Tag Archives: Characterisation

Grump Alert!

Woke up this morning with the realisation that the wonderful twist that I’d added to my book yesterday would not work with the way I’d written the climax of the book.

Except I really like the twist because it adds layers to the characterisation and makes the character tortured. I do believe in making characters suffer.

Then had to go to work. Jumped on the train and it promptly broke down. Had to get into work to do a midday lecture. Had left extra early to get a lot of things done before the lecture. Finally got to the city. Had to literally run from the train station to the college to get to the lecture on time.

Worked like mad all day, trying to make up for lost time. Got through everything, then dashed to the train station and just made it down onto the platform to catch the train home only to discover the train had been sitting there for 45 minute already. Two hours later, after giving up and getting out 3 stations from the city with another10 to go, my DH picked me and drove me home.

All told I spent 4 hours sitting on trains and train stations getting to and from work when it should have been a total of 1 hour.

But I did come up with a way to use the twist and add another deeper layer which will make the character suffer even more. Take that, Queensland Rail!


Filed under Characterisation, Writing craft

The Gender Divide

I belong to a writing group called ROR. (For background on the group, see here). Every year or so we get together to review out manuscripts and give feedback. There are 8 of us, but numbers vary depending on our families, work, deadlines etc.

There are five females and three males in ROR, it just happened that way, but this year there’ll be even numbers at the ROR retreat.

Although I don’t think of it as a ‘reatreat’ I think of it as a writing craft feast. Spending time with other people who are just as obssessed about the craft of writing as me, is heaven. I love dissecting story.

There is no point denying it, mens and women’s brains work differently. (Architect’s and trucker driver’s brains also work differently).  I have four sons, I know their brains are wired differently from mine. As a writer I don’t write for a male or female reader specifically. But I like to know that I can appeal to both genders and this is where having feedback from both genders helps. So I’m looking forward to the ROR feedback this year. (Not that I don’t always look forward to ROR).

As a writer I don’t limit myself to writing from a female View Point, I have male View Point characters, too.  One of the things I like to do is run a chunk of male VP text through the Gender Genie, to see if the genie can pick the gender of the character.

They say boys won’t read a book if the narrator is a female character. I can’t say that this bothered my sons. And I must admit that I don’t mind if the View Point character is male or female, as long as they are interesting.

I’ve deliberately written short stories where I don’t specify the gender and let the reader make up their mind.

What do you think? Does the gender of the View Point character influence how you relate to the character?


Filed under Characterisation, Readers, Writing craft, Writing Groups

Favourite Movies

Tomorrow for work I get to watch The Princess Bride. (I get to watch it three times in a  row …)

I discovered the original book many years ago and never forgot it. Then, when the movie first came out I saw it and it has been a firm favourite of mine ever since.

For the amusing back story on the story within a story see this section on Wikipedia. Some authors have a wicked sense of humour. But then Goldman would have to, to write the book in the first place.

It must have the best sword duel (Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts on top of the cliffs) and the best revenge scene:

Inigo Montoya: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

When I teach writing dialogue I always mention The Princess Bride.  There are so many memorable quotes from it, it’s hard to decide which is my favourite. For a full list of memorable quotes see here.
Some are underplayed but strong, like this one:

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

And there is the very black scene where Count Rugen and Prince Humperdink are preparing to torture Westley.

Count Rugen: Your princess is quite a winning creature. A trifle simple, perhaps. Her appeal is undeniable.
Prince Humperdinck: I know, the people are quite taken with her. It’s odd, but when I hired Vizzini to have her murdered on our engagement day, I thought that was clever. But it’s going to be so much more moving when I strangle her on our wedding night. Once Guilder is blamed, the nation will truly be outraged – they’ll demand we go to war.
Count Rugen: [snickers, then examines a huge tree] Now where is that secret knot? It’s impossible to find…
[he finds it and the tree opens to reveal a hidden passage]
Count Rugen: Ah. Are you coming down into the pit? Wesley’s got his strength back. I’m starting him on the machine tonight.
Prince Humperdinck: [sincerely] Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.

Really, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

And lastly there is my favourite bit. How the phrase ‘as you wish’ is introduced.

Grandpa: [voiceover] Nothing gave Buttercup as much pleasure as ordering Westley around.
Buttercup: Farm boy, polish my horse’s saddle. I want to see my face shining in it by morning.
Westley: As you wish.
Grandpa: [voiceover] “As you wish” was all he ever said to her.
Buttercup: Farm boy, fill these with water – please.
Westley: As you wish.
Grandpa: [voiceover] That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.

When I ask my husband to do something he says ‘As you wish’, just to tease me. You know that dialogue is memorable, when it becomes part of our shared world view. As my kids head off somewhere I can tell them to ‘Have fun storming the castle!’ and they know just what I mean.

Do you have a favourite quote from The Princess Bride?


Filed under Dialogue, Genre, Movies & TV Shows

Firefly, why weren’t there more episodes?

I’m currently preparing a lecture on dialogue and I began to trawl the Firefly series for examples.

