writing children, part i

This is a topic I’ve meant to tackle for a while now, mostly because children are so often so badly written in stories, and partly because I’ve failed to find any good advice on the matter online. Anyone with any tips, tricks, or thoughts on the topic, please, post them in the comments.

Children are… difficult.

Unapologetically selfish. Sweet. Generous. Silly. Mean. Serious. Awkward. Energetic. Lazy. Tough. Fragile. Careless. Intelligent. Foolish. Mirrors of what they see about them. Parroting, grass-stained, stuffed-animal toting, messy children. Frustrated by the difference between what they mean to say and what everyone around them understands.

Children are characters. But they’re also one-person fantasies, and it’s important to keep in mind that they do not, will not, can not have the same perspective as adults. Talk to a little kid some time. They have entire worlds buzzing around their head, and they don’t always seem to realize that these things they’ve collected from movies, from games, from dreams, from things they’ve been told are not always part of real life.

The Little Mermaid will have a girl spending her baths with her legs crossed, kicking and splashing water everywhere, and how exactly do you explain to Mom that you had to rescue the prince from the evil McDonald’s toy when she starts asking things like ‘what were you thinking?’ and ‘Molly, you know better!’?

(Because the answer, of course, was that there was simply no choice in the matter. Doesn’t mom understand that the prince was in trouble? “I had to!”. Then, maybe to get out of trouble later, “Sorry…”)

It goes on. My cousin Sean (age six) informed me that he was actually part of a secret alien race who simultaneously lives on three planets at once and that he was a spy meant to blow up the earth, but that he loves his mommy and daddy too much to finish his mission. He also informed me that his power level was a thousand million, and that he was the strongest ever. I replied that I was actually the Queen Jadis, and I was an immortal necromancer even higher than that for my royal blood. Sean became incredibly indignant, and began to tell me about his secret unlockable levels. It sounded like a bad anime.

Human thoughts. The human wish to be regarded, twisted into a completely new form. None of these are new character traits. They’re just stuck in a form of almost surrealist fantasy, brought into the real world into what would appear to be a random jumble of emotions and raw dialogue. Still difficult to understand, maybe, but along with base personality, I think anyone who want to write children characters needs to take the time to understand where they’re coming from.

Anyone with thoughts on the matter, please, add a comment. I meant to write some more thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to see what people think.

and i’ve lost my last villain

My very last villain, the most dangerous man in my cast, has moved himself neatly out of the ‘villain’ category. He’ll still carry out his part in the plot, and some of the things he’s going to try are pretty awful.

But after bidding his love interest, “I’m in trouble and I have to go. Have a wonderful life; I wish I could have been part of it. Don’t protect me,” … well. No one is going to keep him in the villain slot.

Perhaps that’s good… I’ve seen many authors declare with pride that they have no villains. I’ve always eyed them skeptically, imagining a contrived series of misunderstandings or stubborn, unbearable characters. You have to be a dang good writer to pull off an appealing villain-less story.

Why, Uriel? Why?

the villain who took over my plot

Imagine, if you will, a party of heroes trapped with Whirling Blades of Doom! ™ coming down on them slowly from above. Stone sides, no secret doors, no weapons or ‘I forgot I had these’ moments.

Suddenly, the door is kicked open! Maxwell has arrived!

Maxwell grabs his son, turns, and slams the door on the rest of the heroes’ faces, leaving them to their fate. Hey he never said he’d save them, after all.

This isn’t something that happened in my story. Yet, this is somewhat typical of Maxwell’s behavior. The greatest jerk you’d ever meet– an animated man in his late forties, armed with his black clothes, top hat and cane. A mad scientist in every way.

Since making his appearance on camera, he’s enslaved a dead man, drove through the countryside in a giant mechanical crab (terrifying more than a few farmers in the process), left my heroine to die, broken into a water factory, pulled his gun on more than a few people… only stopped short of killing because of the nice people he had to team up with.

He was supposed to be a villain. So why isn’t it working?

I can’t tear my eyes off of this guy.

they’re just that good

Last week, I rented one of my favorite movies, “V For Vendetta”, as my boyfriend had not seen it and was sure to like the intellectual anarchy. Well, it’s two days late now, and I’ve found myself rewatching it a few times as I work on my book. It’s a good strategy– watch part of a movie, go back to the story, flip again. Especially an intelligent film that keeps your mind working.

I’ve noticed something that the movie does, though, that never occurred to me before I started watching it back to back.

