Friday, July 27, 2007

Wasted Week

This week has been pretty much a wash as far as work is concerned, and I was feeling kind of guilty until I realized that the past two weeks were very intense with conferences and conventions and travel, not to mention some very important reading, so it makes sense that I might be struggling a wee bit to get my head back in the game. Today, though, I think I'll work. Really.

Not that it's been a wasted week. I spoke to a writing group on Monday night and I think my Harry Potter chatter hasn't been entirely wasted as I got a shout-out in the newspaper chat session from the writer who interviewed me (in the context of what to read next) and I think my obsessive discussion in related communities has drawn at least a few people to my blog and maybe that will get them interested in my books (the great thing about what I do is that most of my usual time-wasting activities can be classified as "marketing" and therefore count as work -- I'm not goofing off when I'm posting to message boards. I'm doing stealth marketing). I'm doing an online Q&A session this weekend and I finally set myself up at Amazon to have all my books -- including the anthologies -- put on my profile and posted a little blog post there. For those of you nagging me to do an article on the archetypes topic, The Writer magazine has just invited me to contribute it. Not bad for a week's work. I just haven't worked on an actual book.

Strangely, I seem to have become really popular at MySpace all of a sudden. I went from averaging 2-3 friend requests a day to getting about ten a day. I'm not sure what that really means, where it's coming from or how it helps, but it is interesting.

My big achievement of the day was mastering the self-checkout at Kroger -- including produce. I've always been a little afraid of trying to do the self-checkout when I have things without scannable bar codes, which means I don't get much produce there, especially when I'm running in to grab a few things. You'd think the human checkers would be glad to have people go through their lines because it means they have jobs, but the ones at that store tend to act like you're seriously inconveniencing them by not using the self-checkout machines. But today I managed to ring up even the produce for myself. At the other neighborhood store, I like the checkers and have no problem going through their lines, but at this particular store, there are days when I don't want the human interaction, especially not with a surly teenager, and being able to get in and out of the grocery store without talking to anyone can be nice.

Now I'm looking forward to a weekend at home with nothing to do. There's Doctor Who tonight, and then I think Saturday night will be movie night.

Meanwhile, I need to think about what I want for my birthday. My parents have been asking me, and I haven't had time to think about it. I'm at a point in my life where my wants/needs are all either really minor and trivial or huge and quite specific (the kinds of things you want to choose for yourself). And the minor, trivial fun things I could ask for are things that aren't readily available or easy to find where my parents are.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Layered Archetypes

I've been much less long-winded on posting this week, but now I have another archetype topic I want to cover. I think I might go back and archive all those posts on my web site for easy future reference. If you've finished the Harry Potter book and want to take another look at my post on those archetypes, that would be on Thursday of last week, or, to make it even easier, here's the LiveJournal link. There are no spoilers for book seven in that post, as I hadn't read the book yet. I'm planning to go back and do a reanalysis based on book seven sometime. I'm not sure when I'll discuss that book here, as I want to give everyone a full chance to read it before I do. And as an aside, I'm trying to keep all comments spoiler-free, too. Not that anyone's done anything so far -- I probably came closest in mentioning some minor non-plot-related info that comes from the book -- but I thought I'd mention it. I'll let everyone know when I lift the embargo. I'm not moderating comments, but I will delete any spoilers as soon as I see they've been posted.

For other easy reference, here's the first post on the topic that started all this. The discussion continues the next day and then off and on in the following weeks.

So, anyway ... I want to talk some about layered archetypes. I said in this post that, for the most part, it's best to pick one archetype and stick with it as a focus because using multiple archetypes usually dilutes the character. There are a few exceptions where a character may represent multiple archetypes.

One is Doctor Who (someone asked me to analyze that characterization). He's a big exception because he's a unique character. I have only a passing knowledge of the entire history of the series, but my read on the character as he's being portrayed now is that he's kind of a cumulative character, drawing in bits and pieces from his entire very long life, all those experiences, and all the various incarnations he's had, so he's got a little of everything in him. He's definitely got some trickster/Swashbuckler elements to him, there's a lot of Warrior, he often has a Professor outlook on life, and more recently, the Lost Soul seems to be coming to the forefront.

As for characters who aren't more than 900 years old and who haven't been played by ten different actors so far, when I think of good examples of a truly layered archetype, where there are two archetypes at work that feed on and build on each other, the Lost Soul is always involved (until, of course, I think of an exception within five minutes of posting this declaration). I think that's because, out of all the archetypes, the Lost Soul is most determined by life circumstances or events. While not everyone who goes through something difficult or tragic responds by becoming a Lost Soul, I think it's pretty safe to say that all Lost Souls have been through something difficult or tragic. Someone who grows up in a safe, normal, healthy home and never has anything particularly bad happen to him is not going to be a Lost Soul character. If he acts that way, he's either an annoying Emo type drama queen person or he's a Charmer putting on the Lost Soul act because chicks dig it.

As a result, there may be cases where the character might have the Lost Soul layered on top of the archetype he would have been if the bad stuff never happened -- especially, perhaps, if the bad stuff happened later in life after his essential personality was already formed. To really make this work in building the character, though, it can't be just "He's a Lost Soul -- and a Swashbuckler!" We need to see how the different traits from the two types create internal conflict or drive each other.

One (actually two) of the best examples of this kind of layering comes in Firefly/Serenity with Mal and Simon. Those two are the same type, as I expound upon at length in the upcoming Serenity Found book (and one of the people who actually wrote for the show said mine was one of her favorite essays, so I must not be too far out in left field). Both of them are simultaneously Chiefs and Lost Souls.

We actually get to see Mal before he makes the transition to Lost Soul (come to think of it, we see that exact moment). He comes across as a born leader, someone who takes command easily, makes quick decisions in a crisis, and someone others are willing to follow. And then his world goes crashing down around him as he loses everything -- including his faith and his belief in any kind of cause. Going forward, he's still a Chief because he still has those character traits. He's still a natural leader, he still doesn't like answering to anyone else, and he's still kind of a control freak. In fact, he acts out his Lost Soul tendencies in a Chief kind of way by creating his own little safe world where he's in charge and running it as a kind of dictatorship, yet as a Lost Soul there's a part of him that tries to turn it into a home and family while also trying to avoid getting emotionally attached to anyone or anything. The traits of the two archetypes reinforce each other while also creating a lot of internal conflict.

Then there's Simon, who is also a take-charge kind of guy. We only see him as a child before he has his big Lost Soul transition, but we can see those leadership and control traits in the way he has a bad habit of stepping into a situation and taking charge or at least refusing to bow to anyone else's command and leadership, which kind of gets him in trouble with Mal. He can be in federal custody with his hands chained behind his back, and yet he's the one in total control of the room and the situation. We also see him in that mode as a doctor, someone who's totally confident holding other people's lives in his hands. He gets turned into a Lost Soul when he finds out what was happening to his sister and realizes that his parents put their social status above the welfare of their children, so that he's left totally alone in the world in the quest to save his sister. Once he finds her, the Lost Soul and the Chief aspects of his nature build on each other. As a Lost Soul, he clings to River as the only thing he has left, but as a Chief he tries to control and manage the situation -- and River, even after she's grown more capable. As a Lost Soul, he's wary of emotional involvement (because losing everything all over again is too much to think about right now) and keeps himself aloof, but as a Chief that can come across as snobbery and concern for status.

I think both of them may have evolved as of the end of Serenity (the movie) because they both had the symbolic death and resurrection part of the hero's journey, but as we haven't really seen what happens next (^%$$$%^#@) it's hard to say what they may have evolved into, if they just lost the Lost Soul and reverted back to being just Chiefs or if something else entirely happened.

Another example that comes from much discussion in LJ comments may be Dean on Supernatural. I still think he's mostly a Swashbuckler because that kind of recklessness is his natural reaction to almost everything, but there seems to be a layering of Lost Soul, too. Of course, given his upbringing with a dead mother and a father more focused on the mission than on his kids, there's bound to have been some effect on him, but Sam went through the same things and didn't react the same way. There's a sense that although the responsibility for his younger brother was something of a burden that forced him to go against his nature, Dean still needs his brother and is lost without him in a way that Sam isn't. Sam was capable of moving on and forming other friendships and relationships, and I'm not sure Dean really is, not on a long-term basis. Without his brother in his life, he's utterly lost, and that then feeds into his Swashbuckler nature with the absolutely insane risks he'll take to protect Sam.

I'm about to start reading another book that takes a different approach to archetypes, so we'll see what else I manage to come up with.

In other news, I'm doing an online Q&A on urban fantasy this weekend at Romance Divas. Here's the scoop:
Writing Urban Fantasy Q & A With Some of the Hottest Authors in the Genre

July 27th, 28th, and 29th at Romance Divas

Authors Attending:

Kelley Armstrong

Rachel Caine

Karen Chance

Shanna Swendson

Gena Showalter

Want to know how to write urban fantasy? Want to know how urban fantasy can range from dark to humorous? All you have to do is ask. Romance Divas is hosting a 3 day Q & A with some of the hottest names in the Urban Fantasy Genre. It will take place at the Romance Diva Forum. All are welcome. To get access to the forum you will need to register.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What to Read Next

I may have been a wee bit overambitious about actually writing yesterday. I was in a total fog. I managed to read over what I've written, and while I like some of it, I could tell what parts needed serious help, but I couldn't form the words to fix it. So, I gave up, made popcorn, and caught up on all the stuff I taped over the weekend. So, now I'm caught up on Doctor Who (and whoever wrote that episode has obviously driven in Houston).

I have to make my cauldron cakes today and I think I may participate in the Dallas Morning News Harry Potter online chat this afternoon (since the reporter who interviewed me is part of it). And then I really will work some before going to the book group Harry Potter discussion party. I think after that I'll have the worst of it out of my system and can get back to focusing on my own universes. It's hard to write when you're in a mode where someone else's world and characters are more real (and interesting) to you than your own, especially when you're developing a new world and new characters. I could probably drag myself out of the Potterverse to write about Owen and Katie, but new people are more difficult.

