Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ramblings of a Sick Mind (and LOLCats)

Quote: none, I am on Nyquil at the moment

Song playing: Map of the Problematique by Muse

So, fair warning for you guys today: I am sick with the flu. Fever, body aches, nausea, the whole nine yards. Had to call out of work today, because I am not allowed to be around the clients when I am sick for some reason. Plus the fever makes me really loopy. So if I go on tangents more than normal today and my spelling is even worse, I blame the fever. I will be blogging about How to Write a Novel tomorrow, because I am in no state to tell someone where the kitchen is.

Why am I not in bed, you may ask with concern in your voice and honeyed tea in your hands (thank you)?

Because I’d rather be blogging and writing. Because I can only lie around in bed for so long before I get bored, and I don’t feel like watching a movie, or popping in one of my seasons of Criminal Minds. Because I feel like I should be writing since I am not at work (those are pretty much the two activities I divide my time with…oh yeah, and wasting time on the Internet. And my fiancĂ©. Can’t forget about him). I’ll probably have to erase 90% of the stuff that I write today, but sometimes my over-heated brain produces something amazing when I am sick, so there’s always that hope. Not that I am advocating you all write while you’re sick. Stay in bed, and watch Criminal Minds. I am clearly insane.

I would like to know why when I get more sleep, I get huge bags under my eyes. I thought you got bags under your eyes from lack of sleep, not from sleeping in. Seriously, I have huge, puffy bags under my eyes. I could pack my entire room in them. Plus, I have an extremely fair complexion (I am 90% Irish, so I sunburn in ten minutes, no exaggeration. Sadly, the red head gene passed me over, I just got stuck with their skin tone and freckles.), so now I look like a zombie.

Anyway, in other news, Michael Emeritz revamped his blog, and it looks super cool, so you should go check it out. He has this bookshelf thingy there that I am insanely jealous of. He also wisely pointed out in regards to dialogue, it should be able to stand for itself. I intended to mention that, but of course, I forgot. So yes, good dialogue will stand without you having to use tags to tell us who said it.

I thought we could all do some sort of dialogue workshop, to help each other improve, but I am not exactly sure how to do that on a blog, so if anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears.

In other, other news, I had a shiny new idea yesterday while I was watching Hellboy II and pretending I wasn’t sick (I was just “taking it easy”). I would also like to know why when I already have too many projects going at once, I get really cool ideas, but when I am ACTIVELY looking for something to work on, it’s like tumbleweeds blowing around in my brain. Nothing catches my interest. I am in the middle of a serious edit, and developing another book, plus I have at least five other ideas nagging for attention, and my muse decides now is the time to drop a great idea into my lap. My muse is fickle, I guess. Or he likes playing head games with me.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Waaaah, Elizabeth, poor pitiful you with all of your ideas. Such a tragedy to befall you.” I know it’s a good thing to have ideas, but whenever I get a new idea I have to resist the urge to abandon what I am working on. We all know the best way to resist temptation is to give in to it. And I know by the time I do get to the idea, some of the new-idea luster will be gone.

So I am splitting the difference, and doing like I described in…one of my earlier posts, and developing the idea as much as I can before abandoning it to more concrete things. Basically, I try to get as much of what I find exciting about the idea on paper, and even think about the plot a little bit. This way, the idea is fleshed out enough that is has life, and more times than not, I will be minding my own business when two of the half formed ideas combine to make one new, SUPER idea.

One of the really exciting things about this idea is the characters.

Now, I write about all sorts of characters. I really do, not on purpose but it’s just what happens. I have characters of all ethic backgrounds, of different fantasy races, and professions. Some writers have a few personality types they like to write about, but mine seem to run the gamut. I have just as many embarrassingly shy characters as I do spunky and bossy characters. It’s just how I roll.

But these characters, specifically the guy, but the girl is too, are anti-heroes rather than heroes. This in and of itself isn’t new for me, I already have several anti-hero characters (actually the book I am developing at the moment has TWO), but this guy…he is just a few steps up from a straight villain. The idea of writing a character like that is frightening and fascinating, much like the character himself.

For those of you who don’t know what an anti-hero is, or you have a fuzzy idea but aren’t too clear, allow me to explain briefly.

Anti-heroes come in several different shades and flavors, but all of them differ from regular heroes in a few key fashions. The main difference is the level of morality. What a normal hero would consider morally objectionable, an anti-hero has no problem with. Superman is a hero, Batman (yay Batman!) is an anti-hero. Cyclops is a hero, Wolverine is an anti-hero. Anti-heroes do good things, but their motives are usually less pure than a regular hero. A hero might save the world because It’s the Right Thing to Do, an anti-hero will save the world because he doesn’t want to die, or because someone is paying him to, or because he’s trying to get back at the guy who wants the world to end. See the difference? Same results, just different reasons. And the anti-hero’s methods for saving the world will be less scrupulous than the hero’s.

