Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mary Sue Pt 3: Skyline and District 9

Point Two on the Mary Sue list is as follows: 2. She is a character so poorly constructed that her inadvertent negative character traits overshadow her intentional positive ones.  Her intentional negative traits, which in a good character would balance out the intentional positives are not credible and thus do not register with the reader.

This is where things stop being easy, and also, IMHO, stop being something I can back up with my own actions, as I am unpublished and thus cannot prove that I know what I’m doing. However, I firmly believe what I am about to explain is true. This is another of CW’s Magical Writing Theories (Consume with Grain of Salt), so get comfy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Character building: Mary Sue pt 2. Also, Honor Harrington and Bella Swan

The problem with Mary Sue is if you read or watch TV for any period of time, you start meeting versions of her that you like. People who are brilliant, beautiful, always successful and always beloved, who more often than not have that magical pet cat or dog or (insert animal here). And you begin to wonder why this character works, when your own dear Sue collapsed under her own weight.

For myself, there are three characters that I absolutely love, that technically are "Sues": Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who and Honor Harrington (grumblegrumblenextbookinfreakingJulygrumble) All three are badly overpowered in their chosen expertiese, all three have no true equal, and all three are highly idealized. Honor, in addition to being the BEST ADMIRAL EVAR!!one1! has a list of titles longer than most libraries, and Nimitz, her telepathic/empathic treecat that also gifts her with psychic powers in a universe where humans are not psychic (and that kind of universe-breaking is a big hallmark of Sueism) And then there is the Doctor. Ignoring the Tardis, ignoring the large stable of women desperate to play tonsel hockey with him, even ignoring the fact that he is effectively immortal, he carries a deus ex machina around in his pocket. Sonic Screwdriver, anyone?

And yet...they work. And they are hugely loved by the people who read them. People almost rioted when Sherlock died. I only found out that Honor was to die after Weber decided not to kill her (and I will never trust him again. Because you do that once, you can do that again, and it was bad enough loosing LaFollet last book. *sniff*) and the Doctor has survived longer than most socialist governments. What the hell?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Character building ... stuff: Mary Sue

What is a Mary Sue?

I answered this question for the nine-millionth time the other day, and I realized two things simultaneously: One, it's a really hard thing to pin down, and two, I really need to just post this to the blog already and move on with my life, because copy-pasta would really save time and energy.

So without further ado: Mary Sue.

I met her for the first time with my very first novel. Which was never finished. I had an idea for a story about a girl who turns into a dragon. Which was actually a pretty good idea, and in a couple more years I may revisit that story. The descent into Mary Sue territory began with the name. I searched baby name sites anxiously, seeking that perfect name that would fit the character and perfectly express everything I needed to know about the character (because at this point, I didn't know bupkiss about writing for an audience). I settled on D'Lorah. And a good time was had by all.

Then I read the Malloren series by David Eddings, and suddenly my dragon princess was a foundling of another set of princesses. D'Lorah was her real name (BTW it was just "harold" spelled backwards. My female MC had a boy's name, spelled backwards) but her foundling name was "Gracelyn" because she was so graceful, (and psudo-welsh) And she was an elf. And then she was a shape-shifting elf. And the elves became golden beings of light who fought the evil queen of darkness from their magical never-to-be-invaded island kingdom of Riva Iswyn (or something like that.) And she went to war with the evil queen of darkness and recruited the evil queen's faceless minions as her own, and yeah, it was a pretty horrible story. But what I remember most clearly is the progression from "dragon princess" to "conglomerate elvish WTF" (and none of the main cast was proof against this. Talk to her love interest for a few days worth of traumatic nightmares). I would come across something I thought was cool, think "gee, I wish my character was like that", then think "Well, why don't I make her like that?", and then a good time was had by ... me.

However, I had this nagging voice go off in the back of my head: "Hey, this might not be a good idea. Hey, I don't think this is working out. Hey, I don't think you ought to do that, I don't think war works like that, hey, listen, hey, CW, HEY STUPID! WRITING DOES NOT WORK THIS WAY!" Unfortunately my reaction was to pile more cool shit into the story, and not to worry about realism or characterization or anything else that might salvage what was originally a pretty cool idea. Eventually it collapsed under its own weight with just that little idea seed sticking out.

I tried my hand at sci-fi writing, and again, had a pretty good seed idea. That I proceeded to ruin through a combo of conglomerate SF WTF and incest!rape (I was also thirteen). And again, I remember that same progression from "space captain fights monster on space station with a twist" to "what the hell did I just eat read?" (Reading Stephen R. Donaldson's "Gap" series at thirteen DID NOT HELP AT ALL. DAMN, the man has issues with women) Any and all cool ideas that I thought might work got slamned into the book everywhere I thought they might fit until the whole story collapsed under the weight of its (horrible) cast.