The writing almost never includes setup, or how anything was accomplished.

For instance, in the very beginning of the story, V is introduced as a hero, madman, and genius. And strangely, this is all done in stylized dialog.

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

“The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.

“Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”

I could probably spend a good couple of posts going over the stylization, alliteration, and concept of strong, over pronounced dialog as a form of characterization. Let’s skip all that for now, and move on now that anyone who hasn’t seen the movie has an idea of V.

V proceeds from there to lead Evie to a rooftop, where he speaks with her for a moment before Big Ben chimes midnight, then pretends to conduct an orchestra. The police-state broadcast system starts playing classical music, the building beside where V stands is destroyed with explosives, and fireworks are set off, the biggest and last being red ones that form a ‘V’ with a circle about it at the end of the show.

So… to do this, this character is assumed to have hacked into a high-security government system, sneaked into a building, rigged the entire thing with explosives that would destroy that structure and only that structure, added a fireworks show, and set everything to go off in sync to a timer set just after midnight. Later, we find out that V is badly burned, and the mask isn’t just for decoration.

And the audience just accepts that he can do this. V is brilliant. We’re convinced. He’s just that good. Excellent characterization and genius in details and small things can override logistics and improbability. When weighed against other factors, it turns out that the logistics just aren’t important.

Inversely if V were written by anyone else…? I doubt it would have worked at all.

In fact, imagine that we had a weak character and a full description of exactly how said person managed to do A, B, and C. I think it would fall flat, even as a perfectly plausible chain of events. Mystery versus description, the mystery has a much stronger case than one would think.

well, i was writing full-time…

And then I happened to land a part-time job teaching at a college. One that, because I didn’t hear back from them, I assumed I’d been passed over. I never expected to get it anyway…. Apparently I was wrong.

I do, however, have a theory that taking on a part-time job will leave a person with more time and energy to write than a full-time writer. Just like getting out and exercising can lead to an eagerness to get back to the computer. I’ll save up my thoughts here, and let you guys know how this goes.

dacha, the literary funeral

As previously mentioned, I killed a character and abruptly had trouble writing again. I kill a lot of characters. The path my literary endeavors have taken me on has been littered with bodies of fictional friends and enemies. I don’t usually have this problem writing, and I’m not sure why it’s bothering me now.

So to commemorate Dacha, and perhaps to gain some ‘closure’ (I don’t really believe in the concept myself, but what’s the harm?), I thought I would write her a eulogy.

Dacha was a remarkable woman, impressive in girth and skill. She may not have had the qualifications to present a heroic figure, but she fared well as a secondary character. She made my hero uncomfortable for her own amusement, worked with my heroine to protect and help her, and littered my book with pieces of colorful, if course, dialog.

Such phrases included:

“… You know, that’s almost scarier than me naked.”

“Weapon? Oh, honey, I don’t need a weapon. All I have to do is sit on you and fart. You won’t be getting up again, I promise.”

“Aha! Dickless, spineless, and brainless! … He must think with his stomach.”

“Sure I’m a lady! I’ve got the teats to prove it and everything!”

Rest in peace, Dacha. You died victorious, and were avenged swiftly. And your loss made my test readers cry aloud: a dozen outraged, horrified gasps of, “No, not Dacha!” disturbed the air of the library reading room that night.

Until the third draft, my friend.

showcase of villainy, part iv

Villain Month

As promised, here is the last showcase of the month-long villain series.

This ended up being more difficult than I thought it would be. Just spending time thinking about the antagonists was useful, and it was fantastic seeing other people join in. Thanks to everyone participating!

I spent the week focusing on my last villain of the four I meant to go over, Sorche du Remerdii. I also wrote a closing message and introduced a bonus villain-type, the king’s secret police, nicknamed after the silver masks that they wear.


Saint Know-All finished a few more drawings, and bid farewell to the month.


Nilah wrote a short article about human predators, in regards to the villain month project.


Aldersgatecycle focused on her last villain, Sally Din.


Nymeria wrote about Orion Novak, Dahlia Laras, and posted a gallery of her villain portraits.


And, last, even though she wasn’t actually participating, Worderella was kind enough to write up a few posts on villains on her blog as a kind of villain-month-tribute.


Closing links:

A list of participants
Showcase of villainy, part i
Showcase of villainy, part ii
Showcase of villainy, part iii

Thoughts? Comments? Shall we do this again someday? 🙂

A ‘hero month’ idea has already been put out, and I wouldn’t mind spending some time dedicated to world building as a future project…

villain: sorche du remerdii: ten wants

Recently, I started speaking with the gracious Joelle Anthony. Joelle is a published author who was kind enough to help me re-work my query letter.

