Characters: Likeability Verses Interest

I have no doubt that this is just a personal preference. In fact, this is going to be a pretty one-sided argument.

Fair? Don’t know the meaning of the word.

So, whenever I see someone ask on forums whether their characters are likeable or not, I always respond by saying they should worry less about making their characters likeable, and more about making them interesting. I know this is a personal preference because in books where interesting characters do some pretty morally questionable things, I’ve seen this reflected in some people’s reviews, essentially ruining the whole book for those particular readers. One of my favourite books . . . Actually, almost every one of my favourite books have morally questionable, or just downright morally defunct characters. Let’s not look into what that says about me, and instead look at how this would have without a doubt turned some people off. Nevertheless, I still think trying to alter a character to make them likeable, just for the sake of not offending anyone, would only end up harming the book more.

At this point, I think you all know what side I’m advocating for. I’ve read books where characters were clearly written to be likeable, even in situations where it would have made more sense to strip away some of those morals and have them make decisions that wouldn’t make them out to be saints. I’ve read books with characters who were the epitome of moral behaviour, and while that would theoretically make that character likeable, not only does it make them uninteresting, but it also makes them unbelievably annoying. The most unbelievably, annoying and boring characters I have ever read.

If a character needs to lie, or steal, or even go so far as to kill, in order to progress, and it’s within character for them to do so, then let them. Rather than finding some contrived way to keep a character pure and innocent, find ways to keep them interesting and engaging. I won’t deny the importance of likeability, but I feel as if writing in order to make them likeable isn’t the way to achieve that. You wouldn’t write a book with the sole intention of making it marketable, so don’t write your characters that way, either.

Look at characters like Loki from the Thor movies. What is there to like about him? Spoiler alert: He’s betrayed his brother numerous times, tried to kill his father, if I remember correctly. If I don’t remember correctly, well, he’s still been one hell of a problem child. He tried to take over the world with an alien army, and wherever he goes, mayhem generally follows. Sounds like a complete bastard, right? And yet, for some inexplicable reason, he’s insanely popular among the Marvel fandom . . . Mostly women . . . A lot of whom have crushes on him . . . It’d probably help to make your character attractive. In all seriousness, though, he’s probably even more popular than the actual heroes of the movies. It may be the case that he was written to be a lovable jerk, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

In any case, you see my point. The best characters aren’t written to be likeable. Their likeability should be something that comes naturally as a result of all their personality traits and actions coming together. If your character is the most interesting character to have ever been written, but due to some of their less favourable traits some readers still don’t like them, then that’s a shame, but don’t alter them based on them not being likeable to a few readers. To paraphrase one of my very first blog posts, screw what other people think and just write what you want . . . although if everyone ends up hating your character, then yeah . . . I give you permission to ignore all of this.

Anyway, just let the characters speak for themselves and there will be people who enjoy them for who they are. They may be absolutely loathsome as people, but the beauty about fiction is that you can love arseholes like Loki because they’re fictional.

You can’t please everybody, especially when it comes to any sort of creative art, like writing, so don’t try.

Until the next one, everyone.

Laurence out.

Pitching Tents And Killing Trees

NaNoWriMo. Every year, during the cold month of November, writers from far and wide lock themselves in their homes and shut themselves off from the outside world, as they become lost in their own worlds, marking the start of their thirty-day struggle to reach 50000 words by the end of the month. Some may be driven to insanity, and become lost to their loved ones, and some may harbour this madness and use it as fuel for their novel. Some may burn through keyboards with their speedy typing, and some may take the challenge as a marathon, and keep to a steady pace.

But what if the challenge may be too much for some people, or what if some people need more than a month of madness to satisfy them? Is 50,000 words too much of a hassle, or could you write that much in your sleep? Well, during the months of April and July you’ll get the chance to sate your creative appetite, and tackle your own goals, finally conquering that unforgiving entity that is your novel. What is this foolish, masochistic nonsense that I’m promoting, I hear you cry?

Camp NaNoWriMo!

*Cue trumpets and horns and marching bands swarming the streets*

What do you say we stop with that now, huh? I kind of let that get away from me.

Anyway, yes. Tomorrow marks the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, where writers can set their own word count goals for the month. If you plan on participating, then it would do you good to set yourself a realistic goal. In my last attempt at Camp NaNo, I set myself a goal of 75,000 words, even though I didn’t really have any intention of writing 2500 words a day. When it comes to Camp NaNo, I don’t have that great of a track record. I should also mention that I have no intention of participating this year, since I don’t want to end up relying on writing events to write my novel. I only just started writing frequently . . . somewhat frequently again, and I don’t want to mess with my pace so much.

