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World Building

Opinions

Taking The You Out Of Your Characters

For an author, their characters are their children,  born in their heads, and loving crafted on the page.  The trick comes in creating characters that aren’t the author, good or bad. I’m not just taking Mary Sues here, wish-fulfillment stand-ins for the author, I’m taking every character in the story ultimately lining perfectly up with the author’s point of view, thereby being intellectual extensions, even if they aren’t literal extension.

The Left Behind Series is a good example of this, where in the end, there’re no characters who  really end up arguing against the author’s views.  Sure there’s Chloe , who puts up a meager argument, but she ends up converting and falling right in line. Even the bad guys are bad guys simply because they have to be bad according the author. This is  a big reason the Left Behind Series sucks.
Now I’m not saying a story can’t have a moral or a point of view, what I’m saying is, the characters shouldn’t know they’re in a story with that point of view.

Let’s a take a sillier issue because I don’t want to start a huge debate about other things, and that you want to write a story about why eating pizza is bad.  A badly written story would be one in which all the people who don’t eat pizza are automatically good and know they are good simply because of it, and all the people who do are automatically bad and know they are bad because of it. A better written story would be where eating pizza is a symptom of an underlying issue that makes a person bad, they eat pizza because they don’t care about their health. A good person is one who doesn’t eat pizza because they want to eat healthy because they care about their health.

I know there is healthy pizza but work with me here, because you can copy and paste any issue you want into the preceding paragraph and get my underlying point.  Characters should be in a world that exists outside of the author’s bias, a world where characters think on their own and do not see themselves as evil, because cartoon villains do not exist. There should be a reason bad people are bad people, one that is ultimately human(mental illness counts here). Good characters should be held to same standard, being good for a reason, not simply because automatically are.

Even I have trouble doing this in my work and some characters will come off as 2d, but the ones who do are the ones who are there for a page or two and vanish. There’s no time to develop them and I’m not wasting words on throwaway characters. But if a character is there for a while, I’ll try to make them as full as possible.

The deeper your characters are, the deeper and more believable your world becomes.


Opinions

Keeping Things Hidden: Why it Doesn’t Work for Me.

I like superheroes. In fact, I like superheroes so much I once wrote an 80k superhero novel that sucked so horribly I will never speak of it again(though the world might reappear).

Anyways, my one problem with the superhero genre (and one that seems to be disappearing in many instances) is the idea of the secret identity. Superman has Clark Kent, Spider Man has Peter Parker. But if  you think about it, there’s no way the general public hasn’t figured out their secret identity(though Peter Parker did reveal he was Spider Man in Marvel’s Civil War, but it was only as  choice). Every time superman appears, Clark Kent disappears.  The editors at the Daily Bugle never really try to find out exactly how PeterPaker gets all those amazing Spiderman pictures without being injured or dying.

In sci-fi/fantasy, its even worse, as magic, vampires, werewolves, aliens or whatever, are hidden from the general public. Books, movies, comic books, tv shows, you see this a lot. Harry Potter, the Dresden Files, Men in Black, Charmed ect. They all have ways to explain how these things are hidden, but the longer things go on, it gets harder and harder to accept.  Somebody has to see something, somebody has to reveal something, especially when these things regularly try to end the world. You can’t just expect people not to notice or accept the umpteenth flimsy explanation.

Not all worlds are like this, Dr. Who for example, does not try to hide what’s going on and its more believable that way.

And it’s not just worlds directly based on our own world that keeping things hidden can be problematic.

In the earlier versions of K23, I tried to keep Uthirans hidden from the average hominid, but it didn’t work. Yes, please ignore the entire continent full of dragons meddling in your political affairs(Cybermagic novels); or, please ignore your coworker behaving strangely, as they are anything but a dragon in disguise(Hidden in Plain Sight). The latter idea is why HIPS eventually stalled.

When I sketched out K23, I just made Uthirans part of society and it worked.

Sure there’s a reason sci-fi/ fantasy will use the hidden convention: they may look like average people, but secretly they’re superheroes, or wizards, vampire hunters, work with aliens ect, it’s called fantasy for a reason. And it’s appealing, it just doesn’t work in the long run After seven books or movies,  or seasons things remaining hidden gets harder and harder to accept from a world building perspective.

This is simply my opinion, of course. But for me, I find the idea of the  fantastical being all around us and accessible more fun and easier to work with, than it being secret with a just few knowing the truth.

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