Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Embrace your Inner Weird

Or ... when writing characters, be honest, even if it hurts.

Ok, we writers, like all creative people, are a bit weird, always watching, listening and trying to make sense of the world and why people do things.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone else is just pretending to be normal, so they can pass.

Think of the gardening shows, where presenters run their hands through mulch and wax lyrical about the joys of compost.

Think of all those clips on U-Tube of peoples' cats and dogs doing cute things. You realise those people are following their animals around with a digital camera just waiting for them to do something. That's weird.

Think of the dentist who loved Star Trek so much he built his dental surgery like the bridge of the USS Enterprise and made all his nurses wear the 1960s uniform.

Think of the collectors who search for things like match boxes, old dress patterns and radios. Some of them even build sheds, or add rooms to house their collections.

Think of the times you did things that embarrassed you and you put your foot in it. Think of the times you did the right thing by accident, more than by design. Think of the less than wonderful moments when you fought down a craven impuslse to cry, this is all too much. Then you got up and kept going because you had to.

Now look at your characters? Are they too 'straight'? Do they need more quirks, more failings, more doubts?

Who did you like Mickey Mouse or the irrascable, Donald Duck? In Australia we prefered Donald, he had faults. We could identify with him.

So, embrace your Inner Weird. There's a little bit of 'weird' in everyone.

Are there characters in books or films that stayed with you because they were flawed? Are you a Mickey Mouse or a Donald Duck person?


Anonymous said...

Bugs Bunny.

Give characters more quirks...now this sounds fun.

Examples? Umm, LMB again. Miles Vorkosigan. How does she take a hyperactive manic-depressive control freak and make him the pro-tagonist? By tradition he should be the Evil Emperor wannabe.

PTerry. Solid quirks.

C Kelsey said...

I'm definitely a Donald Duck person. Donald has feelings. He gets sad, he gets angry. When he's happy there's something to actually be happy about.

As for characters... I'm pretty sure that I've never written a "normal" character. They *have* to be a little quirky. Who wants to deal with a main character who is as polished as a politician on the campaign trail all the time?

WangZheng259 said...

Pat Buckman. He wasn't the major villain, and the writer, the narrator, and maybe the main character agree that he was an evil, destructive madman, but most of Buckman's flaws just said 'ordinary everyman' to me. Except for the part about destroying the constitution, which was unforgivable.

Anonymous said...

Two characters:

Wile E. Coyote -- you knew the latest ACME product was going to blow up in his face and he'd fall into some canyon somewhere, but he NEVER GAVE UP! Ever. The Terminator was a piker in comparison.

Marvin the Martian -- "I'm going to blow up the Earth; it obstructs my view of Venus." Now that's a mission statement I can get behind :-D

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Yes, Matapam. I was a Bugs Bunny girl, too.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

WangZheng259, where did Buckman appear? which series/book? He sounds interesting.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

RJ, Wylie Coyote! I'd forgotten him and Marvin the Martian.

What about Pepi Le Pew????

Anonymous said...

Of course! You gotta admire someone who's bound and determined to be a "player" despite his crippling body odor affliction ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ah! How could I forget Pepe! I must, I must write a Pepe LePew Character!

Kate said...

Keep me away from the Rodent. We hatez the Rodent we doez.

(Sorry. The owners of a certain Rodent are customers and... let's just say there's a bit of tension there.)

I like the quirky ones. In a weird kind of way, they're more normal.

C Kelsey said...

I just watched another Poirot movie. Quirky doesn't even begin to describe him... ;)

Chris McMahon said...

I always wanted Wiley Coyote to catch the Roadrunner - the whole thing seemed so unfair on the poor old coyote, who after all was an innovator (and kept ACME in business).

Speaking of quirky characters, I quite enjoy Monk - the TV series with the OCD detective.

In the Knights of Dark Renown (Gemmell), the central character was a failed knight who had a magical helm that he could not remove. It was slowly choking him with his own beard (the armourer of the order was the only one who could release it). Thought that was a nice idea.

WangZheng259 said...

Pat Buckman is a historical (Or future, for the historical narative interludes) figure in Tom Kratman's Caliphate. Part of his appeal may be that little information is provided about him, allowing the reader to pour themselves into his place. I read the story in snippets on Baen's Bar, as well as in the eARC edition. I do not know how much of the Buckman interludes made it into the final story. I also think I should include some content and tone warnings.

I think I remember reading a Poirot short story somewhere, so I might've read some Christie afterall. I must get back to the public library one of these days, and start working on some of my lists.

'Wang Zheng'
Friends of Pat Buckman for President 2016

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, I always like Elric, because he was a cripple without his sword. Or have I got that wrong? It must be 30 years since I read it.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kate, if you admire quirky, then there is a really bent character in Joe Abercrombie's trilogy.

Glokta was a war hero, was captured and tortured for two years, He survived and comes home. Now no one can bear to look at him. He becomes a torturer. Yet ... you end up liking him despite the things he does.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I liked Donald much better. Heck, I liked Goofy better than Mickey.

And characters -- yeah, it's the quirks. You know how much I love Heinlein and Pratchett, but what made Heinlein's characters capture my heart was the "quirks" not the superman stuff necessarily. Like... their love of cats. And Pratchett.. well, my crush on the Patrician wouldn't be nearly as bad, but for Night Watch and seeing him as a young psy... I mean Patrician, like the whole thing with the tiger.

I only discovered I could do this a couple of books ago. Like, you know, Tom with his leather boots and jacket, in DST, which cause him to run around... well... in just that, because he HAS to save them. Of course, in French Polished murder I might have gone over the top ;)