I've posted a version of this in the comments of a Harry Potter community post, but I thought I'd expand on it here as a public service. Here's my list of what you might want to read now that it's over (sniff!) or while you're on the library waiting list. I'm trying to go with books that scratch some of the same itches for me that the Harry Potter books seem to. In some cases, it's a tone or feeling. In others, it's the way the books affected me. As a result, this list may seem really random. Feel free to add your own recommendations in comments.

Of course, the most obvious would be my books. :-) I think everyone should recommend them to their friends who have the post-Potter blues. Heck, I may re-read them myself as a way of jolting myself out of it all. (And, by the way, any fun stories of attempting to hook people at the bookstore parties?)

For adults:
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke -- it's a big, dense book, but I think a lot of it had the same whimsical, tongue-in-cheek tone that's in the Harry Potter books. Be sure to read the footnotes, because that's where the humor really is.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire -- an entirely different take on the fantasy boarding school (though I don't actually recommend this wholeheartedly. I didn't think it was quite as good as the hype, and I didn't really like any of the characters much)
The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher -- as Jim describes it, "Dirty Harry" Potter. :-)
The Weather Wardens series by Rachel Caine -- more quirky contemporary fantasy
Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin -- I've only read the first book (since that's all that exists -- and I've already volunteered to blurb the next one so I can get a sneak peak), but I think it has the potential to be one of those series where you really get hooked on the characters.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman -- LOVE! You could almost describe this as "a worthy Muggle gets sucked into Diagon-Alley after he helps a wizard in need."

For kids/teens:
Just about anything by Joan Aiken. Her series that starts with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is actually a pretty subtle alternate history (the alt history is mostly in the background, especially in the earlier books, and I didn't even notice it until I was older and had actually learned more about British history). Like the Harry Potter books, these are generally about orphans (or might-as-well-be orphans) thrown into tough situations where they have to save the day. I think my favorite is Black Hearts in Battersea.
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis -- that was sort of my Harry Potter when I was a child, though since the books had all been written before I was born, I didn't have to wait for each book. Still, I rationed myself, checking them out of the library one at a time, and I faced the last book with the same mix of dread and anticipation that I had for the last Harry Potter book.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander -- high fantasy based on Welsh folklore. I might have had that same kind of obsession with this one if I hadn't accidentally read the last book first. I still went back to grab the earlier ones and tore through it. Ignore the Disney atrocity that was made based on one of these books. It doesn't exist.
Almost anything by Madeleine L'Engle -- A Wrinkle in Time is the best known, but all her other books are more or less based in that universe. They range from the outright fantasy/sf end of the spectrum, with actual travel to other planets, to more subtle sf elements, so that the book is set in the "real" world but involves some cutting edge science, like research on starfish to help regenerate human limbs. My favorite is A Ring of Endless Light, which is a beautiful book. I have the sequel, but I've held off on reading it because I worry that it could change my impression of the first one.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith -- totally non-magical in the literal sense, but I think it captures the coming of age and teen relationships in much the way the Harry Potter books do, without the external plot of having to save the world from dark magic, and it does have a certain magical quality to it.

Published for adults, but probably teen-safe:
The Deryni Chronicles by Katherine Kurtz -- this was sort of the Harry Potter equivalent of my teen years, where I got totally immersed in that world and fell madly in love with the characters so that I desperately wanted to know more about them. I inhaled the first two trilogies that were all published before I discovered them, and then had to anticipate each new book as it came out. Of course, that was when they started coming out in hardcover, which I couldn't afford, so I had to hope and pray the library got them. The second two trilogies were okay, and I've been less and less excited about the more recent books, though I still love the earlier ones just as much when I pick them up again. I think my problem is that her favorite characters aren't my favorite characters, and now she's focusing on people who just don't interest me.
The Flinx books by Alan Dean Foster -- in a way, this is a science fiction Harry Potter, since it's about an orphan who has unusual abilities, and the series covers his quest to learn about his parents and how his abilities work, then later he has to take on some major evil. Apparently, the final book in the series is coming this fall. I forget how many books there are in this series, but there are a lot, as it's been going since 1974. The earlier books have recently been reissued as young adult books.
Just about anything by Connie Willis, especially Bellwether, The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. She has a wonderfully dry sense of humor that's almost British (although she's from Colorado).
The Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold -- another one of those fun main characters who gets in and out of a lot of scrapes with wits and nerve. I think Miles and Harry would get along pretty well.

You know, just reading that list has almost made me start wanting to pick up something else and read again. Maybe revisiting an old favorite would be a good way to transition myself out of that universe and back toward being able to accept other things.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Deleted Scenes!

Today, it seems I have to really return to the real world of work. There's a book proposal I need to be working on, and I did a newspaper interview this morning. Part of me is still in a bit of a haze, though. I finally got some good, restful sleep last night, but I could use more, and I have a ton of stuff I taped over the weekend that I need to watch. Oh, and I need groceries as I have almost no real food in the house. I also have almost no appetite right now, so that's not a huge issue, but real food might help with that. I do have ingredients for unreal food, as I'd planned to have all kinds of snacks and treats to enhance my reading experience, but I was too caught up in the book to actually eat anything, so that didn't happen. I am going to bake some "cauldron cakes" (a variation on cupcakes I'm more or less inventing) for a book group meeting/dinner party tomorrow night, though.

I do have a couple more archetype discussions I want to do, but that will require more mental acuity than I have at the moment, so maybe later in the week.

In the meantime, if you're like me and in that post-reading slump where you don't really want to start reading anything else, or if you're waiting to get your hands on a copy, I have some alternative reading for you. I've posted a bunch of deleted scenes from Damsel Under Stress to my web site, on the Damsel page. Some are alternate scenes, early versions before I changed my mind about what to do, and some were just deleted because the initial version of the book was way too long, and while those parts were fun if you love the characters, they didn't exactly move the plot forward. Plus, there's the original ending, before I realized I must have been in a really bad mood when I wrote it. If you think what's in the book was sad, wait until you read this! Of course, there are major spoilers involved.

Now to go see if I can find food I actually want to eat.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back in the Real World

So, now I am home, and I'm a zombie from Potter Insomnia. Seriously, I never seem to be able to sleep during the first read of one of these books. I stopped at Target on the way home from my friends' house after we got back from Tulsa, bought The Book, got home, called Mom to let her know I got home alive, discussed some of our theories and speculation, then started reading at about 9:15. I forced myself to put the book down and go to bed around 1:30, but I might have been better off if I'd just stayed up all night reading because I tossed and turned and barely slept at all, then finally gave up and got up before 7. I held off reading again as long as I could, but it was a nice morning outside, so I sat on the patio reading a while until it got too hot, procrastinated some more, then finally settled down to read the ending and just finished about half an hour ago. Then I could finally go safely online. Yes, I managed to remain entirely unspoiled! Nobody at the con said anything, so it was with great relief that I left, but I joked that the clerk I bought the book from would blurt out something. Still, I managed to get home and sequestered without being spoiled, so it was all a huge surprise, and I love that. I didn't even look at the chapter titles that are printed in the front of the book.

And that's all I'm saying on that subject until much, much later, other than that all my archetype analysis gave me a few grins while reading because I was so very, very right about several things.

I had a blast at the con and am glad I went, even if it did delay my reading and keep me from a midnight bookstore party. The coolest thing was the birds of prey demo. I actually got to hold a baby owl and let it perch on my finger, and I got to put on the leather gauntlet and hold a hawk. I have photos, but because I have a film camera, I'll have to wait to finish the roll and get it developed before I can post pics of me and my birdy friends. They had the baby owl there Friday night for the Harry Potter party, and it allowed me to imagine what it would be like to hold Pig, though this owl was a lot calmer. I've always been fascinated with falconry, but I've never been this close to the birds before, and actually getting to hold them and pet them was a real thrill.

I think I was vaguely coherent and entertaining in my panels, as people from them then went and bought my books (they sold out of Enchanted, Inc.!). I got to meet Mercedes Lackey and managed not to do a total fangirl geekout (mostly because the baby owl was involved in the interaction and I was too busy geeking out about the baby owl).

I should probably try to take a nap because I'm speaking to a writing group tonight, but I'm still kind of bouncing and wired, and if I let myself go to sleep it will probably be a deep, long sleep once I finally settle down to go under, but I'll have to wake up prematurely from it in order to go out, and then I'll be groggy and will then have another sleepless night, so I think I'm going to force myself to stay awake until tonight. The hotel had those Sleep Number beds, and I must say, those were a huge disappointment. They're essentially air mattresses. Maybe they're comfortable if you like a firm mattress or if the important thing is being able to adjust the two sides of the bed differently, but if you like a soft mattress, you're basically sleeping on a deflated air mattress. I love my feather bed, which molds itself to me and manages to be both firm and soft. I'm sure I would have slept very well last night in my own bed after two nights of discomfort if it hadn't been for the Potter insomnia.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Archetypes of Harry Potter

So, now I've finished re-reading the first six books, and I must say, that even though I was re-reading the sixth book, I really didn't want it to come to an end. How much worse am I going to feel about coming to the end of book seven, knowing that's it? I'm almost glad in a way that I'll be at Conestoga this weekend and won't start reading the book until later because I want to drag it out. I just hope some jerk who has to play know-it-all doesn't ruin it for me by blurting out any big plot twists. I've got a kazoo in my bag, so I think I'm going to keep it handy in a pocket and just start playing Barry Manilow songs loudly if anyone near me starts talking about the book. How's that for a way to create a mobile no-spoiler zone? I'm resolutely avoiding the early reviews from the leaked copies.

And now for the post you've all been waiting for, my archetype analysis of the cast of the Harry Potter books. As a disclaimer, this is based strictly on books one through six and subject to change based on book seven. I may do another analysis when I do my holiday-season re-read of the whole series. By then, I may also be able to play with my new toy, the Myers-Briggs assessment!

As I've said before, I see Harry himself as a Lost Soul. Between the ages of one and eleven, he never knew love at all, and he feels like a freak and an outcast. When he finds his place in the wizarding world and gains friends and a sort of surrogate family, he becomes fiercely protective of that. His biggest fear is losing what he's gained, and a lot of what motivates his activities, especially in the earlier books, is his fear that if whatever is going on isn't stopped, the school will be closed down and he'll lose the home he's finally found. More Lost Soul clues: what he sees in the Mirror of Erised is his family, in almost every book there's something that happens to make him an outcast at school (reinforcing his Lost Soul nature), and when Hagrid finds the perfect gift to give him, it's an album of photos of his parents.