The first thing she had me do was to write down ten things that my heroine wanted. And I thought, ‘This should be easy. I’ve been writing this character for eight or nine years now– I know Wyrren like the back of my hand.’

It took me two days to come up with a list that satisfied me enough to send back. Two days, and it was actually quite challenging. So since that was such a headache, I’ve decided, ‘let’s do it some more!’.

Sorche du Remerdii
Ten things he wants.
(Took twenty hours to finish).

  1. Luxury. His idea of luxury, the mental image it conjures, involves crystal plates, wine, music, dim light, and a large bed with entangled limbs on each side: five beautiful girls to share it with him, all with glossy hair and soft lips.
  2. Respect. Sorche doesn’t care about power, not nearly so much as his brother Kione, but he hates to be left out or seen as second-rate.
  3. His own small domain. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he’s put in charge of. He has to work (he would grow miserable without work, and knows it). One of Sorche’s hobbies is to polish tarnished silver. Likewise, he wants to have something of his own to administer and make shine.
  4. The title ‘bastard’ Mordache changed. Mordache with skin other than the standard icy-pale have human blood and are known as Mordache bastards, despite their legitimacy. This has always irritated him, as a gentleman’s adopted son (and as a bastard Mordache).
  5. To win a strategy game against Kione. He’s tried. It hasn’t happened (yet).
  6. His previous lover’s forgiveness. Some of the things she accused him of were true, some weren’t, but he still misses her.
  7. To learn carving. The Mordache’s main form of art is sculpture, and he’s always wanted to learn how to make it himself, even if it’s just another hobby.
  8. His brother’s well-being. Sorche is convinced that Kione has no idea how to relax and have fun.
  9. A moment of glory. Sorche would love to impress his father, to be able to have a very good reason to say, ‘aren’t you glad you took me in?’.
  10. An interesting life. Perhaps not always a good or a happy life, but he would very much like his to be an eventful one.

villain: sorche du remerdii: introduction

Sorche du Remerdii
“Common sense really isn’t that common.”

Sorche du Remerdii

(Ideally read to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.)

Sorche is my favorite villain in this story– I’ve touched on him before in my Kione excerpt, and have been working on him in the background since June began and I figured out what a smart-ass he was.

“Apologies, du Jadis.” One of the men in black bowed slightly. Rylan decided (for now) that he was the leader, and noted his unusually dark skin showing between his cap and scarf. “This is a rescue, despite appearances. We’d appreciate it if you would move quickly. We’re not to hurt anyone.”

Another man appeared with bandages while a third pulled out Rylan’s coat that he’d left in the other room, along with his hat, muffler, gloves, but not his swords. Rylan allowed them access to his wounded arm, and they bandaged it (sloppily– Rylan thought he could have done better, even with one hand). “Who do you serve?” Rylan asked.

“Now?” The leader glanced back to the men who were keeping the doors. No one had intruded on them yet. “Very well. On behalf of my lord, Rylan du Jadis, I commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your victory, and condemn you for your idiocy.” He offered Rylan an exaggerated bow, and pulled back his left sleeve to show a golden bracer, celestite set into the ring on his middle finger instead of a sigil. “You can call me Sorche du Remerdii.”

Sorche is the adopted son of Remerdii, a landed gentleman who has managed to achieve great wealth, and foster brother to Kione Remerdii. Sorche was taken as a small child and given the name of the Remerdii’s dead son and brother. Sorche has always been considered a gentleman as long as he could remember, given good rooms and private tutors, encouraged to compete with his brother Kione. He’s better than Kione at the Mordache Art, fighting and other physical activities, but falls short at tact and diplomacy. Sorche just can’t help but take jabs when he sees the opportunity.

I’ve put another Sorche excerpt, longer this time, under the cut.
Continue reading

showcase of villainy, part iii

Villain Month

Here’s the weekly showcase for the third week in June. We’ve got one more week before the end of Villain Month!

I worked on my bully, Redaechyl, and wrote about what I think makes a good villain.


Saint Know-All started on her second villain: Darren Hare.


Aldersgatecycle has been working on Sir Sylvan DeLoire.


Nymeria spent this week focusing on Dawnelle Nymeron.


Ashley made a post on her villain’s setting.


That’s it for this week! I’ll post the final character showcase on July 1st!