Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Character Archetypes: An Introduction

So, Squiders, over the next month we’re going to be looking at a series of the most common character archetypes.

What’s an archetype? An archetype is generally defined as something–a character, theme, or situation, for example–that can be considered “universal.”

Archetypes are somewhat controversial. Some people claim that they’re essential, and the everything can be broken down in a basic number of archetypes (though the number of “basic” archetypes seems to vary from expert to expert). Other people claim that archetypes lack depth, lack complexity, and if you use archetypes in your writing, you’re missing the nuances of real life and human behavior.

Archetypes are common throughout different forms of media (though some may be confined to a certain culture) and are often reoccurring across genre and time period. They’re often the basis of theories like universal consciousness and phrases like, “There’s only eight types of plots.”

I’ve picked 10 of the most common from various lists. We’ll look at two a week, examining what the definition of the archetype is, and also exploring characters that fall into said archetype.

Should be fun! I hope you’ll all come along with me.

But before we get started, what are your feelings on archetypes? Are they something you ever think about, or are characters just characters? Do you feel they are universal or overarcing?

Happy October! (Updates and Misc + Sale)

First of all, Squiders, if you haven’t taken advantage of the Turtleduck Press sale (also featuring my Shards and Hidden Worlds and several anthologies I have stories in, including our newest, Under Her Protection) you have a few hours before the prices go back up! GO GO GO

Happy October! My favorite of months, which I have probably mentioned before, not just because it has both my birthday and Halloween in it. It’s fall and sweaters and cocoa and the promise of holidays and family in the near future. It’s brilliant trees and warm winds. It’s cookies and spices and blankets.

Anyway! What have I been up to lately?

  • I have a secret project I’m working on that shall go live on my birthday (which is October 12) which is both exciting and kind of scary.
  • I’m finally getting deep into the secrets of my serial story, which is exciting. It turns out, when you tell a story month by month, that it takes a long time to complete. My serial story will have been going for five years come January.
  • Editing on my paranormal YA novel continues, though at a slower pace than I would like. I’m about 50K in, but it’s looking like it will be 85-90K in the end. Ideally it will get done before November. Not sure what to do if it doesn’t, as I’m not sure trying to write a novel and edit one at the same time will go well at all.
  • I’ve been exploring story structures. This is something that I think many people pick up through trial and error and work through instinctively, and I feel like it will be in my best interest to have more conscious control process for it.
  • I’ve decided to do the first book of my scifi series for Nano, which shall be exciting. I’ve got the worldbuilding mostly done, but I need to do character work (ethnicies, last names, basic personalities), plot work, and decide on structure. I’m unsure how many point of views will be ideal as of yet, and unsure as to who to use. There will be eight “main” crewmembers, which is too much for a single novel. Best to do a single viewpoint per novel, or a few? Questions to be answered. I’m hoping that, as I expand the plot, it will become obvious who and how many to use.
  • There is a constant stream of short stories being written, edited, and submitted. It’s kind of hard to keep track of them all.

Anyway, I drew you guys a landsquid but then realized that I was at a coffee shop with no scanner, so you shall have to come back on Thursday for that particular brand of madness.

How’s October looking for you, Squiders? Anything fun happening on your ends?

(And seriously–sale! Almost over! Go!)

Reinventing Beloved Characters

There are beloved characters in our culture, characters that everyone knows about, even if they haven’t seen or read the originating material. And they get used in phrases or idioms, or you can use them for comparison or descriptions, and everyone knows what you mean.

Beloved characters seem to fall into two categories:
1) Characters who are sacred
2) Characters who are reinvented over and over

And it seems, as time goes on, that they all tend to eventually fall into category 2. The longer a character exists, the longer they’re popular, the more likely they are to be re-used, re-invented, re-imagined, until eventually there’s hundreds of versions and yet they all seem to somehow be the same person.

Doctor Who may be the most obvious version of this–as the Doctor is literally re-invented every few years, taken on by a new actor, written and played slightly different. But it’s every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, King Arthur. Every time someone retells Oz a little differently. Every time someone takes a fairy tale and spins a new thread through.

And it can be seen in newer characters as well. Admittedly what made me think of this is that the small, mobile one and I rented some of the newest Scooby Doo series from the library. Now, Scooby and the gang are pretty old for cartoons, but in the great cultural timeline, they’re pretty new.

And how many versions of Scooby Doo has there been? There’s been different animated series on since it premiered in the ’60s. There’s live-action versions, puppet version, and the prerequisite version where everyone is kids. And the characters get tweaked. Shaggy’s intelligence level (I think he’s slowly gotten more useful as time has gone on), whether Fred and Daphne are dating, Velma’s level of nerdiness, Daphne’s level of stuck-upness, Fred’s level of stupid-jockness. Some combinations work better than others.

(I am not a fan of Velma in this newest series, which is lame because normally Velma is awesome.)

But through it all, the essence of the characters remain the same. Daphne is Daphne is Daphne. Shaggy will be eternally hungry. Velma will say “Jinkies!”