Anti-heroes are much more flawed than a regular hero. A regular hero has a few flaws to show he is human, but is still undeniably a good, upstanding citizen. Depending on the specific type of anti-hero, the anti-hero might have just as many flaws as he does merits, or even more.

I find anti-heroes fascinating because they are gritty and realistic. Anti-heroes evoke a big range of emotion in the reader, whether it’s the “I can’t believe he just did that, what a jerk.” or “Wow, she is such a bad ass. I wish I was a bad ass.”

You have your anti-heroes who are gritty, your Han Solo type, who is essentially nice guy, but he enjoys breaking the rules just a little too much. You have your bad boys/girls (James Bond, Samantha Jones from Sex and the City), charming criminals (a la Ocean’s 11), and your dark heroes (Batman, Rambo, Ripley from the Alien movies, Prince Nuada from Hellboy II (although in this movie he serves as the antagonist, he really is a dark hero because of his motivations and backstory)). All of these characters have different shades of morality, going from generally decent people (Han Solo), to almost a villain themselves (Prince Nuada).

For my shiny new idea, my male main character is a dark hero seriously flirting with actual villainy.

The point of this ramble is to underline my point in my…earlier post about not pulling your punches (those pauses are me not remembering which post, and not having the energy to look it up).

See, the idea of writing a guy that is level of flawed makes me nervous. (or girl, I am not sexist, anti-heroes are both genders, this particular character just so happens to be a guy). I will admit it makes me squirm in my seat. I like to believe that people are overall Nice. But he isn’t nice, most of the time. He’s dark, and tortured, and does what has to be done, and gets his hands dirty with work that more traditional heroes can’t do because of their moral code. He and Batman would get along super well in the morality department.

I am already worrying about writing about a character like that. I worry I won’t have the skill to write him sympathicly (Is that even a word? Take that spell check!) enough. While I was thinking about his character, I kept having the urge to explain. You know that urge, the “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” “It’s okay that he’s rude to people, because he’s sad.” You want to explain away bad behavior, to justify it to yourself, so it won’t seem so bad. But that’s cheating, and we all know it. There might be an explanation for bad behavior, and he does have a brutally traumatic back story (*evil grin* I sure didn’t pull any punches there), but bad behavior is still bad behavior.

The other part of me is reveling in the idea of writing about people who kick ass and take names, and don’t apologizes for the lamp they just smashed. Characters this emotionally disturbed and complex are undeniably interesting to me, so I also feel pure joy at the idea of taking the gloves off, morality wise.

It’s going to be a challenge, to walk that fine line between good and evil, and I find myself frightened I will fail miserably, but it’s sure going to be fun to try.

I think some tricking of my subconscious is in order. Sometimes when an idea intimidates me, and I worry too much about it, I have to tell myself I am not really working on it. Like, right now I am working on developing a book called “A Dangerous Mind” while I am not editing. I am doing the prewriting stuff, the character development, research, and so on. I know I am working on this idea. But sometimes when you tinker with an idea in your spare time, you come up with some really great stuff, because you weren’t pressuring yourself. You didn’t feel the need to be awesome, or good, or funny, or talented, because you were just fooling around. And while you were fooling around with an idea, something great came from it.

Yes, I believe this is what I shall do. Just don’t tell my subconscious, or internal editor.

By the way, Jessica Page Morrell wrote an AMAZING book about anti heroes, villains, and matching the two up. It’s call Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches. Seriously, one of the best books I ever bought. She’s very thorough with the different shades of anti-heroes and villains. Even if you never plan to write an anti-hero, I would recommend getting this book just for her section on villains.

One method she mentioned for making flaws is to think about all the things that people do to annoy you, great and small. Does it bother you when people wear too much cologne? How about liars? She suggested exhausting this list, and from there, you have a great start for some good character flaws. So what about you guys? What thing do people do that get on your last nerve? Have you ever worked on a project that you worried you weren’t up to the challenge? What did you do to get over that fear? And where the heck is my Nyquil?

Okay, I think I have rambled enough. Time to go see if my alphabet soup will spell out a bestseller. Wait, I think I see a word…no, two…“y-o-u s-u-c-k”.

Drat. A magic eight ball my alpha bet soup is not.


  1. I happen to think that you are hilarious on Nyquil. Don't watch Criminal Minds. Stay at your computer and write. Even drugged up, you think better than the rest of us do normally. I like that anti-hero idea. I'm writing a story with a rogue hero who verges on being an anti... I like bad boys, I guess. Thanks for a great post, and I hope you get better.

  2. Hope you feel better soon. I hate the flu,haven't had it in 12 years, and hope not to get it again!

  3. Aww thanks guys.

    I am told by my family I am hilarious drugged up. I guess it's because my filter is gone. Who knows?

    Roxy: I am quiet enjoying the anti-hero myself. Nice to know other writers who enjoy them!