December 11, 2012

Day Twenty Four of Thirty (nonconsecutive) Days of Writing the OMG WHAT WERE YOU DOING THIS ENTIRE TIME edition

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:33 am by z. l. sasnett

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Calvin Coolidge


Long time no see. AGAIN!

*blows the dust off and throws open the windows to let the fresh air in*

So much has happened and yet not. Not even sure where to begin.

On top of having a kitten, we have a puppy. Long story. The short of it is: Went on a vacation to visit brother, see my twin nieces and admire how wonderful they really are, meet the newest niece. Ended up with a puppy.

Elderly dog is still elderly and now she’s contending with two youngsters, not one. So is the owner (me) and on top of that, trying to get everyone accustomed to each other and the rhythm of the household to include housetraining the puppy so that I wasn’t cleaning up puddles of pee and piles of poo every hour.

It was distracting (along with the Incredible Power Of The Cute) to have to chase behind a puppy when things got quiet (too quiet), constantly hunt down accidents in the house, trying to anticipate when we needed to go out. I got nothing done on the writing front. Stayed caught up with AbsoluteWrite forums so that I didn’t feel like I was living in a cave with no outside contact EVER.

Not to mention the kitten and the puppy are the biggest buddies in the whole world and play all over everything and everyone. Nothing and no one was safe. Now I was chasing after two animal youngsters and still trying to keep them from playing on top of Lucy the Elder.

The puppy is, for the most part, housebroken, or at least to the point that about every hour or so she lets me know when she needs to go out to pee. Still a distraction but one I can anticipate now and so I can get back to the business of writing.

Along other lines, I had a desktop computer I was attempting to revive. It was having issues that no one techsavvy I’ve taken it to can seem to resolve. It appeared to only happen when I’m around. When there are other witnesses, it behaved. That left me to my own limited tech-knowledge devices to figure it out. I need my desktop, and thus another time and energy sink.

I did, however, get it running. The sad thing? I have no idea what I did. It works, so I suppose I shouldn’t look to hard at the gift given to me by the Benevolent Universe.

That’s not all that has been going on but it has been the biggest chunk of my mental energy. As I have a low energy state to begin with? Tends to take me down pretty fast. I’m envious of those who have children and spouses and still manage to keep a house, a fulltime job, spend time with their family. They are the champions. I just do the best I can.

That’s why there’s been no update until now. Everything seems to be settling down and I can shift my priorities back to writing first. I lost my momentum and it’s taken me this long to get it back. Here’s hoping I can keep it up.

So for better or worse, here I am with today’s Day Twenty Four, a month-plus later. Good thing I changed the subject line to nonconsecutive. Whew.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Confession time. I’m probably one of those writers who will be monumentally boring to many readers. This is something I struggle with daily, believe me. It’s actually a great source of irritation, truth be known.

I am not one of those writers who will gleefully and cheerfully announce to the world that they love to torture their characters. I do not take delight in making a character’s life/world the possible worst it could be, only to make it worse when they finally manage to get their head above the muck to take a breath. As I’m a person who has a (distressing? possibly for many in my life) tendency to take things literally, I find this sort of attitude repugnant to me.

Am I suggesting not to make my character’s life difficult? Not at all. Am I saying that I will molly-coddle my characters so they can achieve everything they want by story end without making them work (sometimes against what might seem impossible odds)? Nope.

I do understand the drive of the narrative, how a character is striving to overcome the adversity set before them and to emerge on the other side of it for better (or possibly for worse) is what makes the reading experience full. I know it, I use it. But I don’t have this ‘sadistic glee’ to ‘torture characters until they’re bleeding and broken’. Not literally.

Quite often, in writing circles, writers like to stick their thumbs in their lapels and crow about what bastards/bitches they are to their characters. Good for them.

I’m a writer and I’m trying to write a story, not make anyone’s life (fictional or not) a miserable pile of steaming, smelly shit. Not in me to do. I don’t enjoy crapsack worlds in any sort of gaming (video, rpg, etc), I don’t enjoy crapsack worlds in the television I watch (series, anime, movies, etc).  I’m more tolerant of crapsack worlds in books but only after I’ve researched and spoiled myself so that I’m not left hyperventilating by the total ruin of the characters lives at the end. I don’t take delight in seeing humans suffering to the point that all seems hopeless and that is the sum total of their existence.

The conventional wisdom is to chase a character up a tree then throw rocks at them. To which I say: Is that it? Just torture (psychological, physical, emotional, etc) them, then torture them some more? Does any of this torture serve some purpose for the character or is the writer just writing torture after torture after torture because they can?

Fiction, at least for me, has to have meaning. There has to be some meaning behind what the character suffers through to attain their goal. If they fall short, what is the purpose for that? What is the meaning?

Not interested if that’s all there is to writing. The story itself may or may not have meaning. What happens to the character in the process of the story itself must have meaning in some manner if I’m going to stay interested in reading it. So that’s how I write.

Now, to apply that to today’s question. Of course I’m willing to kill a character if the plot demands it. I will not be killing other characters so I can torture the main character. I don’t subscribe to ‘oh, the characters aren’t being made miserable enough, time to kill off a character!’

Meaning. It has to have meaning. There has to be a reason behind it, something that will propel the protagonist forward in some manner to further his growth or progress.

Have I yet? Nope. I’m still new enough to writing that my plots have not demanded a death. That could change. It could not. I don’t know. If that makes me uninteresting to read because there doesn’t appear to be any ‘stakes’ involved because someone may not die, well, I don’t know what to say to that. Everything for the protagonist is at stake. I don’t see how elevating it to the level of ‘someone might die!1!11!!’ for the stakes to be high. And I don’t see how the emotional payoff will be worth it…wait for it…

if it has no meaning.


1 Comment »

  1. Randi Lee said,

    Agreed. Death without meaning come off as cheap. Glad to know someone else out there wants the loss of a character should mean something!

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