Sunday, December 25, 2011

How to build a character, part two.

In this little "how to" I plan on writing here, I will cover a couple of important aspects to making a good story great. In reference to character I think the most important are the hero, the heroine, the trickster and the bad guy. We start with

The hero!

The hero can be like Superman. Noble, good, kind, heroic and willing to do the right thing all the time. Or the hero can be like Wolverine. Troubled, harsh, sometimes unreasonable, and most of the time unorthodox (at best).
Of the two, I think Wolverine is a better developed character than Superman (and I mean no offense here, as I am a fan of the man of steel).
Yes, I know that there are many stories about Superman, complex and deep, but from my (somewhat narrow) point of view (having seen the movies, Smallville, and read a few comics), Wolverine is the kind of hero I would like to write about (that and Hugh Jackman is a big influence in my sometimes sordid imagination ;-)).

The noble, pure and good hero is not very credible these days. The hero is supposed to have a past, a past that is making it harder for him to endure the present, a past that almost stops him from doing the right thing...but what makes him the hero is that he in the end makes the heroic act in spite of his past. People can relate to the hero with a flaw. People can relate to the man struggling to make the right choice. We have a writer here in Norway, and he has perfected this kind of hero. His name is Jo Nesbø, and his hero is named Harry Hole. These books are translated into most languages, and I would urge you to get a copy, they are brilliant. The first in the series is called (in Norwegian) "Flaggermusmannen" which translates to Batman, but I suspect it has another title in English. Jo Nesbø is another of my favorites. He's always around when I'm at my family's summer house. He is also a master of suspense, and he is talking with none other than Scorsese about making his books into Hollywood productions...Well worth a look, eh?

Back to the hero! It's easy enough to make the hero into this God-like creature, and if you want to you can make him indestructible and a winner in all aspects of life. But where's the fun in that?
"Kill your darlings" someone said, and I think that demonstrates the essence of making a character credible. I mean, look at J. K. Rowling's epic, Harry Potter suffers from the age of one. A hero is such due to the choices he makes. It's much more impressive making the right choice when everything suggests you could, and probably should, make the bad choice.

I have made a few realizations over the years. It isn't always easy to torment your characters. I always want the best for the good guys and I want the bad guys to get what's coming to them. But to create a credible story with credible characters you have to give them a life resembling normality, with ups and downs, even when writing a fantasy. The plot can hold limits set only by your imagination, but to really get under people's skin as a writer you have to make the suffering, the joys, the love, the hate, the hunger, the emotional peaks, the emotional abyss, all this (and more) has to be presented realistically.

Your hero should be a compound person. He might be searching for himself, but he should be in touch with, or at least capable (after going through what ever he has to go through to find his true self) to get in touch with, the entire spectra of emotions. He also might make some serious mistakes on the way, and sometimes he might not end up with that happy ending after all. I'll cover genres as we get deeper into the material!

I am aware that I'm barely scratching the surface of writing techniques, and there are many things to say on this particular subject. I'll try to cover as much as I can during these entries. I also welcome any comments you might have, as I would also like to improve my writing :-)

To close this, I would like to add an important point: The most important thing is to write. Don't pay too much attention to these how-to-entries as they might stop you from writing with your heart. I usually write my stories (almost in a frenzy sometimes), beginning to finish, and only when I'm finished I start to look at the technicalities. So these are points you can check out after having written the story.
The best Christmas to you all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How to build a character

This entry is sort of my brother challenging me. And I am woman enough to accept. I will not, however, stop writing my entries on films, series, books I love, and Shakespeare, but I think I will add a small educational touch to my blog.
So, this will be my thoughts on how to build a literary character?

When writing a story it's sometimes hard to get to know your characters...You have an idea for a plot, you have many characters to support that plot, and then you start writing. I have written a few stories in my time, and I have made a few cardinal mistakes.
I wrote a story where one of the principal characters ended up one dimensional and almost parodic. The idea was great to begin with, but this particular story ended up being flat and uninteresting because of the undeveloped characters. But when I was made aware of this fact, it was very easy to fix.

The most important thing in writing any character is that you as the writer know who they are. This is a fact you don't need to spell out to the reader, but when you know your character this will shine through in your writing.

1. What is your character's name?
2. Where does your character come from?
3. Did your character have a happy childhood?
4. If not, what specific happened?
5. Is your character a lovable person?
6. Is your character intelligent?
7. If so, does your character have a speciality (if the answer is yes, then we are entering the world of research...)?
8. Is your character socially developed, or is your character a loner?
9. Obviously age is important, and experience or lack thereof.
10. Wealth or poverty?