But the biggest clue of all to Harry's archetype is the fact that Voldemort/Tom Riddle is also a Lost Soul, and the strongest nemesis is the one who is the same type but on the dark side of things. Like Harry, Tom had a difficult childhood, but, as Dumbledore told Harry in book six, he responded in a different way. He wanted revenge against his family and he wanted to gain control not only over his own life, but also over everyone around him. Harry acted out his Lost Soul nature with a longing for love and community, while Tom Riddle acted out of bitterness and hatred. Perhaps there was an underlying psychological fear of further loss if he let himself care about anyone or anything, but then that seems to have become his weakness, while Harry's risk in opening himself up to the potential of further pain and loss by letting himself care is one of his greatest strengths.

I've also said before that I think Harry has evolved into a Warrior by the end of book six because he's now on a mission, and it's no longer about protecting his home and sense of place, with him going up against Voldemort simply because that's who's threatening his home. Now it really has become specific to defeating Voldemort and all he represents. But I'm amending my previous view on how/when the evolution took place. I think it started with Sirius's death and the revelation of the prophecy because up to that point, his main goal still was to protect his "family" and because he was such a persecuted outsider through much of book five. In a way, he was at his most Lost Soul then. But once he heard the prophecy, it became more of a mission. A possible clue is that book six is the one book where he's not really an outsider or an outcast. In the first book, he's shunned when he's caught out late with the dragon and loses the house so many points. In book two, he's suspected as the Heir of Slytherin. In book three, he's the one person who doesn't get to go to Hogsmeade. In book four, he's looked on as an interloper and grandstander when he gets into the tournament in spite of his age. It's at its worst in book five when he's discredited, called a liar, and seen as a dangerous crackpot.

Harry gets two of the best friends he could hope for in Ron, the Best Friend, and Hermione, the Librarian, as they're perfect matches to the Lost Soul. Both the Best Friend and the Librarian are distinguished by their constancy. These are very dedicated, loyal people who stick to the commitments they make, and the Lost Soul needs that kind of stability. Ron as the Best Friend provides the emotional support. He's the kind of friend who's always there, patient with the ups and downs and mood swings you see from a Lost Soul, and while he may not like being overlooked all the time, he's kind of used to it. He also stands up for his friend, giving and receiving bloody noses as needed, which is something entirely new to Harry, who's used to being bullied by his cousin and his friends. Hermione may accuse Ron of having the emotional range of a teaspoon, and he is pretty dense when it comes to romance, but he's actually pretty sensitive and astute when it comes to dealing with Harry's moods. He handled PTSD Harry in book five rather well, knowing when to give him space and when to get closer, putting up with all the temper and mood swings, and knowing when Harry needed to talk or not talk. About the only thing that can turn him against Harry (or anyone else he considers a friend) is feeling that his friendship isn't really being returned, that the friend is being disloyal to him or betraying him. We saw that when he thought Harry had gone behind his back to get in the tournament and in his biggest fight with Hermione, when she let slip that she didn't believe he could win at Quidditch without magical help (and then discovered she'd kissed Krum).

Meanwhile, Hermione balances out that emotional support with logic. Lost Souls do tend to be moody and paranoid -- with what they've gone through, sometimes it seems like the world really is out to get them -- and as the Librarian, she can cut through the moods with logic and reason. Someone like Harry needs someone to every now and then tell him to get over himself, stop moping, and deal with reality the way it is. She also has a strong sense of fairness and wants to make the world a better place, which is reassuring to someone like him who would like the world to be ideal yet sometimes fears it's not possible. She has a concrete plan for making it happen. Her quest for fairness makes him feel vindicated and supported when the world is being unfair to him.

But while these two provide the perfect blend of support for Harry, their different ways of dealing with the world are the cause of most of their conflicts. Ron sees the world in terms of feelings, and Hermione sees the world in terms of logic and reason. Look at their biggest fights -- when it looked like her cat had killed his rat, her logical approach said that's what happens with cats and rats, circle of life and all that, so why get all upset, and besides, he was always complaining about that rat, and it's not like there was any absolute proof that's what happened. There's also the fact that Librarians HATE to be wrong and will only admit being wrong in extreme circumstances, and the cat killing the rat after all of Ron's fears that would happen would have made her wrong. But he saw the whole situation as her not caring how upset and hurt he was that his pet was gone. He didn't care if it was normal and natural. He just wanted her to acknowledge his feelings. Same with the fight about Harry's new broom in the same book. She was looking at it logically, that Harry was in danger, and therefore an expensive new broom from out of nowhere was to be suspected. Ron saw it as her not understanding how Harry felt about having a good broom and how the loss of his previous broom had affected him. And then there was that big fight in book six. All she saw was a potential rule violation without even considering the possibility that Harry was psyching Ron out by giving him a non-magical confidence boost, and then all Ron could see was her utter lack of faith in him. When those two actually manage to communicate with each other and present a united front, though, they can be quite formidable because they balance each other so well. Look at the way they got Harry into starting the DA in book five. They're also both types who stick to commitments, something they respect about each other. After I figured out their types, some of their fights have become highly amusing to me, and I have to giggle when she accuses him of being insensitive. He may not notice much, but when he does notice or has it forcibly drilled into his skull, he's actually quite sensitive and empathetic because he's good at understanding what's really going on with the person and knowing what it is they need. On the other hand, she may be incredibly perceptive and notice everything, but she's not entirely sensitive because she has a bad habit of superimposing her own emotions or her sense of what the person ought to be feeling onto the situation and disregarding what they really feel. I also suspect that his "emotional range of a teaspoon" is something of a defense mechanism because he's incredibly emotionally vulnerable and very easily wounded, so if he let himself feel the full range of everything, he'd be a total mess. But because she thinks he's so short on emotional sensitivity, she hurts him quite badly and quite often without realizing she's drawn blood.

Ginny is the Spunky Kid, someone who's also good for Harry because she provides the kind of loyal, dependable friendship he gets from Ron, with the added bonus of the occasional kick in the pants. She won't let him wallow in his own misery and will drag him out of the pit of despair or fight at his side. She's also the one who's capable of bringing more people into the circle, as we saw in book five when she was one of the prime recruiters for the DA. I think it was a stroke of brilliance that, out of all her older brothers, the ones she takes after are Fred and George, so she's got some of their feisty spirit and disregard for rules she finds to be a hindrance.

Fred and George are Swashbucklers. They're in it for the fun and excitement. I loved how they turned out to be quite genius at magic, and they could have been top students with their skills, but they were more interested in having fun than in being good students, and now they're making a fortune at it.

Draco Malfoy is a Chief with a concern for power and social status. That's what seems to drive him, everyone knowing how important he is. Luna is a Free Spirit who marches to the beat of her own drummer (and her drummer is playing on coconuts using a chopstick and a ping-pong paddle) and doesn't really care what the rest of the world thinks about her. Neville is kind of a challenge because I don't have a strong sense of him. He may be a Lost Soul, too, since there's supposed to be some parallel between him and Harry, with the prophecy and with the similar backgrounds of having lost parents to the war with Voldemort.

The adults are a little more difficult since we only see them through Harry's eyes, and he's got a skewed perspective, as he's still at the age where he doesn't quite see adults as full human beings with their own hopes, fears and dreams. I think Dumbledore is a Professor, as he's fascinated with learning, and his approach to fighting Voldemort seems to be more like he's trying to solve a puzzle than like he's in a war. McGonagall is a Boss -- totally in charge, and don't you dare defy her authority.

Arthur Weasley seems to have a lot of Professor traits, with his fascination for new and unusual things, but he's also got a lot of Best Friend in him, and as a tertiary character, it's not quite as important for him to be so clear-cut. Molly Weasley is a total Nurturer. She'll mother anything that crosses her path, and that makes her an ideal surrogate Mum for a Lost Soul like Harry.

On the "Marauder" generation, Sirius strikes me as a Swashbuckler. He loves the risk and excitement, and the easiest way to goad him was to accuse him of playing it safe. He seemed to have a similar personality as a kid. We don't have a really good view of James Potter, but it sounds like he and Sirius were two of a kind in school. What we don't know is how much he grew out of that once things got serious and how much of that is colored by Sirius's view of him. He'd naturally want to remember his best friend as being a lot like himself (I think it's possible that if none of the bad stuff had happened and Harry had grown up in a loving home with his parents, he'd have turned out to be a Swashbuckler instead of a Lost Soul). Our other perspective of James is from Snape, and we don't know how accurate that was. I don't feel like we know enough about Lily to classify her because all we've seen are two fairly extreme situations, where she defended Snape in school and where she sacrificed herself for Harry. Those situations are extreme enough that any type may have acted the same way, but with different driving forces, and we haven't seen enough of her to sense her driving force.

Remus Lupin seems to be another Best Friend. In school, he was the steady sidekick to the more flashy James and Sirius, and he's admitted he didn't exactly stand up to them. As an adult, he's the one who's good at reaching out to people to make them feel better -- as a teacher to Harry when he was feeling left out, and he's the one who comforts Molly when she flips out and who reached out to the newly made werewolf in the hospital. He's the mediator and peacemaker in the Order of the Phoenix. What's really interesting about this is that the Best Friend is very much a beta male character type, and you don't see too many beta male werewolf characters. It stands to reason that to have an alpha male, there need to be some betas in the pack, but the betas generally don't get stories written about them. I guess this works because his being a werewolf isn't that important to the story. We've only seen him as a wolf once, and the werewolf thing is more about how it affects his human life, his prospects and his relationships. Incidentally, this is the one role I think is horribly miscast in the movies. For most of the characters, I only have to blur the image I had in my head from reading the books to accept the characters as they appear in the movies, but this one is just plain wrong to me, to the point it takes me a second or two to remember who that guy in the movies is supposed to be because I don't recognize him as Lupin, since he's so very different from what's in my head (I do like his voice, though).