But, if you’re participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, then good luck, happy writing, and keep a tight hold of your sanity.

Better have all your caffeine ready.

Laurence out.

My Challenges With Creating Child Characters

Oh, that pro alliteration. My skill is unparalleled.

Alright, so I’m pleased to say that I am, indeed, writing again. I’m back in my natural habitat shunning outlines and writing whatever so happens to enter my head. I don’t know if I would say that it’s easier. I definitely find it more fun, especially considering I don’t have to spend months just to plan the damn thing; and I’m glad I don’t have to go through all the characters and write out the personalities of each of them, since I’m more than fine storing that stuff in my head.

But, I do have one big problem . . . well, six little problems that I think even an excessive plan wouldn’t have been able to fix, and they go by the names of Kathy, Lili, Obi, Alex, Melissa and Kevin.

Now . . . I’m not a parent, and certainly not one of five-year-olds. I don’t have any younger siblings, and whenever I’m out in public I usually have headphones blasting music into my ears, so even if there are little kids around I can’t even hear them. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to go to a park with a notebook and a pen, and proceed to watch the children, therefore, the only real experience I have with how children behave is my own. And with my twenty-one-year-old mind, it’s hard to look back on my memories of that age with the mind of a child.

So, when it comes to writing child characters, most of whom are wildly different from one another, I don’t have a lot to reference. I mean, there was one book I had to read for A-level English Literature that I could reference . . . if I wanted to end up wanting to murder each and every child in my book . . . Look. I seriously hated Room, by Emma Donoghue. I don’t even feel bad for wanting the kid dead. And who knows? Maybe he does die. I’m not going to pretend I was able to endure that book to the end. I applaud Donoghue for trying, for being ambitious, but in my opinion, Room is a perfect example of a little child being written awfully . . . I’m sure I was making a point before I got lost in remembering just how much I hated that book.

Ah, yes! My point is I don’t have anything to help me write child characters well. In my previous attempts at getting anything to do with this series finished, the characters were in their late teens, and while I can take a few character traits from that, it would be weird for a little child to behave like a young adult. Also in a previous attempt I had a prologue with three of those characters as children, so I could use that as a basic template. After all, they do grow up to become those people.

The thing is, some children tend to be both innocent little angels, as well as malicious little demons, and in a story that has them as consistent . . . no . . . very important secondary characters, writing them as well-behaved pretty much all the time, though convenient, wouldn’t be realistic. Perhaps I could get away with a couple of the more timid and reserved children not being annoying, but not all of them. The reason this is such a problem is because my main character is a single mother of four of these children. Quadruplets, yes. She certainly has quite a bit of help raising them, but still, they’ll be consistent characters throughout the story, and children or not, they’ll still have to be good, well-rounded and developed characters.

Oh, and Melissa . . . Jesus. How do you write an excessively educated five-year-old who sometimes even corrects adults, and her grandfather, at that?

Well, I’ve been going on instinct, and what looks right thus far, and it doesn’t seem so bad. Certainly not as bad as that spawn of Satan from Room.

Okay, okay. I’ll stop ragging on it.

I’d like to think that written in moderation (or as moderately as one could write the kids of the main characters) I can write them reasonably well.

Kids. Even when they only exist in words they can be annoying . . . even if they’re my characters and I’m far too attached to them.

At least I’ll make sure I don’t write them to the same standards of Room . . . Alright. That was the last one.

Till next time.

Laurence out.

Blogging, Writing And So Forth . . .

Super interesting title. I know.

I feel like even acknowledging my breaks from this blog, that span months, is becoming stale, so if in the future I stop blogging for about half a year, I’ll just come back and pretend as if I’ve been here the whole time. Deal?


Anyway, this really isn’t going to be an interesting post. So, remember how I sometimes actually post things of reasonable worth on this blog? Yeah. Me neither. But sometimes I post things that aren’t total crap, and can even amazingly be passed off as advice. Why anyone would come to this blog for writing advice is beyond me, considering how drastically unproductive I am, but there we go. But on the subject of that, considering that I haven’t written a thing since November, I think I’m going to hold off on the actual informative posts for a while. At least until I get into the swing of things, again. It just doesn’t make sense to me to give advice on writing when I’ve barely even been writing recently.

So, be prepared for less “quality” and more garbage in the form of my updates . . . Is that going a little far on the self-deprecation? I don’t think it is.