These are ten quick points it is great for you to know, and I'm sure you can think of many more yourself. Like I said, it's not important to write every single detail about your character's life, but you really need to know. Make a list on every single principal character you plan on adding to your story, and when you know, the reader will somehow know...a kind of magic link between the reader and the writer occurs.

I'm not saying you can't start writing and figuring this out as you go, but as you have the idea and have started writing, give yourself the little effort it is to define your characters... I promise you that the story will write itself after this!

And when talking about the character's mission or purpose, I think we're closing in on the plot, which will be an entry on its own! Tune in for "Building a character part two, the hero"...coming to a blogspot near you very soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lord of the Rings, part one

Ok, I'm ready...
I have known for some time that I have to write an entry on Lord of the Rings, but I've felt a bit self conscious about the whole thing, because not only are they (in my mind) some of the greatest books in the entire history of literature, but there must be like a gillion people having both an opinion about them, or people that knows more than me out there. So this is me expressing my feelings about the literature, how I feel when reading the books or watching the films.

When I was a girl my parents introduced me to C.S. Lewis and his stories about the magical Kingdom of Narnia. I felt that Narnia was the only fantasy I would ever need, I truly felt this way for many years. I mean, I marveled in the Chronicles of Narnia, the BBC-series from back then, and I fell in love with the guy playing Peter, the guy playing Caspian (as an adult) and the guy playing Rilian (I can't remember their names at this point, but that's also not the point). This was one of my first notions that anything British was great.... I honestly felt that fantasy couldn't get any better.
"They were all of them deceived."

I have always known about The Lord of the Rings, held the book in my hands with a certain awe, and felt that this was something really special.
But like I said, I felt that Narnia would suffice. . And then when I heard about the project of Lord (because that's what he is in my mind) Peter Jackson, then I knew it was about time to read the novels. Because I think it is the proper order of things to read the books before watching the films. Thus you'll always have your own images if the film sucks...Whilst when the other way around you're forever stuck with lousy images in your mind...that is if you should happen not to like the film. I, however, loved, I mean really adored, big time, we're talking intense affection here, both the book and the films.
And, by the way, I have been a fan of Peter Jackson since before Lord of the Rings. I saw Braindead and Bad Taste back in high school, and I loved The Frighteners. I watch it every now and then. So to me Peter Jackson was not a strange new face...having seen someone drink an alien's vomit, you would remember him, eh?
 And hearing about him taking on a project of this magnitude was intriguing, at the very least. Meaning it was finally time for me to read the books.
And so, following Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin, I embarked on a journey towards Rivendell. Where to after that, I had no idea... I know I didn't quite trust Tom Bombadil, I still don't... But he turned out to be one of the good guys...right?

I was truly lost in the story, and for the first time in my life The Chronicles of Narnia was pushed down from the throne as the best fantasy ever (It's currently somewhere in the top ten, and that is mostly because of sentimental reasons, I don't think that it stood the test of time to be honest, and what's more they are almost humorless. This is a fact Roald Dahl pointed out in Matilda, yes the books are great, but almost without humor, and I can relate to that. What's more, they are full of that school moral, "don't close the door behind you when in a wardrobe, clean your sword etc, that's a bit lame, eh?).
Now with Lord of the Rings I had found my true match. It was, or so it felt, all about the story. And I agree with the writer, that it's too short. Later I would embark on Silmarillion,
 and find an even better match, but that's for another entry...for real! I have started writing it, but it's quite overwhelming still.
So, I was lost in the story about Middle Earth. And as a writer myself, I find it intriguing that a writer is able to put considerable meaning to every single word. And using something as ordinary as words conveying the biggest and most magical story ever written is even more marvelous. This is why J. R. R. Tolkien is one of my inspirations, one of my teachers... My Captain!