Snape is something of a challenge because he's a real mystery, and we don't know what's really going on with him. This one is definitely subject to change based on the outcome of the new book, but I'm going to go with Lost Soul again, simply because of the parallels with Harry and with Voldemort, since Snape seems to be caught in the middle between what they represent. With Voldemort offstage for most of the books, Snape is the more immediate adversary, and then he needs to be mirrored with Harry. He's certainly been mistreated in the past, is full of guilt (maybe) for his prior bad choices, and he's nursing grudges, which are all Lost Soul traits. I think a lot of Harry's issues with Snape involve understanding him more than he wants to.

I'm off to Tulsa early in the morning, so no Friday post, and I imagine I'll be busy reading (and avoiding the Internet for spoilers) on Monday. I'll wait a while before discussing book 7, maybe all the way until I do my post-Christmas re-read that I'm already planning.

Oh, and I got assigned a panel on character archetypes for ArmadilloCon next month in Austin, so we'll see how that goes!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hermione and Me

I'm now about midway through re-reading book six, and I think it's my favorite of the series -- for now. It may take another reading after the series is done for me to be sure. In spite of the seriousness of the situation, it's still really funny, as there's quite a complicated romantic comedy woven in among all that tragedy. It helps that the romantic comedy stuff is something I can really relate to, as I am, essentially, Hermione Granger grown up. There are times I feel like I ought to serve J.K. Rowling with a restraining order and force her to get out of my life. And it's not just me who thinks this. I can't sit next to my mother when I see the movies with her or I'll end up black-and-blue from her elbowing me every time Hermione does something very Shanna-like, and she's admitted that when she read the first book, before seeing the movie and learning how to pronounce Hermione, she just mentally substituted "Shanna" for that name as she read. A friend made me a t-shirt that says "Hermione grown up" as a birthday present, and if I can find it in my messy closet, that's probably what I'll wear for the release party at Conestoga.

First, there's the physical description. Hermione's key distinguishing feature is her "bushy brown hair." That's a pretty good description of me, especially when I was Hermione's age, before I learned how to deal with the curls. My high-school nickname when the boys were picking on me was "Bird Nest." If I'd worn my hair long then, it would have been even worse because I was trying to brush it into submission at the time, and I didn't know you weren't supposed to brush curly hair. The books also mention Hermione's big front teeth. I, too, had big front teeth I was very self-conscious about. Not only were they big and prominent, but mine were so crooked they overlapped, and I didn't get braces until I was a senior in high school. I was so self-conscious about those teeth that I had a hard time finding a picture that shows them, since I didn't open my mouth to smile when getting my picture taken. Here's a photo from around the age Hermione would have been in the first book. Just imagine that hair if it had been longer, and you can kind of see the teeth. (And, no, I really wasn't a redhead. This photo happened to have been scavenged from my grandmother's old house years after her death, so it's rather faded.)

early Shanna

My one big physical difference from Hermione is eye color. Based on the discussion around the Polyjuice Potion in Chamber of Secrets, she has brown eyes, and mine are green.

Then there's personality. I'll admit, I can be a bit of a know-it-all, and if I think I'm right about something, I'll argue it to the death, even if I'm arguing with a brick wall. These days, I'm more prone to avoiding conflict, but at that age, I thought arguing was fun. I was the kind of kid who'd read the textbooks all the way through at the beginning of the year, and if there was something in the textbooks that intrigued me, I'd go off and find lots of other books on that subject to read it in-depth. We had one little scene from The Miracle Worker in our English book one year, and then I went and read every book I could find on Helen Keller, including her autobiography, and taught myself the finger alphabet (which actually came in handy last Saturday when a deaf girl was looking for help making sure she was on the right train and going to the right station, and I was able to communicate with her -- 30 years later, and I finally had a reason to use it). I wasn't at all shy about commenting on all that extra knowledge in classroom discussions. If there was a book we were reading chapter-by-chapter, I'd have finished reading it within a couple of days. One year, I was in a class that combined two grades, so we were essentially self-paced, with assignments you'd check out and then turn in. I finished the entire school year before Christmas. I'm not much of a rebel unless the rules don't make sense. Otherwise, I'll practically break out in a cold sweat at the thought of going against the rules. Even if I've been given permission or an exception to go against a rule, I feel very uncomfortable about it and practically want it in writing before I'll do it. Does that sound like anyone else we know?

I also fit the pattern socially, and that's one of the things I love about this character. So many of the girls in kids' books seem to have to be either a girly-girl or a tomboy. Either she loves pink and makeup and boys, or else she's wearing jeans, has short hair and plays sports. I was always somewhere in the middle, like Hermione is. She's very much a girl, even if she isn't a typically girly-girl. She rolls her eyes at the girly-girls, and she doesn't seem to care too much about things like clothes, hair and makeup. Although it would appear that she has a bit of a thing for Ron starting in the very first book, she doesn't ever throw herself at him or even really flirt with him. She may be pretty astute about reading people at times, but she doesn't seem to know how to get the message across to him that she likes him, and then she gets frustrated with him when he doesn't realize it (then again, he is pretty dense, and he seems to have been the last person at Hogwarts -- including the giant squid -- to figure out what was going on between them). At the same time, though, she's not a tomboy. She doesn't do sports at all, doesn't seem to understand Quidditch (or care enough about it to bother understanding it) and doesn't play well even when they're just goofing around. She doesn't try to be boyish or macho. Even as she gets along better with boys than she does with girls, she never tries to act like a boy. She's very much a lady the whole time, even if the boys do tend to forget she's a girl. And that's pretty much me in a nutshell. I do enjoy nice clothes and makeup, but it's never been a priority in my life. I've always hung around with boys. Even now, my close friends are more likely to be men than women, and my women friends are likely to be the wives of my male friends. Yet I've never been a tomboy. I'm lousy at sports, entirely unathletic, and don't care much about sports beyond University of Texas football. My point of contact with the boys has usually been related to science fiction, instead. I'm also lousy at even attempting that transition from friendship to more than friends. I don't really know how to flirt or let him know I'm interested, but then I get frustrated when he doesn't get the message and respond to me as more than a friend. I think that's a lot of why I love books four and six so much, because that's so much of what's going on in the background. Hermione likes Ron, but gets frustrated that he doesn't seem to realize it and gets mad at him, and meanwhile he likes her but thinks she doesn't like him because she's mad at him all the time, and so he refuses to let on that he likes her.

The big "Yo, Jo, get out of my life, please!" moment for me was the Winter Ball in Goblet of Fire. That was basically my junior prom. I was friends with guys, but it never occurred to them to ask me to go with them. Instead, they chose cute girls (often much younger) they didn't seem to have anything in common with or anything to talk to about. I got so frustrated with them when they'd be talking about how they thought it would be fun to go eat at McDonald's before the prom, all dressed up in formal wear, and act like they were eating at a nice restaurant, but their dates were violently opposed to that idea and made them make reservations at some fancy restaurant. Meanwhile, I thought the McDonald's idea was a hoot and would have been totally on board with it. I think there even was a "hey, you're a girl" moment during all that, but they just wondered why I didn't have a date yet. The difference between me and Hermione was that I didn't end up with the star athlete from another school while my guy friends sulked around the girls they'd asked. I went without a date, and then ended up with my guy friends sitting with me and sulking when their cute little dates ditched them almost as soon as they got through the front door. I had high hopes that they'd then realize that they had fun with me, and I was a girl, and maybe then they'd ask me out, but they never did.

So, here's me at my "Winter Ball":
junior prom

My one quibble is that when Hermione got dressed up for the ball and was seen as pretty for the first time, she straightened her hair. That's such an annoying cliche, that the big transformation to pretty almost always seems to involve going from having wild curly hair to having sleek, straight hair. What about just getting the curls under control and having ringlets instead of frizz? That was my big transformation from plain to pretty. At least Hermione didn't stick with the straight hair, calling it too much trouble, and she still has bushy hair in later books.

So, basically, I've never seen a character I could relate to in such detail, on so many different levels. It's so cool that the smart girl gets to be a heroine instead of just being in the background. She can have boys interested in her -- and cool boys, at that -- without transforming into a boy-crazy idiot. She gets all these things on her own terms without compromising herself and without having to downplay her intelligence. What a wonderful role model she is.

So, what do you think, Hermione catching up with Hagrid at the Hogwarts 20-year class reunion?

Hagrid and me

PS: Don't forget the promo materials for Harry Potter night at your local bookstore!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter and Enchanted, Inc.

I was such a slug yesterday, but I think I deserved the break. I've finished re-reading book 5 and am now re-reading Half-Blood Prince. It's almost like reading a brand-new book because I've only read this one once, and there's a lot I didn't remember. Even though I've already read the book, I ended up staying up later last night than I planned because a chapter ended on a kind of cliffhanger, and I truly didn't remember a thing about what happened next, so I had to keep reading. I'm going to try to slow down, since I have three days to read it, and try to absorb more this time around. That first time, I was plowing greedily through the book and I think I missed a lot.

One thing I did accomplish was getting something put together for Harry Potter night. If you're going to one of those midnight bookstore parties where you'll be trapped in a bookstore for several hours with hundreds of people you already know are into fun, quirky contemporary fantasy stories, and you want to tell them about this other series you know of they might like, in case they want something new to read after it's all over (sniff!), then this may come in handy. Of course, you can always lead them over to the general fiction section and show them the books, but if the bookstore doesn't have them in stock, I've created some things you can give them so they'll remember. There are some business-card-sized handouts that go on business-card stock, some larger postcard sized cards and some flyers. The cards are probably less obtrusive for handing out to people. The flyers are more for people who work at bookstores and have the authority to hand out or display something like that. Please don't be too obnoxious or do something the bookstore asks you not to do. They're all in Word documents, but I can convert to PDF if someone needs it that way, and I have the Avery standard for the cards listed (or you could probably print on plain paper and cut them apart). You can get to them all here on my web site. If you have more graphic design ability than I have (which is probably about 99 percent of the population), you are welcome to create your own. I feel like this is a huge opportunity to go after a big target market prone to liking these books and maybe keep our chances for book five alive.

It's probably no huge surprise that the Harry Potter series was part of the inspiration behind my books. I came to the party rather late. The first I recall even having heard of the Harry Potter books was when Goblet of Fire came out. I was on a business trip to Boston, and since I was getting USA Today at the hotel, there was a lot of coverage about the series, something I don't recall having seen in my local newspaper. There was a Borders store at the end of the block my hotel was on, and when I came back to my hotel late that Friday evening, I was surprised to see a lot of activity in an area I'd noticed was pretty much dead at night (I was staying at the Parker House downtown). There were all these kids dressed in wizard robes lined up outside the store. But I didn't go into the store or look into the books at the time.