And then I encountered the words "Mary Sue" for the first time, and the symptom (because it's a symptom, not the disease itself) got a name. I learned what this symptom looked like (cool royal bloodline, awesome friends, great boyfriend, eventually gets preggers, rainbow hair, mood-ring eyes) and learned to avoid these things in my own writing. And in avoiding them, I learned why these were bad. "Because I think its cool" is not a good enough reason to include it in the story.

However, I hit another problem with Ms. Sue when I started trying to explain why the Sue family is bad. Because the Sue definition is pretty vague, and while we know that something is bad, we're not 100% sure why it is bad. So now, without further ado, we give you yet another of CW's Spectacular Writing Theories (Consume with Grain of Salt):

1.A Mary Sue is an extraordinary character without an extraordinary plot to match.

2. She is a character so poorly constructed that her inadvertent negative character traits overshadow her intentional positive ones.  Her intentional negative traits, which in a good character would balance out the intentional positives are not credible and thus do not register with the reader.

3. She rarely encounters credible danger, or if she does, she will be kidnapped, bound, gagged, raped, physically abused to the point of death, and then rescued by another (*coughmalecough*) member of the cast. At no point will she defeat the credible danger herself.

4. When asked to describe Mary, her author will respond with a list of character traits and attributes so far removed from the reader's perception of Mary, the readers will stare in disbelief. They will either laugh, cry, or start posting slightly vindictive, yet wholly justified reviews of Mary and her story on the internet.

5. Mary will not be the biggest problem in the story. She will, however ,be the most obvious.

I'm going to do a more in-depth post on each of the five points over the next several days, so ... yeah, get comfy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Movie Bitch: Black Swan

So my brother and father sat down one evening to watch The Big Lebowski (or however you spell it). I have never seen it. I want to. I just, you know, never found the time. Anyway, at one point my brother turned to my Dad and said "Holy shit. This is the inside of your head."

Black Swan is the inside of mine.

Seriously. It's as if someone sat down, made a list of all the things I wanted, dreamed about and was afraid of and put them into a movie. A beautifully scored, wonderfully costumed, well acted, holy shit did that just happen kind of movie. Everything that has ever been important to me, with the notable exception of religion, appears in it. I was in tears when it ended. I'm not entirely sure why. Probably because it opened a couple of very old wounds along the way.

I also am very glad that when my Dad and I were planning on seeing it, we dodged into Tron: Legacy instead. I love it, but I do not think I could have watched it with my father.

First off, the film is marketed as a dance story, which it is, and as a fatal-attraction, Single White Female sort of story, which it is not. I expected to see Nina and Lily have a catfight halfway through the movie over who got the lead role, lots of backbiting and name caling, mean pranks and some dangerous, deadly finale during the opening night preformance. Which I got. Sort of. In reality, Black Swan is the story of someone haunted by themselves. It's also a story about Self Injury. Consider this your official trigger warning. Which, BTW, they ought to put on the DVD cover.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

State of the CW

So I have moved. Pictures of new house shall soon be forthcoming.

Also started new job: waitressing. In community with large number of obscenely rich people. At a resturant that prides itself for its beer and wine selection. I never thought I would be grateful to alcohol before. :D

I like the new place and new job, if only because it lets me SLEEP. AT. NIGHT. and the new place is easier to keep clean. The only issue I have is that it is not within walking distance of anything. I shall have to aquire a bike. Possibly a car, but this is not desirable because cars come with USDA Approved Grade-A Pain-in-the-Ass, and I really don't want to do that right now.

Also I have a new toy. My birthday Charkha came in (thank you Dad. Thank you thank you thank you Dad) and I will have to show pictures. It is a testy little thing, but it and I are beginning to understand each other. I will, however, have to invest in a large amount of string, at least until I understand how to tie decent, non-fraying and above all SMALL knots. The drive cord is an iffy process.

Best of all? I am within walking distance of my mother (and certain other relatives who won't be named, speaking of A-grade pain in the ass) and her camera. Which means that she and I shall probably do a spinning demo together, and I can post pictures of how to do it, at least when you first start out. A movie camera would be better than a still camera, but I'm not going to look a gift SLR in the lens.

So expect many pictures and other things to be forthcoming, now that I am safe and moved and settled.

Second best in the move? I am not in my shitty apartment complex anymore. No more scalding hot water, no more people getting ROBBED IN THE PARKING LOT, no more gunshots at 2am. Admittedly that only happened once, but once is ENOUGH thank you. I feel very strongly for people who have to live in an inexpensive apartment complex, given that one of them was me, but I also feel very strongly about robbery and random gunshots. You don't get a choice about poverty, but you do get a choice about criminal behavior and if you want me to make the right decision re: you, do me the same favor, mmkay?

Also-also, I find it worth mentioning that rich people in Texas are generous tippers. Really. Generous. Tippers. And because waiters in the states get paid 2.13 an hr, this is a REALLY good thing. So, yeah. Come to Texas, tip the waitstaff. We like it. A lot.