And that’s what’s important in a reinvention. Each character has something that makes them them, and as long as you retain that, you can move that character through time periods, alternate realities, and genres. Robert Downey Jr., Basil Rathbone, and Benedict Cumberbatch are all wildly different Sherlock Holmes, but, at the same time, there is something about them that is Sherlock.

And, as long as that essence can be retained, I say go for it. These characters resonate through our culture for a reason, after all.

What do you think, Squiders? Are you a purist, or do you like it when characters get a new story, a new plot? What are you favorites?

(Also, what is your favorite version of Scooby Doo?)

Converting Dreams to Stories

Last night, I had a nightmare. It was kind of a strange half-asleep, half-awake one, where there was this malicious entity staring at my husband and me while we slept from the shelves in our bedroom, and I tried to scream and couldn’t…

We don’t actually have shelves in our bedroom. Thanks, subconscious mind, now I kind of want some.

When I don’t wake up from a nightmare – or any dream, actually, where I’ve become aware of being in a dream, my brain tries to make it into a story. It will add additional characters, try out some sort of arc, and, while I am dreaming, it will seem like a great story, and I will wake up thrilled.

The problem comes when I start to try and organize it to write it down.

There’s some sort of logic disconnect between your subconscious and conscious mind, and what seems complete while asleep will become insubstantial when you try to pin it down. Details slip through your fingers, and you find more holes and missing details than you thought you would, and the whole process is very disconcerting, because you  felt like you had a complete, engaging story and it turns out that you only have a few vague impressions.

And if you do manage to get a full story out of it in the end, a lot of times it doesn’t resemble the dream story at all. I, at least, have trouble matching the feeling of a fleshed out, sense-making story to the etherealness of the dream.

Squiders, how about you? Does your brain make lovely stories for you that fall apart upon waking? Do you find it easy or hard to convert them into a real story?

Naming Your Characters Names You Wouldn’t Name Your Children

Is there such a thing as too many barbeques? I think there must be. I am barbequed out.

Character naming is an interesting part of story creation. I know a lot of people who can’t write until they find the right name for a character, or the character’s name leads directly to their personality, and changing the name changes the character, often with disastrous (or, sometimes, fantastic, if your story was stuck) consequences.

With names being so important, it’s somewhat interesting to compare naming characters with naming children. Characters, even those we like, often get stuck with a name we’d never burden a child with. As a random example, I have a character named Raphael, but I’d never name a child that. It’s pretty much one of those “guaranteed to get you beat up on the playground” names. (Though, admittedly, with some of the boy names that are popular at the moment, it may not even rate on a bully’s radar.)

Kit, I can hear you saying, isn’t this kind of obvious? You do lots of other terrible things to your characters, so why not give them a bad name while you’re at it? It’s not worse than giving his girlfriend cancer and having him discover he has a ten-year old son he’s never heard of who has been kidnapped by an evil dragon who is threatening to eat him if he doesn’t destroy the heart of magic.

(Hm, I think I got my genres confused.)

While that is true, I would almost argue that you can get away with naming a character something you wouldn’t name a child BECAUSE they’re going to face worse things. Sure, you may be writing contemporary YA or MG where a character’s name is a plot point, but for the most part, a character’s name isn’t going to affect their world.

With a child, you have to worry about things like bullying and whether or not your child will be frustrated because none of their teachers ever pronounce their names right. With a character, it’s not going to matter much if he’s named Zebadiah when zombies are trying to eat his head.

(Of course, there are other circumstances too – if you’re writing historical, fantasy, or a certain culture, you’re probably not going to use character names that you would use for a child anyway, unless you are a time-traveler from the 1800s, a dimension-crossing elf, or Japanese.)

Do you have any character names that you would never, in a million years, give a child? What are your character-naming conventions?

Doing a Story Justice

On a somewhat related note to Monday, here’s another author fear that I sometimes worry about myself – doing a story justice.

You know how it goes: somehow, a story worms its way into your head, as stories are wont to do. It’s brilliant. It’s amazing. If done correctly, maybe it’s your chance to finally get a story into that literary journal you’ve always dreamed of seeing your name in, or maybe that Top 25 market that’s always been just a tiny bit out of reach will finally say yes.

All you have to do is sit down and write it, and maybe your dreams will come true.

And that’s where the doubt strikes. Sure, some tiny, obnoxious part of your brain says, if done correctly, this story could be extraordinary. But all it’s got is you, and what have you done lately that can prove you’ve got the chops to pull this off?

So you sit there, and you say, well, perhaps my brain is right. Maybe I’m not ready for this story yet. Maybe I should hold off until I have a few more publications under my belt. Maybe I should hold off until I’m sure I can do this.

Except you know what happens to stories that you wait on. They wither and they die. Right now, that story is clear in your mind. You can see scenes and characters and dialogue. Even if you write a detailed outline, when – if ever – you go back to that story, it’s going to be different. You’re going to have lost something, something that drove you to want to write it, and you’re going to be hard-pressed to remember what it was.

So I say, why not write it now? Part of writing is the journey, the growth you experience with each story. Sure, maybe you won’t do this particular story justice. But you won’t know if you don’t try.

And you may be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with.