It made me realise I could use this series for examples of excellent world building.

And characterisation.

Dramatic tension.

Subtle subtext in dialogue and character interaction.

Lighting and shooting. Music (that scene where they bring the young man’s dead body home).

Planting of clues that contribute towards a larger story arc in self contained episodes.

In fact the whole series is just so darn good, I don’t know why it was cancelled. What’s your favourite scene from Firefly?


Filed under Characterisation, creativity, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, Story Arc, Writing craft

Holiday to restore my Creativity

I’m about to leave for a driving holiday around Tasmania. And frankly, I need the break. I will be taking photos but I’m sure they will never be as good as these. So I’m going to leave you with them for inspiration.

From Travel Point.

From Gondawananet.

Meanwhile, I’ve done a post on creativity and promotion over at the Mad Genius Club blog. And there will be a post on the ROR blog on Sunday about Dialogue, and another one on the MGC on Tuesday about Characterisation.


Filed under Nourish the Writer

Extreme Nerd Alert

I have already confessed to using Lord of the Rings as my comfort movie, when I’m too sick to think straight or I just want to ‘vege’ out on the couch.

The other day at work, Brendan put me onto DM of the Rings. Now if you have ever read LOTR, or seen the movie and you’ve played D&D, then you will love this comic.

Created by Shamus Young, a software engineer and D&D player, the premise of the comic is — What would really happen if Tolkien had been a Dungeon Master, trying to get his friends to play his story as a D&D game?

The characters spend their time looking for loot and fights, or trying to seduce attactive passing females. Having had the experience of working with a lot of young males on their stories, this strikes me as pretty accurate.

Which raises the question, are our fantasy novel about honourable heroes way off the mark? Has Joe Abercrombie got it right with his disreptuable characters, who are all out to get what they can? Do we want more realistic fantasy books?

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Filed under Characterisation, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, The Writing Fraternity

Indulgence Day!

Ok, I’ve worked hard all week. In fact, I’ve worked hard all term and it’s not over yet. Next week all the final assessments are due in, which means I’ll be doing marking for hours on end.

So this weekend I am treating myself, and my boys. We’re going to see the new Iron Man movie. What’s that? As soon as I say the words you can hear the music? Now that’s what I call Resonance. Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ which contained Iron Man was released in 1970. So I grew up with it. And it is still as powerful as it was then.

What else do you think of when I say Iron Man? This weekend with the second movie just released it has to be Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of the Tony Stark character. Kudos must go to the script writers of the first movie, Markus Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and John August. Of course, Downey did a great job with the role, but I think the script writers’ strike proved that without writers you don’t have a TV show or a movie.

So what we’ll do is watch the first movie tonight, to refresh ourselves, then see the second movie tomorrow. I’ll be looking for stylistic consistency. And I’ll be looking to see how they develop Tony Stark’s character.

A lot can be learnt from movies and TV shows. Everything, character, world building, plot clues and tension all have to be established fast. And then there is Resonance, the feel you associate with a movie or TV series. There is also Resonance associated with books and book series. And if you don’t think that books carry Resonanace, what do you feel when I say Terry Pratchett’s Disk World series? Totally different from China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. What about Mervyn Peake’s Ghormenghast? It’s been thirty years since I read that and yet, I still have a strong sense of place and character.

Maybe I’ll do a post on Resonance. I find it really interesting. What books and characters stick with you over time?

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Filed under Characterisation, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, Resonance, Writing craft

Currently watching ….

Mad Men Series 3

First let me say, I always buy the whole series of a TV show and watch it in batches of 3 or 4 episodes at a time because I’m interested in the story arc and character development.

I keep watching this show because it is like a time capsule. As I sit there watching Betty, heavily pregnant, smoke and drink blissfully unaware of the damage she’s doing I think, what a nice piece of writing/directing.

Someone complained when the first season came out that there were no black people in it or, if there were, they had subservient roles. (A few  black people have turned up since). This isn’t a story about the emancipation of the blacks in the US in the 60s. It is a story about the advertising world of Madison Avenue and it would be anachronistic to show a black man working in advertising with Don Draper. (If someone can prove me wrong, I’m happy to be corrected).  The way women and blacks  are treated in the show is accurate for the time.

And that’s what I find fascinating. Betty and Don Draper could be my mother and father. Not that they drank, smoked and had affairs, but the limitations of their life choices were the same. My mother had three career options, teacher, nurse or secretary. And women were expected to stop work when they got married.  The clothes, the cars and the furniture are all from the period when I was a very small child. So, for me, this show is a trip down nostaglia lane.

Watching Salvatore try to hide he fact that he’s gay, watching copy writer Peggy battle to have her abilities recognised, watching head secretary Joan be passed over when she could run the place, watching house wife Betty’s quiet desperation as she describes herself as a pampered ‘house cat’ makes me very relieved that I don’t live in the 1960s.

But I do feel the show would be a little stronger, if it veered one step closer to social commentary. There is so much material to work with. What do you think?

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Filed under Characterisation, creativity, Fun Stuff, Story Arc, Writing craft