Having read the books (the book, or the books? "What say you?") I was really looking forward to "The Fellowship of the Ring." The film! I bought my ticket in advance, for the premiere of course, and was filled with an almost religious anticipation. I dressed up, not as an elf or anything, but I dressed up! Put my make-up on, and got lost in the visual master piece that is LOTR (as fans like to call them :-)). My father objected big time to Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, I have no idea what he would like Aragorn to be like, but in my world there couldn't be a better Aragorn than Viggo.
Sean Astin as Sam is also a strike of genius, he is a fantastic actor (just saw him as Twoflower in Terry Pratchett's Colour of magic, and he's completely adorable).
Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are ruling the screen as Pippin and Merry.
I love Sean Bean as Boromir (I feel Sean Bean has been treated badly over the years, I think he should be awarded a lead as the hero soon...he is and has been for a while hero material, but often ends up interpreting the scoundrels. He's cool as Boromir, though).
 I completely adore Ian McKellen as Gandalf,
not to forget Orlando Bloom as Legolas (I could spread him over a cracker).
Liv Tyler as Arwen Undomiel is also brilliant, although she has been subject to criticism on a couple occasions. I don't agree, as I think she is fabulous.
 But now I will present my most controversial statement so far as a blogger, and believe me, it is huge...
I really, truly and utterly... loved Elijah Wood as Frodo. I don't care what the rest of the world thinks, he was Frodo in those films, and he was a good Frodo. Yeah, he might be a tad young in comparison with my mind's picture from reading the books, but I think he's nailing it. And if you are one of those who only can detect one facial expression, well, you're simply not looking deep enough. There are depths to his acting that makes the Frodo interpretation completely breathtaking.

My father and I have an ongoing discussion on the quality of these films. He has obviously chosen not to like the films, claiming that Aragorn and Frodo are completely wrong, claiming that the creators of the film corrupted the story, and all in all being quite passionate about it. I am passionate about the contrary. I'm not saying that this isn't his right, because obviously it is. But I am telling him that he can be thankful he read the books first as his mental image of Aragorn, Frodo and the story as a whole is still intact (there isn't a soul in this world that can mess with the mental image, that's why I think reading the books before watching the film is pertinent.). And if it's such a bad interpretation then just leave it...Let the books be the books and the films be the films.
No one is forcing anyone to watch. In the end I suspect he enjoys to complain, a bit... I can actually see some of his points, and I'm not this pro-LOTR, going on a crusade to claim that Peter and his lot made no mistakes. But I am saying that Peter Jackson managed to create an epic interpretation of one of the greatest epic stories in the world... Now, the biggest epic story is without a shadow of a doubt Silmarillion. In the Silmarillion the war of the rings is mentioned in a couple of paragraphs, just to put it into context. But, The Lord of the Rings is an easier read than Silmarillion. I can't for the life of me understand how they could make a movie out of Silmarillion, but if someone were to do it, it would be Peter Jackson...

I haven't said so much about the books or the films, but no sweat, it's coming... Maybe for Christmas, because now that I've started, it turned out not quite so daunting as I feared...

Saturday, December 17, 2011


This is not an entry about the things many entertain, or dull, themselves with using a deck of cards. This is about loneliness. And now you might think, Oh no, not another dreary self pitying sorry and probably quite lazy loner moaning about it... And fear not, it won't be. This will be yet another list...A list of what to do when Prince Charming is out doing something very important before finding his Princess Charming (that would be me...) and our fairytale can begin...
To give you all a reminder, wrapped in comic words... This time of year none should be alone. If you know someone who are, pay them a visit or something. Costs little for you, and means the world for the one who is alone...what's more at this time of the year people don't want to be bothering their friends, knowing quite well that they have more than enough to do with their time, so loneliness becomes just that little bit worse...And it's one thing being alone because you choose to, or because you need a few hours peace and quiet, it is another thing being alone because you have no choice. To family and friends it can become a bit overwhelming dealing with a person trying to piece together the life after a shattered marriage. And having no experiences of the kind, it's probably hard to understand why one can't just get over it...and move on... But I promised an entry full of fun things, and I also know that this is not the time to lie... Hehe...
So here follows ten very creative things to do or make whilst solitaire... (see what I did there??? Neat, right?).

Cleaning the house... Yeah, dull start, I know, but doing this when alone is quite something as I can play the music as loud as I want, sing as loud as I want, and do as much silly dancing with the hoover as I want...feel like a superstar.

Baking. Christmas is the time for gingerbread and other cookies of various and decorated kinds, and also making candy. I have, this year, made caramel. Earlier when I made caramel it became incredibly sweet and a bit strong to the taste. This year, I didn't follow anyone else's way to do it, I made it from the top of my head, and I switched the white sugar with brown, and I went easy on the normal sugar syrup. I added a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup though, and the that made the big difference, plus vanilla sugar... And boy do I know how to make caramel...
My mother makes the best gingerbread in the world, and luckily she is a very generous mother... I shared my caramel with her, don't you worry...