In October of that same year, I took a vacation to England. The whole trip was fairly magical for me, but one day in particular stood out. I was staying in Oxford and took a train out to the Cotswolds for a day of hiking. The walking trail led across the countryside and through little villages straight out of a storybook. I saw all kinds of things I'd never have seen from the road or even from a train because the path led me right past secluded manor houses and through farms. It was all so perfect and wonderful that I wanted to laugh and sing out loud, and did so every so often (I think I scared some sheep). My walk ended in a town called Bourton-on-the-Water (sounds like a Harry Potter village name, huh?), and the path entered the town along the back of a row of houses. Some schoolboys sitting on the back garden wall decided for whatever reason that I was Queen Elizabeth I, and they then escorted me into town. Since they were 10-11-year-old boys, I doubt they meant it to be flattering, but I decided to go with it, and I enjoyed being led into town by a trio of boys shouting "Make way for Her Majesty!" and making trumpet calls. I had my first cream tea at a little tea shop in the town, and then I had some time to kill before the bus came that would bring me back to the train station in another town. That was when I found the bookstore. It was a perfect little book shop in one of those old honey-colored Cotswolds buildings, and they were having a sale, where you got a certain amount off if you bought a certain number of books. I loaded up on the chick lit books you couldn't get in the US at the time, but I needed one more book to get the biggest discount. I got the idea of buying the first Harry Potter book, since it had a different title in England and I thought that would make it a fun souvenir. (For photos of that day, see my LiveJournal Scrapbook, and you'll need to click on at least the second photo because that one's vertical and it doesn't all show up in that preview window.)

I didn't read the book until January, though. I think I had a feeling it would be a special book, the kind I'd end up reading in just about one sitting, so I'd need a free day, preferably a cold, rainy day perfect for curling up with a good book. I was telecommuting at the time and had a flexible schedule, so when I had a slow day in January and the weather was perfect, I plunged into the book and was totally enchanted. But I didn't rush out to get the rest of the books yet. I guess that first one stands alone more, and it didn't yet have the complex interrelationships and all the other elements that make you want to know what happens next to these people, NOW, the way the later books do. I got the next two books the following October on another trip to England. I was in Cambridge with a friend, and we stopped at the Borders so she could buy a map. They were having a buy two, get one free sale, and again I loaded up on chick lit books, but needed two more books to maximize the freebie offer, so I grabbed the "adult" editions of the next two Harry Potter books (the content is the same, but the covers are black-and-white photography instead of cartoony illustrations). I didn't read those right away, either. The first movie came out around Thanksgiving, and I saw it with my mom, and then around Christmas a friend who'd borrowed the first book returned it to me. In that slow week between Christmas and the New Year, I re-read the first book, then moved on to the next two over the next week or so.

That was when I got hooked. The fourth book still wasn't out in paperback, and I had plans to get back to England to get the British edition, so I got on the waiting list at the library. That was also when the first glimmer for the idea that became Enchanted, Inc. hit me. I was really hating my job around that time, even though I was telecommuting. My immediate boss, who really "got" me, had left, replaced by someone who seemed insecure and paranoid, and who actually shut the door on me to keep me out of crucial meetings. Then the head of our office, who was the best boss I've ever had, left, and I found out they were hiring someone I'd worked with before -- who was the one person in my professional career I'd ever had a hallway screaming match with. I had a sinking feeling my days were numbered. One morning as I was climbing the stairs to my office, I caught myself thinking about how cool it would be if I checked my e-mail and got an offer for a fabulous new job. And then because I'd been reading Harry Potter, I thought it would be fun if the job offer was for a magical company. And then I got the "this is it!" shiver down my spine. I'd been reading all those chick lit books, where I could relate to the job and relationship stuff, but then I loved the magic take on the school years from the Harry Potter books. Wouldn't it be cool to combine the two? What would adulthood -- with its job and relationship issues -- be like with magic in the mix?

I finally got Goblet of Fire from the library and had big plans to spend the next weekend reading. Then on that Thursday morning, I got laid off (it turned out that the meeting where I got the door closed in my face resulted in us losing a huge client, and I later learned from that client that my absence from that meeting was a factor). I was in shock, but the shock and anger were dimmed somewhat by the fact that it meant I got to read the book sooner. The book was a wonderful catharsis for all the emotions going on in me. I laughed out loud, and then I cried a lot. I think part of the reason that book hit me so hard was that I could really identify with the isolation Harry felt. During this time, my parents were in New Zealand, and I had no way of reaching them. I was in a state where I kind of needed my mommy, and I couldn't talk to her, so I could sort of understand the way Harry felt when he kept wishing he had a parent. I totally bawled when Mrs. Weasley and Bill showed up in the place of Harry's parents. I also really identified with everything happening with Hermione in that book, but that's a subject for another post. At any rate, that made me even more intrigued by the idea of writing something similar but that was more about the things I could identify with where my life was at the time.

I think a lot of the success of the Harry Potter books is that mix of the fantastic and the relatable. So much of the story is things just about anyone can identify with, no matter where you went to school -- the way teachers treat you, feeling like an outsider, the odd ways friendships form, all the social dynamics, the hopes, fears and dreams. And then there's such a wonderful, whimsical dose of the fantastic mixed in. I also really enjoy watching the kids grow up, from being children in the first book to teens verging on adulthood in the later books, and the ways their relationships grow and change along the way. Even with all the evil wizards, flying broomsticks, monsters, magic, and the like, there's something very real about these people. I hope in my books I've managed to even scratch the surface of giving that kind of feeling.

In case you're wondering, I'll do my archetype post on Thursday because I want to finish re-reading book 6 first. I'm trying to figure out some of the adult characters and I need a refresher, since they get more play as "real people" from Harry's point of view in the later books (he sees some of them differently once he gets to know them as almost peers than he did as their student, such as with Lupin) and we also learn more about the previous generation in their school years, which helps with the analysis.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter Week Starts

I'm starting to sort of recover from the RWA conference. There's a part of me that just wants to collapse for a few days, while there's also a part of me that has tons of great ideas I want to get to work on. This week I think I'm going to compromise and work part-time, with one major "work" task per day and then the rest of the day free. That free time will mostly involve re-reading Harry Potter books. This is going to be Harry Potter week here on the blog, and I think I have some fun stuff to discuss. No spoilers, and I won't even get into speculation on the next book because I'm trying not to think about it. She usually surprises me, and I like that, but I'm afraid if I analyze too much, then I won't be surprised. Maybe later in the year after everyone's had a chance to read the last book I'll go back and do some plot and character analysis of the whole series. In spite of the summer release dates, I tend to think of these as "winter" books that are good for reading on a cold, rainy day, sitting by a fire with a pot of tea, so I think I'll do one big re-read this winter, and then I can post lots of analysis.

A few related notes from the conference:
I was hauling around Goblet of Fire in my tote bag to read on the train and in the rare quiet moments. It was funny to see how many people on the train were reading Harry Potter books. It's rather appropriate to be reading these books on a train because you can pretend it's the Hogwarts Express. That is, if you've got an overactive imagination prone to flights of fancy. Not that I know anyone like that. :-)

If you're reading a Harry Potter book on a train and you've got a star-topped magic wand sticking out of your tote bag, you might get some funny looks from people who probably think you're taking this waaaaay too seriously. But really, the wand is just a prop I use to decorate my table at booksignings, and that was why I had it in the bag.

It can be rather surreal to watch the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before and after watching an episode of Doctor Who. He's evil! He's good! He's evil! And either way, he's rather manic and not entirely sane! It was especially surreal with this particular episode that was loaded with Harry Potter references.

I guess all that getting up early to catch trains rewired my brain because, as exhausted as I was, I was awake bright and early Sunday morning. I also had a massive allergy attack, and I was out of baby Benadryl (the adult dose is too much for me, but the smallest infant dose works fine without knocking me out too much). I was about to head to Target when I checked the newspaper and found that I could see Order of the Phoenix in digital/quasi 3-D at half-price if I went at ten in the morning. So, I figured I could run by the movie theater on the way to Target. :-)

That was my least favorite of all the books, but it may be my favorite of all the movies. It's not so much that I think there's a problem with the book, just that it happens to push some of my personal buttons. That's the book out of the whole series that gives me nightmares, and it's not the stuff about Voldemort or even the giant snake (and I have a serious snake phobia). I know a lot of people complained about CAPSLOCK!Harry in that book, but even that didn't bother me because I thought it was a rather well-done portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder and if Harry hadn't been acting strange after what happened, he wouldn't have been human. No, my issue is institutional unfairness. I've always had problems with the way Snape treats Harry and his friends because it's so blatantly unfair and nobody seems to do anything about it, but that's a tiny part of each book. In this one, though, almost the entire book is about that kind of unfairness, from the way the Ministry acts to Umbridge and the way she takes over the school, and it's very difficult for me to read. It crosses the line beyond the kind of tension and stress that are enjoyable to experience vicariously in books to being downright unpleasant to go through. There's still some stuff I love going on with the characters, but the main plot is incredibly frustrating to me.

I think the movie handled all the parts I hated in the book well by putting them in montage form instead of making us live every little detail, and the montages were actually quite humorous visually, so they became fun instead of frustrating. I'm re-reading that book now, and since I've got those visuals from the movie in my head, it's making it much more pleasant to read the book and it's made me like the book better.

I did notice as I left the theater that I'd put on a pink cardigan to ward off the theater chill and I was wearing pink tweed ballet flats, so I came dangerously close to dressing like Umbridge. Shudder. However, I was wearing jeans and I had my hair down and kind of wild in full-on Hermione bushy brown hair mode, so I think I'm okay.

In other news, today is apparently Tell an Author You Care day, and no, that's not a blatant appeal for attention. It's just a nice reminder about any author who's brought you joy. You can write a letter or e-mail to an author, post a good review at an online bookseller or book community, buy a copy of a book to give to a friend, or profile an author on your own blog. All that stuff really does make a difference. It not only makes the author feel good, but helping promote your favorite authors increases the chances that publishers will keep putting out more books by those authors for you to enjoy. Unless they're dead, of course, but then there are some authors out there who still manage to get new works published years after their deaths.

