Thursday, December 2, 2010

1 Month Friendiversary

Well, it's still cold outside. I suppose that's to be expected in December though. And who would have thought December could come so quickly?

As David noted yesterday, it has been just a smidgen over one month since I met many of you lovely people at the World Fantasy Convention! I can't say just how wonderful it is to know that we still talk at least occasionally, and with how much anticipation I look forward to next year's convention, where I hope to meet up with many of you again as the fates allow. Not to mention the prospect of meeting new friends at that most illustrious of gatherings. Indeed, I am quite excited.

Something about Christmas carols and other such songs of the holidays, combined with long and chaotic visits with the family, that make me really happy to be alive. With that in mind, I would like to address something which I read recently in David Farland's writing newsletter, entitled "Your Daily Kick in the Pants." I receive this newsletter, as it's name suggests, daily, and in it I often find tiny grains of wisdom, some of which I agree with and others with which I choose to also consume the proverbial grain of salt. After all, there is no foolproof method to write a great work. What works for one author might not work for another, and what appeals to one reader may leave another yawning and toddling off to watch Glee or something. It's all about our sensibilities.

Something that I received recently on this lovely newsletter (which you can subscribe to through David Farland's website, if such an action catches your fancy) was about the concept of gratitude. Mr. Farland was discussing making a character likable, and emphasized that a good way to do this was to make the character grateful for things that he or she was given. Now, for me, the forthright description of gratitude is often trumped by the oblique. It's easy to say thank you, and harder to mean it. However, I think that there is a grain of truth here that is worth exploring, and that is this: sometimes, likable characters are what make the story.

Take, for example, Harry Potter. Now, I don't know about you, but there were times when I thought Harry needed to go jump off a bridge. He was snotty and rude and angsty for pretty much the entirety of the fifth book, and large parts of the sixth. If I had been his friend I would have dropkicked him or whacked him with a tire iron. Instead, I was forced to grind my teeth whenever he had a mood swing, and keep reading. What made this experience bearable was not J.K. Rowling's wonderful writing or even the lure of finding out what was going to happen next, though both of those kept me reading. It was the existence of Fred and George Weasely. When Harry was lacking in the appropriate levels of mischief and foresight, the Weasely twins set him straight, with, among other things, their general good humor. Never did a Weasely twin mope or wallow in negative emotion; no, Fred and George at their maddest set off fireworks and other such magical wonders to delight and uplift their fellow students, then flew off into the sunset. Wonderful.

In any case, it occurs to me that no matter how dark a novel gets, or how misguided your main character might become, it's important to keep a balance within the text that allows the reader to feel, at least for a moment, uplifted. The contrast not only makes the characters themselves more endearing, but makes the eventual tragedy, when it comes, that much more horrible. And that, too, is quite wonderful.


  1. Then again, Fred and George didn't have a psychotic murderer who already killed their parents gunning for them either, so Harry's mood, actions and confusion is justifyable...from a certain point of view.

  2. Haha this is true. I'm not saying Harry's character didn't make sense, or that I didn't see where he was coming from. Harry's generally quite awesome. I'm just saying at the times when I most desired to punt him across the known world, Fred and George were there to make me smile.

  3. So true, so true. The books would have been a little dull without Gred and Forge's humor! So how's your querying going? I'm working on my letter and would love to see what you've done if you don't mind sharing. It started out as a not-so-fun process, but it's getting easier with practice and research...

  4. Perhaps this should be the subject of my next blog post. Following today's of course, since I don't have any of the material with me.

  5. I loved Order of the Phoenix so much. I cheered Harry on the whole way. I kept thinking: Well, it's about damn time Harry got pissed off at the way he's been treated. He deserved to sulk and blow off some steam at last, I thought. But, you know, I'm a Slytherin and all, so what do I know?

    I do get your point, and it can be hard sometimes. My third book just did not allow anything light or uplifting until the bitter end. Because of the setup and nature of the story, I could not employ any humor. Or at least I couldn't find a way to. But I wrote it in a darker time of my life, so I don't think I was too keen on humor or uplifts of any sort.

    The closest thing to an uplifting moment was a bitter-sweet sex scene that I felt was not so much uplifting as a relief before what you knew would be certain tragedy.

    But maybe I missed some things. Funny thing objectivity. For all I know, there may be multiple uplifting parts that I just can't see.