The funny thing is, I consistently write updates on what’s going on with my characters on a certain thread on the NaNoWriMo forums, and sometimes I think that my lengthy comments would be far better suited for a blog post. Then I think better, and that I haven’t established my characters here, so just coming and saying, “Oh, hey! By the way I’ve decided to change Taylor’s name to Kathy, for reasons, even though I stuck with Taylor since I started writing the very first version of this story. I’ve decided to start the series with her mother, Erin, as the main character instead, and make Kathy and co. even younger kids. I’ve decided that in order for things to actually make sense my characters actually need jobs, other than being villains, so I’ve turned Night Horizon headquarters into a hotel. I don’t know whether I want Erin and Khloe to be married, since it’d create far too weird a dynamic for Kathy and Melissa. I’ve just realised . . .” You get the point, though. Many of those points were expanded far more, and were more rambled, but who would honestly be interested in hearing about how characters they know nothing about are coming along?

But updates. Let’s talk progress, and how I have no concept of the word. I don’t know why I’m going to, since it’s the same old story every time, but let’s do it anyway. In my last post I said that my writing can’t be held back by an outline, and that I’m an improviser at heart. Well, considering how the last month of my writing escapades have just been me getting an idea of the plot, writing an excessive plan for the setting, and spending a quite literally insane amount of time on just one character sheet, I’m not sure how accurate that was.

What stopped me was the realisation that if I was going to finish that plan, I was going to have to write that unnecessarily detailed character sheet out for every single one of my characters, and with a cast of far too many characters (I don’t think I’ve reached a hundred, but I wouldn’t be surprised), that I seriously need to cut down, I would never have finished.

Now I’m seriously done with plans, other than what I believe to be the minimum. Standard, basic character sheets and the setting. There. Done.

I expect I’ll start writing again, soon, once I’ve finished procrastinating on other work I should be doing, but even though I’m positive I can write in the same style I always have, I can’t shake the feeling that I may have forgotten, what with three or four months of nothing. I’m probably being incredibly ridiculous, and it’s probably just like riding a bike.

Because the last time I said this, it was a big lie, let’s say it again. I’m off to improvise the hell out of this novel.

Until next time, guys.

Laurence out.

Plotting, Improvising And Writing That Pesky Novel

Certain . . . “happenings” have prompted me to talk about plotting verses improvising. That “happening” being me completely disregarding the outline I rushed to “complete” during the days before November. Here’s something I just found out about myself (although, in hindsight, I should have seen this coming), I’m an improviser at heart. I love just winging it, even if I know that an outline will make it much more likely that I won’t end up somewhere I don’t want to be. Because here’s the thing, not even five hundred words into my NaNoWriMo novel I was already deviating from my outline and planning out in my head where I wanted things to go, that only very vaguely matched that of my outline.

I could say I basically just wasted my time even bothering to write an outline, but if I hadn’t tried to follow one, I wouldn’t have found out that mine is the last mind that will be restrained by a rigid, structured outline. You’re unlikely to find your ideal writing process on your first try. Although, to be fair, I was an improviser to begin with . . . and to be fair, that hasn’t gotten me very far.

So . . . Plotting and improvising. Let’s get into my ramblings about it.

I was originally going to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each, but then I realised that I can make this much more concise . . . and make less work for myself.

I don’t think it’s such a black and white topic that can be answered with one always being better than the other. Every writer is different, in many respects. What may work for one person may not work for another, and like I said, you’re unlikely to find your ideal way of writing on your first try. Sure, plotting and improvising have their advantages and disadvantages, but I suppose when choosing which way to go, it depends more on what kind of writer you are.

If you like knowing what you’re going to write, if you like structuring your novel, if you like creating elaborate diagrams of the relationships between the characters and other things of the like, then of course plotting will be right up your street. If you like only having a vague idea of where your novel is going and making the rest up as you go along, if you find knowing exactly what’s going to happen boring, if you like being able to write things as they come to you, not being restrained by an outline, then of course improvising is for you.

Some will say plotting takes the fun out of writing, and the plots are rigid and easily predictable, while others will say improvising is likely to produce a sub-par novel, ridden with plot holes, inconsistencies and underdeveloped subplots. That’s all probably true, but then again, first drafts are always going to be a pile of . . . First drafts aren’t exactly winning any literary awards, regardless of how they are written.

Me? I’m not exactly a plotter, but I always have an idea of how my stories start, some of the random crap that goes on in the middle, and how they end. Even if it’s not written down, that’s always the first thing I do . . . Only, it would be, if the first thing wasn’t getting down the main characters. I need to get the setting down, too . . . And random, needless information about the characters that will probably never make it into the novel is a must . . . All that, I do, but an outline, I do not! I’m a born improviser . . . when it comes to the plot.

As we’ve found out, even if I write an outline, it’s not as if I’ll stick to it, but whatever method works for you, go for it.

Well, I’m off to improvise the hell out of this novel.

Happy writing!

Laurence out.