Reading curriculum for next semester. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I currently take English at university level, and that this gives me great joy. So staying ahead of my game is not only a good idea, it is also quite enjoyable. At the moment I'm preparing to write my bachelor thesis, and I will be acquired to collect a substantial amount of literature.
I just bought a book by a French philosopher. His name was Lacan, and I am looking forward, with frightful delight, do dive into that...because as difficult as his thoughts might be, they are so fascinating that I'm at tears from the sheer vastness of them.

Pampering myself... I'm a sucker for scorching foot baths. And if combined with a nice film on the goggle box, then the night is sure to be a success. Any kind of pampering works here, like a nice facial mask, treatment for the hair (and I have quite a rug on top, looks like a horses mane, and is equally thick, so treatments are required to meet any kind of public...), and then top it off with a nice cup of tea... Oh yes, pampering I'm all for!

Cuddling my cat, a black beauty...the one who (like me) adores Shakespeare... Obviously the cat in this picture is not my cat, but as I found this picture I really laughed out loud, so it had to be included.
About my cat, I considered naming her Ophelia because she always slept on top of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. But I didn't for several reasons. Ophelia doesn't have the happiest of fates, so I figured maybe not! Further, our previous cat was named Sirius after Sirius Black in Harry Potter, so instead of a Shakespearean motif, we continued down that road. My cat is named Ginny (or the Norwegian translation of Ginny...). She is still a quite young cat, but she has great potential and some nights she just cuddles up in my lap, keeping it warm...and comforted.

Knitting. Yes, I knit! Sometimes I feel like I'm a thousand years old, sitting there with my feet soaked in water, treatment in my hair, giving myself a facial... and knitting, mostly scarfs, but I'm really not! A thousand years, I mean. I'm not really a talented knitter either, or what ever it is called, I just enjoy it. As I'm not talented, I usually end up doing it the easiest way...but that I've perfected...ish.

Painting. This painting is one of mine, by the way, think I should go for it?...hehe. Sometimes I get a notion to get out the oil colours and paint either the ocean or the universe, and I'm usually not mulling things over for very long. If I need to paint a picture, I do. Like with the knitting, I do it simply to entertain myself. I'm not particularly talented, but it is another form of escape from reality. I also like to combine this particular interest with music. Classical music or rock'n'roll, the great kind...

The weekends my son is with his father I have been known to go to the movies...alone... I know, how sad is that? But I really don't mind, because when I'm at the movies I'm usually so into the movie that it would have to be James McAvoy in the seat next to me to snap me out of it...or Russell Crowe. But I'm not that sad, pathetic lonely person who is always alone. I have a brilliant family and brilliant friends. My best friends are a journey away, but I have my people. And normally I have company when at the movies. What I'm saying is that going to the movies alone is something I'm comfortable doing. Especially if we're talking about a film I'm watching for the fifth time, when I've exhausted all of my friends and family on that particular film... Prince Charming would obviously understand and come with me :-) or he would be just as into the film as me and want to see it yet again...

Movies and Television series. I might have revealed that I'm into movies and series, and this is a brilliant way to feel less alone. I'm sometimes in the mood for real drama like Grey's Anatomy, sometimes it's Doctor Who, and sometimes (like these days) I'm into How I met your mother. Not that it would matter to my solitude, but I find it rather depressing that Neil Patrick Harris is gay...obviously not to the gay parts of the community, my my what a gain, but still. He's all kinds of yummy.
 As far as Television series go, I feel an increasing urge to revisit Heroes and Fringe (a point I'll get back to), but for now I need to entertain myself with the brilliant comedy of How I met your mother. And I really laugh out loud sometimes.

I write stories, and this is an activity I will continue doing for as long as I live, alone or surrounded by an entire orchestra... And believe me, next to hanging out with the people I love, writing stories gives me so much joy that it's almost strange. It truly got me through the hardest time of my life...and now I am a stronger person for it! The entire specter of my emotional highs and lows is a big part of my stories even though my stories aren't about me. My biggest dream is to be a part of that world for real. I know I will, one day, and maybe that's where I'll find my Prince? I don't know... But until then I'll write the dream man, and hope that some Christmas magic will give my dream a body, located by my door, looking for his Princess... Only in stories, eh? Well, I'm the storyteller.

Oh, and above any of these, in a separate category...
Listening to the wonderful music of Marillion.
"When the darkness takes you over, face down emptier than zero. Invisible you come to me, quietly. Stay beside me, whisper to I am. And the loneliness fades..."