And, finally, feel free to use the comments to see if you can find other readers who'll be going to the same midnight book release party you're going to in case you want to meet up with someone else to discuss various fantasy-type books that night. I'll be at the party at Conestoga in Tulsa, so I won't actually be at a bookstore this year.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Archetypes and Owen

I've been doing conferency stuff the past couple of days but I took off early today, and it's good to be at home. Wednesday, my agent did a big spa party for her clients and her agent friends. I've never done the big pampering thing, so this was a real experience for me that's probably worthy of its own post. Then there was a big booksigning that night and a party, then there was conference stuff yesterday. I got more material for characterization geekery (using Myers-Briggs types!). By mid-day today, I was sort of overwhelmed and not too excited about any of the afternoon workshops, so I decided to just go home. Of course, right at the moment I decided that and checked the train schedule, I found that a train had just left and the next one wasn't for another hour and a half. I hung out for a while, chatting and reading. But now I'm home for the evening. I'm planning a night of Doctor Who and a pedicure so I can wear a cute dress tomorrow.

Now, back to more archetype stuff, this time about Owen. I still haven't found my notebook (I suspect I know where it is, but it's in a place I can't get to at the moment), but I don't need it to talk about how Owen came about, since there's very little about him in that notebook. Owen was kind of an accidental character who was largely shaped by the archetype I assigned to him.

One thing I do before I start writing a book is figure out what the cast will be. I may look at the functional archetypes as in the Joseph Campbell mythological structure, and that's a good starting point. Or I may just brainstorm the kind of people my main character will run into.

With Enchanted, Inc., I knew Katie would need co-workers at both her original job and her new, magical job. All along, I had the idea that one of her co-workers would be a guy that everyone else thought was gorgeous but that Katie didn't see as very good-looking. For one thing, it would illustrate the effect of her magical immunity if he was using a spell to make everyone else see him as gorgeous, but it would also be part of her feeling just a bit out of step with the rest of the world, like there's something she's just not getting. I thought that was a nice metaphor for the times when you notice everyone's ga-ga over someone you don't find that appealing. I'm not entirely sure if the line ended up in the book (these days, there's a big blur of all I've written, and it goes through so many changes that I keep forgetting what made it to the final version), but she compares it to all the swooning over George Clooney. That's actually the way I feel. I don't find him even remotely attractive. Then again, my huge celebrity crush is on the weekend anchorman, a guy who's really, objectively speaking, not pinup material, so what do I know?

It stood to reason that if there was going to be a guy everyone thought looked good except Katie, there also needed to be a truly good-looking guy around the office. Here's where my subconscious was smarter than I am, because I had the vague sense of him being someone who didn't get noticed a lot, in spite of him being so cute. But no, at first I had it in mind that the cute/ugly guy would fit the Best Friend archetype while the good-looking one would be the Charmer of the office. And then maybe Katie would become friends with the cute/ugly guy and learn to like him for his personality while everyone else thinks she totally snagged a hottie, while the one who was really good-looking was really not that great inside. But then I realized that was totally boring. It's what you expect to have happen. The not-so-great-looking guy is always the Best Friend, while the too-good-looking-to-be-true guy always has to turn out to be a Charmer and a bit of a jerk.

And then I remembered that vague sense that the cute one would be the one who wasn't noticed a lot, and I had the burst of inspiration of flipping the archetypes. What if the one who wore an illusion to make him look handsome was the Charmer? Wearing a handsome illusion was certainly something a Charmer would do. And then what if the really good-looking guy was the Best Friend, the one who was the good, old reliable buddy who got stuck in the friend zone, in spite of his incredible looks?

There was a big mental click, and Owen was born. The Best Friend is a team player and good in a crisis, so he seemed like someone who'd be good to have in a crucial role at a magical company. He's also not particularly ambitious, which I thought would make for some interesting conflict if I made him extremely powerful. What happens if the most powerful wizard in the world isn't at all interested in ruling the world or really using his power, but rather just wants to be left alone to do the work he enjoys doing? That means there's also conflict if a problem arises because he's loyal enough to rise to the occasion if the company needs him, even if he really would rather not be a part of a major magical power struggle.

I knew then that a super-powerful, extremely good-looking wizard wouldn't be so easily overlooked, and he was a bit too-good-to-be-true, so I needed to give him a major flaw. Since I'd already decided that he would be dark-haired, fair-skinned and blue-eyed (I have a type, I'll admit it, and I've had that type since my huge crush on Speed Racer when I was in kindergarten), I thought it would be interesting to make him painfully shy so that he blushes furiously at the slightest thing. That increases the Best Friend vibes because he'd be the kind of guy who was totally comfortable being a friend but who'd tend to panic and freak out if it turned into anything else. It also made it more of a challenge for him to step up and take the leadership role that was required of him at work. And it added some comic relief, in a way taking this superhero-like guy down a peg and making him very human.

He still wasn't supposed to end up as essentially the hero of the series and the main romantic interest. He was just one of the cast. And then I started writing, and by the time I got to the scene where Rod and Owen meet with Katie to recruit her, I pretty much knew it was over. All my grand plans of having a variety of love interests so that fans might have massive Internet debates about who she should end up with were totally shot. There was no doubt that this was the guy who was going to take the lead. He pretty much took on a life of his own.

My friend Rosa, who was reading each chapter as I wrote it, then asked me why he was that shy. During a sleepless night, the whole backstory then came to me, and Owen became even more of a dominant force. You sort of see part of it in Damsel Under Stress when we go home with him for the holidays, but the rest of it is the main plot for the book five the publisher didn't want. Because I am stubborn and optimistic, I don't want to spill that yet because I hold out hope that I will get to write it someday. But if you need motivation to really get the word out about this series to increase sales, get booksellers excited about it, and then get the publisher back on board, there you go. The story about Owen's past will be revealed in that book (to Owen as well as to the readers), and the book is basically about Owen, even if Katie's telling the story. However, me knowing that stuff has colored all of the books even if the story never comes out.

There may seem to be Professor-like traits in Owen, what with his love of books, his skill at research and his tendency to go off on a tangent when someone asks him to explain something, but that's not what drives him. He's not out to solve puzzles or get the right answer. Books are just something he enjoys and part of his job. It's what he feels he has to contribute to the greater good. He's a little uncomfortable with his power (though getting bolder with that through the series), so he'd rather dedicate his research and translation abilities to the cause. He may at times also look like a bit of a Lost Soul, since he's orphaned and doesn't know anything about his past, but he doesn't react to that in a Lost Soul way. He's never been too curious about his past, and he's content the way things are. He certainly doesn't keep himself apart deliberately out of a lack of trust or cling desperately to the sense of home he's found.

In case you can't tell, I LOOOOVE this guy. A part of me worries that I'll never create another character who captures people's imaginations so well, but hey, if I did it once, lightning could strike again. Right?

Next week is Harry Potter week, and I'll be addressing some of the archetypes used in those books (I feel very validated in my assertion about how Harry is classified after seeing the HBO "making of" special about the movie, and all the main actors, including the one who plays Harry, as well as the film's director said things about Harry that totally underline the Lost Soul archetype). I'll also have some fun with my own introduction to that universe and how it inspired my own work. Plus, some fun things you may be able to use to hook new readers through all the Harry Potter activities.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Julie Kenner

I forgot to mention that I'm actually making headway on my e-mail. I've managed to deal with more than 500 e-mails (answering, deleting or filing), and now the list that shows up in my in-box window goes back more than a month, rather than just a few days. I still have a lot of mail to answer, so if you haven't received a response from me, you will. Eventually. And then I swear I'm not going to let it get so out-of-control again.

Before I head off to the conference, I've got a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit post about the latest book by Julie Kenner. If you're in the Dallas area and want to meet Julie (and me), there's a huge booksigning with something like 400 authors that will be taking place Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Kate Connor is the busiest – and most dangerous – mommy on the block! Having traded in her professional life for the rewarding (yet arguably less glamorous) duties of a stay-at-home mom, Kate – Wal-Mart shopper, loving wife – has recently rejoined the workforce. Reconciling her home obligations with the demanding needs of her job has proven tricky, however. Kate seems to have not one but two full-time jobs, and there’s no telling which takes more work: being a Level Four Demon Hunter or a Stay-At-Home Mom!

DEMONS ARE FOREVER: Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, by Julie Kenner, is the third installment in the devilishly funny Demon series. These days, Kate Conner has a lot on her plate. Her daughter has figured out what she’s been up to, and wants to grow up to be just like her mom. Kate also has a sneaking suspicion that her dead husband is using the forces of darkness to filch the body of another human being. And her living husband isn’t exactly acting like the man she married either.

Moreover, Kate’s acquired a precious but deadly item that every demon within commuting distance wants. With husband woes wrecking havoc on her emotions, and an ambitious teenage protégée at her heels, this stay-at-home mom is putting in a lot of overtime.

If you aren't able to make it to the signing, you can buy the book from Amazon. For more info on Julie and her books, visit her web site.

Oh, and if you're going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, standing in line at the movie theater is a good time to talk about your second-favorite magical series of books and maybe lure in some new readers. Hint, hint. :-)

Building Characters With Archetypes

You know that pair of shoes I organized my closet looking for? They were, um, in a cubby in my hanging shoe shelf thingy. Because they're sandals and don't take up much space, they were sharing a slot with a pair of black flats, and the black flats were hiding them. See, this is why I don't clean, organize and put things away. When I do, I can't find anything. Now that I have those shoes, I can wear the dress I'd planned, but now I'm not sure about it. It's a great dress and one that doesn't travel well, so this is the ideal conference for it, but it doesn't go with my tote bag. I can change purses to one that won't look quite so hideous with it (it's a floral pastel dress, and most of my purses are black), but all my business-like tote bags for hauling around things like my notepad, the stuffed frogs for booksignings, my stash of bookmarks, comfortable flat shoes for commuting, etc., are black. I shall have to think about this.

