Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Formidable Characters

I think I've more or less recovered from travel, and I may have kind of started working out what needs to happen in the rest of the book. It's a huge shift from what I had planned, which means I have to totally rethink it, and I need to come up with details and specifics. The fact that this is pretty hard is a good sign that I'm on the right track because it means I can't just handwave my way past it, and it means I'm really pushing the characters to the limit.

One of my current challenges is that I've spent much of this book talking about how formidable this character is, and now I have to show it, full on, all out. But she's not really that physically formidable. It's more a combination of intelligence, creativity, ruthlessness when it's necessary, stubbornness, and the kind of charisma that makes people want to do what she says. She's like a combination of the Doctor from Doctor Who and Susan and Carrot from the Discworld novels. With the Doctor, just the mention of his name sends alien fleets fleeing in terror, but we generally don't see him doing anything all that bad. He mostly just uses their own weaknesses and evil against them. Susan has this way of rearranging the world around her while being totally blunt, straightforward and honest. Carrot could rule the city but doesn't unless he needs to, and he does it by being nice and likable while also being so honest and straightforward that he ends up thinking rings around his more crooked foes -- he's scary because he's a good man who'll just flat-out kill the bad guy instead of toying with him or making speeches. That's the kind of thing I need to capture in this character, and to be honest, I'm not sure I'm pulling it off. I'm really going to have to think and work to come up with what she would do in this situation, and then I probably ought to stay away from people for a while because I have a bad habit of channeling characters when I dig into them like this, and I'm not sure the world needs to deal with me when I'm channeling this character.

Oops, I have a homeowners' association meeting this week. Maybe I should warn my neighbors. I don't have a lot of tolerance for the kind of petty stupidity that tends to arise at these meetings, so it could get ugly if I'm in "send the alien hordes fleeing in terror at the sound of my name" mode.

I wonder if this counts as an excuse to watch Doctor Who and read Terry Pratchett and call it work-related research. Speaking of Doctor Who, the new Doctor has finally made his legal appearance on these shores, and I have to say that I approve. There's something about this guy that I really like, though I'm not sure what, precisely. He does seem a little less angsty, and even though the actor is a mere infant, he manages to pull off the impression of great age mixed with that childlike enthusiasm. And, yeah, they've cast my physical "type" (dark hair, fair skin, blue eyes -- it's a weakness).

Back to the book: One thing you really don't want to have happen is to read a description of a recently released book when you're just about finished with writing a book, and the description is almost a perfect match for the book you're writing. Argh. Though in this case, the book is YA and mine isn't, and I suspect that the story will play out very differently, but still, you could change a few words in the back-cover copy on this book and it would work in a generic way for my book. I now have it on hold at the library so I can make sure mine is different enough. On the bright side, maybe this means there's a trend brewing.

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