Professional Procrastination (And National Noveling in November)

Oh, how I would love this to be a post on how not to procrastinate. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a post about my inability to get things done. So, I hope you’re all prepared, because it’s time for another of my gripping and thrilling updates on my non-existent writing endeavours.

That tagline up there is getting more and more accurate as time goes on. Being unproductive is basically a defining feature of me now. But, as it will be far too easy to be self-deprecating for the rest of this post, let’s try not do that.

First up: My writing.

I’m actually laughing to myself right now. The main reason I’ve had almost my longest break from this blog is because there was virtually nothing to update you guys on. Unless you all wanted to read weekly posts of me saying “I’ve got nothing.” “Still got nothing.” “Another week of nothing.” “Guess what, guys! Yeah! I’ve got nothing!” then there was really no reason to post. I mean, I could have put effort into something. Maybe write an actual informative post. Give a little advice here. Do a little rant there. But if I wasn’t even making much progress in writing my novel, what chance would I have had updating my blog? So, reason two for my absence. My monstrous lack of effort.

Well, that paragraph turned out to be more about my lack of writing, so let’s make this one about where I’m at now. At the time of my last post, I had an extensive plan for my . . . characters. Let’s not call it something it wasn’t. I had almost no outline for my plot other than what was in my head. Now . . . well, not much has changed, other than the fact that I’ve gone back on myself, once again, to a previous version of the story that I once discarded, but now think I should actually go with, making a lot of that plan much less useful. But here’s the thing, what I’m working on now has a far more detailed, existing outline of events throughout the series, that if I end up not writing a thing I can’t blame it on a lack of an outline. All I need to do now, which, bizarrely enough, I’m actually doing, is fill in the blank spots in that outline.

With going back to a previous version I did have some issues . . . the biggest of which being I had new characters I didn’t essentially want to erase off the face of the planet, and so now I have thirty plus characters to make multidimensional in the space of . . . Well, let’s first focus on writing this book, before I think about how many of books in the series I’ll write. I know I have “too many” characters, and truth be told, I’m probably overestimating my abilities to make it work, but what’s life without a little challenge? As if writing wasn’t hard enough . . .

There’s not much else I can think to say about my writing. I mean, I only ever write when I’m supposed to be busy doing other things, which made the whole of the summer my worst enemy. Now, with important work I should be doing, that makes this the perfect time to work on the outline (which I promise I won’t just get lost in and never end up writing the actual story) and then actually start writing it in November . . .

Which brings me onto my next topic.

It shouldn’t take a writing event for me to actually get writing, and that may very well be a valid argument for many of those against writing events. I, for one, am not against writing events, but I don’t want to rely on them.

What, I hear you all eagerly asking, am I talking about?

It is, of course, National Novel Writing Month. Fourteen more days to go until the month that computer keyboards all across the world are dreading. Fifty-thousand words. Thirty days. Yes, I am going to participate, and yes, it probably goes without saying that I’ll be writing the damn novel that has been the bane of my life for the past few years. I know that even some big name, best selling authors having taken so many years to write books, but that doesn’t make it any easier to say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been working on the same book for the past three years. Um . . . Haven’t even got my first draft yet.” Although, without NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t have even written that first (disturbingly bad) story that has been morphed so drastically now, to get me to what I’m writing now.

You would think that since I frequent the NaNoWriMo forums all year round I would have writing on the mind and get things done.

Well, that’s a procrastinator for you.

I’m not going to say see you soon, because I may be unproductive, but I’m not a liar.

Till next time.

Laurence out.


…of sorts.

To be fair, I am making progress with my little ol’ story. I may have only just started chapter two, but that’s not due to a lack of material to work with. I know what I’m writing, so there are no worries of me tearing out the pages of my notebook one by one and burning them because of hitting a hard brick wall. I just have priorities… Had priorities. With my exams dead and behind me I don’t have to deal with that BS anymore. Well, at least slow progress was progress nonetheless.

Now that I really have no excuse not to write, I’m hoping the tiny diligent part of my brain will kick some sense into the much larger slacking off part, and we’ll get some writing done. Since I’m using a notebook and pen this time around it’d be much more difficult for me to try and edit as I go along. I find being old fashioned with a pen and paper far more productive, probably because I don’t have to deal with the unreliable scrap that is my laptop. That said, editing is going to be a bitch, rewriting is going to be a bitch, and I imagine I’m going to be spending far more than I’d like on ink. But other than productivity,  I just find it so much more satisfying actually physically writing.

Assuming all my time in the next few months stays free, draft one of book one is without a doubt going to be finished. That really shouldn’t be that much of an accomplishment, but considering my productivity as of late I’ll take it.

Until I finally accomplish that… Although, considering that will probably be a couple of months…

Laurence out.