether we consciously write it, or it just happens.
I have always found it interesting what narrative writers chose for their stories. As a child, I steered away from anything that was first person. I would look inside, see “I” and put it back. Why? To be honest, I still can’t even tell you. And I’ve really thought about it long and hard. Why would I not want to read a book in first person? Especially since I lean toward it in my own writing style? Was it too personal? Too limited? Too emotional? I don’t know.
But it does open up a bigger question that isn’t far off: Why write first person? Why write third person? What makes that choice? (I’ll leave out present vs past for now, since that’s a whole other topic).
As a younger writer, I stuck to third exclusively. I wanted to be able to dip into other characters, perhaps even other moments. Seeing everything through one character was daunting, intimidating, and I felt trapped. This, of course, was my fear as a writer. What if my point of view character wasn’t fully developed? What if I hated them? What if they were boring? Yep. All of that is fear.
I don’t know when it changed. I just began writing in first person. Perhaps, as I grew as a performer developing narratives for characters in my head to give better performances, I grew as a writer as well. I like to think they go hand-in-hand. Perhaps, it was a professor that told me to “show, not tell.” It became easier to avoid that “tell” crutch if I was in someone else’s head. Limiting me meant that the storytelling became tighter, more active, and less passive, relying on being the all-knowing writer to “tell” the story.
This doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t write in third person. Focusing so much on one, as I have recently, has made my third person storytelling lazy, sloppy. It’s important to do both. Granted, I like to keep it centered on one character or another instead off the all-knowing third person narrator, but all the same… suddenly, third person is hard. I feel disconnected, and if I disconnect, being an ENFP, I lose focus. Third person has become, for me, short story format. And that’s okay.
Because I read first, and third, present and past, active and passive. I’ve grown to appreciate and respect each way of telling a story, and that one is not better than the other. If the story is good, the story tells you how it needs to be told, and a reader will accept how it needs to be told. Force it? And it falls apart, like any art.
But it still fascinates me what writers chose to write. There’s always a moment, either in the very beginning or at the very end where I sit there and wonder: why did they make that choice? It’s purposeful, even if we don’t know we do it. The key to this answer helps me be a better writer: analyzing, asking questions, and enjoying the crap out of stories.
Everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions, or goals. I’ve taken to calling them goals, so it stings less if I don’t manage to reach them. To me, goals are long term, but resolutions are that fad we make in the last days of a year. So… goals.
Typically, people want to lose weight/be healthier (great resolutions to be sure), get better jobs, or little organizational improvements. These are great. But as a writer, what goals do we make? Finish that book we started months ago? Write more? Write better? Writer something new? Yes. Yes. Yes. and Yes.
But how do we do that?
I’ve found that us creative types, (and if I’m honest, I’m going the MBTI route and saying my ENFP status doesn’t help) then to have 20 projects going, or on the back burner, and still we start more. We overflow with ideas and concepts without sitting there and finishing the first one first. This isn’t bad. We need us. We need this overflow or we become creatively and emotionally constipated.
My solution to this? Embrace it.
For me? I never work better or faster than when I have a deadline. That’s how Turned/Red was written. I had a writing group I felt responsible for, to provide a chapter a week for, and thus, the story happened. I let it happen because I told myself to write for an hour a day, no matter what. That’s what I’m going to do: write for an hour.
Now, that hour doesn’t have to be spent on the same project every day. That’s why I have that side project (though it has been doing its job and refocusing me on my big projects). One day could just be this random snip-bit of an idea, just to get it out. Or maybe it is writing that book you need to finish. But an hour is doable, at least for me. I can do that before I go to my day job, or at the end of the night when I’m surfing Pinterest.
Granted, it has only been four days (I gave myself New Year’s Day off to recover… and work), but I can say that it is working.
I can also say that this new book is going to be A LOT bigger than originally planned. Whoops.
A year has come to a close, and I think I can safely say that we are all very glad to see it go. 2017 remains a mystery, but I know that I plan to read, read, read. That, of course, is no different than any other year.
So what’s on everyone’s reading lists this year? Mine…well… it keeps growing.
I’ve got my bookmarks in An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and I’ll be gobbling that up, and it’s sequel(s). Hamilton: The Revolution. I’m a bit obsessed with it for reasons that deserve it’s own blog post. And this book delivers!
I wrapped up the Throne of Glass series (or what is out so far) by Stephanie J. Maas, so I’ll be moving on to her next series while I impatiently wait for the next in Aelin’s saga. Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I devoured the Lunar Chronicles. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I adored Shadow and Bone and it’s sequels. I can’t wait for this one. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansson. Oh, I love this series. I’m chomping at the bit for this one. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is in my library.
Re-Reading Harry Potter. Wandering Star and it’s sequel by Romina Russell. I loved Zodiac. And not just because I’m a Cancer (actually, I’m a Gemini-Cancer cusp). The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
I have to finish Scott Westerfield’s series, I’m on Pretties. Pharaoh by Karen Essex. I was enthralled by Kleopatra and her intelligent, well researched and beautifully written narrative.
Pretty much, I’ve set myself up with a bunch of series, which are my favorite.
I’m always, ALWAYS, up for suggestions. And perhaps consider addingTurned/Red to your own list? I’m shameless, I know.