I have really fun news to report: the first two books of my series were such a hit in the Dutch language edition that I've earned out my advance and actually got a nice-sized royalty check! That's better than things are going in the US, relatively speaking. Yay to my readers in the Netherlands and Belgium, and many thanks. Now I can pay for last month's car repairs. This does, however, raise a challenge for the Americans and Canadians. You aren't going to let two tiny countries like that make you look bad, are you? The way things are going in those countries, they might be willing to publish book 5 even if a US publisher doesn't take it. So I guess you English speakers will either need to learn to read Dutch or up the word-of-mouth. (Gee, I sound like I'm holding hostages here, but I'm not the one holding things hostage. I'm just the one frantically trying to collect the ransom.)

Speaking of the Dutch, is anyone else watching Simon Schama's Power of Art on PBS? Last night he did an episode about Rembrandt, and it made me want to go back to Amsterdam. I'm not a big art person. I've been to some of the great museums in the world, and after about twenty minutes of "ooh, pretty pictures" I find myself getting incredibly sleepy and then claustrophobic, and I have to escape (I'm fine in non-art museums, like with historic artifacts and stuff like that). But this series is really making the art come to life, and he keeps pointing out tiny details I never would have noticed. One of the paintings discussed a few weeks ago is in Fort Worth, and though I've seen it, I haven't really seen it, so now I think I need to plan a museum excursion to Fort Worth to look at it again with what I now know. I think studying or learning about any other kind of art can only help with my own art. I know the music class helped me find ways to dredge up emotion. Maybe I should try studying painting or art appreciation to learn about visual detail.

And that brings us back to writing. Today I'm going to talk about how to build a character using archetypes. Since I've been discussing archetypes, I've been focused on just that aspect of characterization, which can make it sound like that's all there is to it, but it's really just a starting point. An important disclaimer goes here: this is what works for me. It is not the absolute, only way to do this. Other people have a lot of success doing things a different way (and I'm not that wildly successful, so you may or may not want to do things the way I do).

First, a little background. I wrote my first five books on pure instinct. I didn't do much outright character development. I just knew my characters somehow. I don't think those books are brilliant, by any means, though they did get published, which counts for something (then again, I'm sure we could all name a published clunker or twenty). Then I hit my long dry spell, when I couldn't give a book away. In a panic, I tended to throw together proposals, just to have something out there, and those were, quite rightfully, rejected because of flat characters. I felt like I'd lost my touch, so I started consciously working on character development. I tried filling out all those character worksheets where you decide what the character's favorite color and favorite food is, what's in their refrigerator, etc., and doing the character interviews where you find out what the character's childhood was like, their first love, their favorite class in school and all that. But that still didn't work for me. For one thing, I felt like I couldn't answer those questions until I knew more about the character from the inside, and if I did fill out those forms without knowing the character, my answers were totally arbitrary, with no unifying thread to tie it all together into a cohesive character. The characters I developed this way felt like hollow shells of traits with no soul. Yeah, I knew what was in their refrigerator and how their house was decorated, even who their third-grade best friend was, but I still didn't feel like I knew them.

My first breakthrough came when I was talking with Connie Willis at a writing conference. After I got over the fangirling and stopped shaking so I could actually talk to her as a human being, we got into a discussion about character development. I talked about how I felt like I knew her characters so well, and how I recognized them from people I knew. She then said that she thought all those character worksheets were a waste of time. Why does it matter what's in the character's refrigerator? The only thing that matters is what's needed in the book. You know who the character is because of the way he reacts to the events in the story and the choices he makes along the way. That was when I realized that although I fell madly in love with Ned, the main character/narrator in To Say Nothing of the Dog, I knew very little of those character worksheet details about him. There's not even a physical description of him given in the book, other than the detail about the crooked mustache, since the cream they used to grow him a fast mustache so he could blend into the Victorian era was put on quickly and sloppily.

So, that was aha! moment number one. Meanwhile, I had the archetypes book and was playing with it to analyze characters on TV series. On the Angel Usenet group, I did a whole series of posts analyzing those characters. I just hadn't figured out how to apply that to my own work. Part of the problem was that I was working with existing characters I'd already developed and trying to retrofit archetypes onto them, which didn't really work. The first totally new thing I started working on was the book that became Enchanted, Inc.

This would be easier if I could find the notebook with my initial character notes in it, but I've torn my office apart looking for it and can't find it. It's even labeled, and I know I had it out earlier this year. Yes, I did look first in the place it's supposed to be, and I know it didn't get thrown out since I never throw out a spiral notebook (ask Mom). I'm sure sometime next week it will turn up exactly where it's supposed to be, in a place I've searched dozens of times. Sometimes I suspect I've got a mischievous Brownie living with me. Anyway, I'll have to do this more or less from memory.

When I got to the point of casting the book, I just knew that the concept was "Bridget Jones Meets Harry Potter" and that it would essentially be a chick-lit book with magic in it. I'd already figured out the stuff about magical immunity, and I knew the story would involve my main character being this normal person immune to magic who gets recruited by the big magical corporation. I also had decided that she would be from a small town, and since I'm from Texas, I went with that, since that was my perspective on New York. The story more or less dictated that the heroine would fit the Spunky Kid archetype. She'd be a bit of an underdog as a small-town girl relatively new to the big city and totally new to the magical world, but because she would be the one needing to help solve the magical world's problems, she'd need a lot of gumption. She was very much the girl next door. She'd have a slightly sarcastic sense of humor and would be the kind of girl everyone saw as a kind of kid sister. Sometimes she might lack self-confidence, but she'd also be the one to cheer everyone else on. That's all in the archetype.

Then I was able to start adding on details specific to the character using that archetype as a core. Everything I added needed to be consistent with that archetype, though not necessarily stereotypical. I needed to figure out what her internal and external story goals were. There's a great book on this subject called Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon that explains how that works in a story, but what I use to determine those goals, what I really like is going to sound strange. I use Dr. Phil. Self-help books may be too simplistic to really work with real people, but they're perfect for developing characters (see yesterday's post about real people vs. fictional characters). In his Life Strategies book, he's got all these charts and worksheets for figuring out where you are in life, what you want, and how to go about getting it. He's got a great worksheet on figuring out what you really want by working through why you want what you think you want -- usually what you want isn't so much that thing, but rather the feeling the thing gives you or even the feeling you get from doing what it takes to get that thing. This is perfect for starting with a character's external goal and working through to find an internal goal.

So, Katie's external goal was that she wanted to be some kind of success in New York so she wouldn't have to admit to failure and go back home. Her internal goal was that she wanted to be special in some way, unique enough to be valuable and not blend into the crowd. So far, this isn't exactly groundbreaking characterization. That's your standard set-up for just about every girl-in-the-city story -- spunky kid archetype, wants to make something of herself. But since I was also throwing in the twist about her being immune to magic and working with magical people, I figured I could get away with it -- in fact, I might even need her to be kind of typical to make it work. If I'd been writing the standard chick lit novel, she'd have been a boring heroine because she'd have been the typical chick lit character reacting to typical chick lit things. But throwing her into this wacky situation, I needed her to be that ordinary and typical in order to get a strong reaction from her. Put a more extraordinary character in that situation and there's no contrast or conflict. I think part of what makes this book work is the fact that she's kind of an everywoman, she's a type everyone instantly recognizes from all those other girl-in-the-city books, so people have a sense of what to expect from her, yet then there's also the fun of seeing this familiar character type in such an unfamiliar setting, since this is NOT a typical fantasy heroine, by any means. Throwing her into a fantasy environment takes her out of her comfort zone and puts her into conflict with her environment.

Then I worked through some of those other charts about where she stood with her friends, romantically, financially, spiritually, etc. To keep with the Spunky Kid theme, I had her be kind of struggling financially, living with several roommates as a way of cutting expenses (again, since everything else in the book was going to have magic, that aspect of her life needed to be realistic and grounded -- she couldn't be living in that fabulous New York sitcom apartment that in real life would be worth a few million dollars). That led to the idea that she would be practical and frugal, but also showed she was a good enough friend that she'd held onto her college friendships and followed her friends across the country. I knew then that she'd be a younger sister (looking at birth order stuff), but I don't think I gave her three older brothers until later (as a hint, you meet the brothers in book 4). Growing up in the country and having worked in a small business meant she had a lot of practical skills. On one level, she had a lot of confidence from having grown up surrounded by a big, loving family and knowing how to take care of herself, but her relationship background was a lot rockier, so she wasn't too confident there. With three overprotective big brothers, boys in school would have been reluctant to date her, and she'd have fallen into the "like a sister" trap. She also would have felt a bit out of it in the freewheeling New York dating scene because of her more traditional values. That was the aspect of her life where she had the greatest weakness and lack of confidence (which means that the end of book three was actually kind of a personal triumph for her because she was able to get past her insecurity in that area and not cling. I know a lot of people were upset by what happened -- vaguing it up here to avoid bad spoilers -- but I was rather proud of her, and her willingness to do that means she'll be more deserving of whatever comes her way in the future, plus on a more equal footing rather than feeling constantly like she isn't really worthy of that relationship).

So you can kind of see how the archetype is in there, and how it, plus the character background, plus the situation all dictate who she is as a person, and from there you can already get a sense of how she'll react to situations. In fact, just knowing that much about the character dictated some of the plot the way it shaped up because it was about throwing her into situations that would bring out these aspects of her character -- like the crucial point of getting the help they needed to deal with the situation involved her going on a date, and dating was her biggest weakness and the one area where she really lacked confidence. Those of you who've read Damsel Under Stress can also probably see why it had to end the way it did, based on that initial external goal -- she had to face that fear to be able to move past it. If there's one thing your character really does not want to do and dreads doing, you have to find a way to make her choose to do it. There's no way past it if you want your character to reach her full potential.

This is a character whose archetype was largely determined by the story I wanted to tell. Next I'll deal with a character who was brought to life just with the choice of an archetype. Yep, it's the Owen post! That will probably be posted on Thursday night or Friday night, depending on when I get home. Yes, I know, I'm a terrible tease.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Archetypes and Character Complexity

I think my no-work-on-Sunday policy is really paying off for me. I spent yesterday doing a bit of housework and then reading -- including some patio time since our daily deluge came around noon and left the afternoon reasonably comfortable -- and now I'm actually ready to work today. I also picked out my outfits for this week's RWA conference, which was a challenge. I didn't realize how bad I've been, but even after exercising daily for the last couple of weeks, a skirt I wore in April barely fit me. I guess the brownie binge when I got the bad book news didn't help, along with all my road trip munchies for the travel I've done in the last couple of months. Then there was a dress that worked, but I can't for the life of me find the only shoes I have that go with it. I even ended up clearing out the floor of my closet and organizing my shoes, throwing away the ones that are just unwearable now. I finally did find enough outfits that work and that fit.

I'll be continuing the archetype discussion this week, with one break for something previously scheduled. My posting may be sporadic, though. I probably won't be going to conference evening events except on Wednesday night, so I'll try to post when I get home in the evening. I don't know how much interest there is in reports of conference happenings, and I'm usually pretty far out of the loop, so unless there's a huge uprising and clamor for conference news, I'll just report anything I think might be of general interest.

Now back to archetypes. Based on some questions in comments, I think I need to clarify a few things. I'm not very good at explaining things I understand instinctively (which is why I'm not a teacher), so let's see if I can make things clearer. One of the big points of confusion is how this works with complex characters, so today's topic is archetypes and character complexity.

First of all, characters are not real people. This kind of classification system only works on fictional characters. It doesn't really apply to real people. Yeah, you may notice some traits or even patterns of traits in real people, but it's nearly impossible to truly classify a real person according to archetype because real people are more complex than fictional characters. The deepest, most complex character ever written is still not nearly as deep as the most shallow, simple person who ever lived. This is mostly out of sheer practicality since we don't have a lot of time with fictional people in which to not only understand who they are as people and also tell a story. Think of it this way: If you have the standard 40-hours-a-week full-time job, you spend about as much time with your co-workers in one month as you do with the characters of a television series that runs for eight years -- in the entire run of the series. When you start a new job, how well do you feel you know your co-workers after one month? You probably feel like you know those TV characters much better after eight seasons, and that's because they're easier to understand. With your average movie, you spend two hours with those people, up to six or more if it's a series. In books, you may spend six to twelve hours or so with them, depending on the book and your reading speed. Things have to be simplified in order for you to understand them well enough to care about them and make sense of their actions in that short a time of acquaintance.

Then there's the issue of creating the characters. The writer spends a lot more time with the characters than the audience does, since there's all the planning, and then the writing time, and there's probably a lot more the author knows about the character that doesn't go on the page -- backstory that's relevant to the author for building the character but that doesn't matter for the plot (or, in my case, because the publisher doesn't want to publish the book where that information becomes directly relevant). But even then, it's probably a few hundred hours spent creating the character. To grow a real person, it takes years, minute-by-minute, every little experience in life building, nudging, changing. The most complex and detailed character backstory still only hits the high points of a life, while a real life hits every single moment along the way.

Finally, there's the fact that fiction is expected to make more sense than real life (well, commercial or genre fiction -- some literary fiction is all about being meaningless). Human beings are wired to look for meaning and patterns even in things without meaning. We want things to make sense, and that's one of the impulses that even led to the creation of storytelling in the first place, to make sense of the universe and give everything meaning. We expect fictional characters to make more sense than real people do. We expect to be able to understand exactly what makes them tick. In fiction, even psycho serial killers have to make sense -- we want to understand exactly how and why they became killers and how and why they choose their victims. In real life, the pattern usually only makes sense in the internal reality of the killer, and while some killers do come from troubled backgrounds, just as many come from very ordinary upbringings. The only explanation is mixed-up chemicals in the brain, and that explanation isn't good enough for fiction.

And that's where archetypes can be so powerful. Because we are a species of storytellers and story consumers, we've absorbed enough stories to recognize the common types, and that makes archetypes a sort of shorthand. If the archetype is strong and comes through in the story, then the audience automatically has a kind of understanding of who the character is. That then frees the author up to devote that precious time the audience has with the character to adding on things to make the character more complex. If you're a clever writer, it also allows you to build in some surprises by going against audience expectations about types, but then even that surprise will still make sense because using the archetype means it's still consistent to the character. The archetype serves as a sort of framework, a spine, a core. I like to think of that inner drive as the soul of the character.

Because of this, you don't make a character more complex by adding on multiple archetypes. That just gives you an unfocused character who's difficult for the audience to understand and relate to. You can layer two archetypes, but that's a very advanced skill and the subject of an entirely different post (I haven't even tried it, but I do have a good example of it working well from someone else's work). Most of the time, though, saying your character fits two archetypes is a sign that you haven't really figured out who your character is. The character may still do the same things, whichever archetype you decide to go with. What changes is why the character is doing them, what drives the character in the decisions he/she makes, and there you're usually going to have a more compelling, relatable character that the audience can latch onto if you pick one archetype and really work with it.

The thing to remember is that the archetype only determines WHY a character does something, not WHAT they do. Any type may do anything, or may exhibit traits of any other type under certain circumstances. And there are some things that are just part of being human. For instance, humans in general love their families, whether they're birth families or created families. Regardless of archetype, they're going to show caring and nurturing to the people they love. That doesn't mean they're necessarily a Nurturer archetype.

I can think of a couple of examples of very non-Nurturing archetypes who are still big brothers who show nurturing toward their younger brothers. There's Dean Winchester on Supernatural, who is a Swashbuckler. He's driven by a desire for action. This character type doesn't take well to sitting still or to responsibility. But circumstances have forced him into a role of being responsible for his little younger brother. He's practically been a surrogate parent since he was four years old, and he'd move heaven and hell (sometimes literally) for his brother. We saw in flashbacks that this was a role he struggled with as a kid. It forced him to go against type, but because he loves his brother, he did it and it's become part of who he is. But he's still not a Nurturer. Aside from his brother, he doesn't take to this naturally. In spite of his experience with his own brother, he's not particularly good with other people's kids. I'm sure he's changed a few diapers in his time, but can you imagine him jumping in to do that with someone they run into on the road? Another non-Nurturer big brother is Nathan Petrelli on Heroes, who is very much a Chief. He's driven and ambitious, and he gets very annoyed when his little brother gets wacky notions about flying that might harm his election campaign. But when his brother is in trouble, he rushes right there, and when his brother is hospitalized, he stays by his side. He puts himself on the line for his brother. But he never really stops being a Chief, even while kissing his unconscious brother on the forehead and smoothing his hair back in a gentle way.

It's actually a good idea to put your characters in situations where they're forced to act against their archetypes because that means you're avoiding stereotyping. As long as you remember what their core drive is, you can keep them consistent. It seems obvious to make the Chief a CEO, but that's kind of a stereotype. You have a more interesting story if your Chief archetype is slaving away in the mailroom. Then you have conflict because that's not where he wants to be, and every fiber of his being wants to be in charge. But that really only makes sense if your character is right out of school -- or didn't go to school -- and this is the only job he can get. A Chief isn't going to be content spending his whole career in the mailroom. He's going to be ambitious enough to work his way out. He may do that by being charming to the people on the executive floor he delivers mail to (but without becoming a Charmer), he may be a loyal friend to the other workers in the trenches so they'll support him in his rise to the top (but that doesn't make him a Best Friend). He might occasionally be reckless and take risks he thinks will move him up a notch (but that doesn't mean he's now a Swashbuckler). He may spend his off hours doing intense research on the company, its people and its industry (but that doesn't mean he's become a Professor). He may even rebel against the current authority if he thinks he can do a better job (though that doesn't mean he's a Bad Boy). He's still a Chief because he's doing all of these things in support of his drive to move up in the world.

Another example of the WHAT vs. the WHY may be in the Best Friend vs. Charmer. Both of them may do exactly the same things, but their inner drive is what determines who they are. A Best Friend can be very charming because he's a good listener, he often knows just what to say to make someone feel better, and he'll step in to help out when someone needs it. That could totally sweep a woman off her feet because it gets past her guard. And a Charmer is well aware of that, so he, too, can do all these things. The difference is that the Best Friend is just acting on his natural instincts with no hidden agenda, while the Charmer is deliberately doing this in a calculated way to get what he wants. The question came up in MySpace comments whether Dr. Wilson on House also had some Charmer in him. I don't think so. I think he's purely a Best Friend who can be charming. Based on what we've seen of him in relationships and what his ex-wife said, it seems like he manages to sweep all these women off their feet without even trying, just by being a supportive friend when they need one, and then it ends up turning into a romantic or sexual relationship because he doesn't really have the strength (or desire) to deflect it when she reads his actions the wrong way. He's not setting out to seduce women. He's just being a nice guy, and then they fall for him, and he doesn't say no. His main problem is that he seems drawn to weakness and neediness, so the women he befriends are more likely to be needy enough to read his intentions the wrong way. That's what makes him an interesting character, that his Best Friend impulses aren't entirely benign.

How do you tell whether or not a character's actions reflect archetype? Here are some questions to consider:
Is the action a pattern, or is it situational?
What are the circumstances behind the action? (people, place, situation)
Was the action a natural impulse, or was it planned and calculated?
Was the character comfortable in the action?
Why did he/she do it?

So, a character who is only nurturing toward family members is probably not a Nurturer. Even the toughest Bad Boy may comfort someone in an extreme situation, but it might not be entirely comfortable for him (the movie cliche of the weeping woman throwing herself on the tough guy to cry her eyes out while he stands there, frozen until he manages to awkwardly pat her on the back). You get the idea.

The character also isn't necessarily defined by backstory, either. You can end up with any type given the same backstory. Not all orphaned kids end up being Lost Souls, for instance. It all depends on how the character reacts to the event. You do get a Lost Soul if being orphaned means the kid ends up feeling alone and unloved in a cold, uncaring world where he feels like the only person he can truly count on is himself. But you could get a Chief who's determined never to let anyone have any control over his life again. Or a Professor who's driven to solve the mystery of their deaths. Or a Bad Boy who resents his parents for abandoning him and therefore doesn't take authority from anyone. Or a Warrior who's out to avenge their deaths by taking on whatever killed them (by becoming Batman, by becoming a cancer researcher, by becoming an anti-drunk-driving activist). Or he could become a Best Friend who provides love and support to all the other kids in the foster home and creates his own family. Again, you get the idea.

To make it clear how you can use archetypes to create characters, I'll talk about that the rest of this week, using examples from how I developed the cast of Enchanted, Inc. If you're just here for the writing discussion and haven't read my books yet, that means there will be spoilers.