Suspending Suspension of Disbelief!

Hi Jim,

I have a little problem that I was hoping you could assist me with. I’ve had quite a few people read my story and the overall criticism is that one of the characters isn’t believable. They keep saying that the way the character behaves and the things she does, don’t fit in with the story. This really bothers me as this is a story that takes place in a completely made up environment that has nothing to do with reality. Like okay, you can believe an entire planet could be a live and have a consciousness, but not believe one character because of their actions and choices they make?

If only one person had said it, that would be one thing, but a few have so now I’m starting to worry. Do you think I should change the character or leave it as is? Should I take this criticism seriously?

Thanks,
Elyssa H.


Hello Elyssa,

Awesome name, by the way. I may wind up using that for one of my characters. I actually try to take most criticism seriously. The obvious exceptions are trolls who simply say that ‘this sucks’ or ‘I think you’re stupid’. Things that have no substance are basically best left ignored.

However that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I would definitely take what they say into consideration, but not let that be the be all, end all of what you do with the character. Outside criticism is vital, especially if you plan to have your work published. You want someone who’s going to rip it apart. However the final say is yours, you need to take a step back and look at the character and see if everything fits.

Now that that’s out of the way…  I want to address your other comments. “Like okay, you can believe an entire planet could be a live and have a consciousness, but not believe one character because of their actions and choices they make? ”

Actually, yes. This is what’s called a suspension of disbelief. Like it or not, readers are always going to apply some level of real-world logic, even in the most fantastical of environments. We’ve all done it, and we’re all going to do it. Like it or not, this is something that all writers have to contend with.

So what’s the best way to combat this problem? Well… I’d say the first thing to do is create a set of rules early on in your writing. If there are any real world attributes, make them known through the story, cultural differences that could explain, and by default, make your character’s behaviors more believable, explore them. Most readers are really good at following a path with little guidance, but you still need to leave some bread crumbs for them to pick up on.

This is the folly of your comparison. A reader could actually take issue with a character’s choices and development in a story where an actual planet is a character because maybe you explained the planet better. Maybe the back story you put in place actually explains better how something like that can exist. I think this is an area that you may want to really go back and re-examine, but let’s open it up.

Readers, what do you think? Is this an area that Elyssa should look at a little more closely? Is the criticisms of her readers something she should worry about, or should she simply disregard them because its her story? Let me know in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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Dimensional, One Dimensional Characters

I’ve heard, and said a lot of negative things about the writing of characters that are too one-dimensional. I don’t want it to seem like I’m against such a character, I’m not. There are a lot of great characters out there that are lacking in dimension.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples would be the character Javert from Les Miserables. In fact, it is his one dimensional personality that lands him the position of the villain, while a far more dynamic thief, fugitive, and fraudster becomes the hero.

He’s not so much the villain because he’s a bad person. It is more so because he comes off as indifferent. However I don’t necessarily think that this is necessarily his own fault. What little we know of his life and background has left him with a very rudimentary view of right and wrong. He has a very strict adherence to the law, giving no leeway for interpretation, leniency, or apathy…. He has an extremely unwavering faith in the morality and overall ‘correctness’ of the law.

And we’ve seen where such staunch adherence to it leads to…

(How mad must the officer have been after the judge turned the case into a comedy routine.)

Now this is an example of a one-dimensional character. He has a basic view of right and wrong which, like iron is solid, but when you apply enough pressure, it becomes brittle and breaks. That’s what happens with Javert his interpretation of right and wrong was challenge where he was put into the position of having to do wrong to do right. This is something that, in his world view, shouldn’t be possible. Unable to cope with his reality being shattered and either unable or unwilling to change with it, he kills himself.

This is an example of a one dimensional character done correctly. We not only see the dangers of having such a view of the world and/or personality, but we also what can happen when they are so rigid. It’s actually a fascinating character study to do.

So is there a place for one-dimensional characters? Absolutely there is and they can be written very well. The problem is when a character is put on screen for one purpose and isn’t really given any justification as to why they exist the way they do or how it came to be that way. There’s no issue with characters being one-dimensional, as long as there is something in them that we can understand and view as really happening.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Imperfection is Writing Perfection.

 

Recently I’ve spoken about some characters and how aspects of those characters are ‘perfect’, ‘flawless’, or even ‘saintly’. How terrible things happen to these characters, yet they come away unscathed with no lasting physical or emotional scars. In other cases, they are just perfect throughout the entire story; always making the right decisions, never having to worry about ramifications, and never losing their temper or even being affected.

We see this often in kids movies and YA fiction. Too often they are the product of how the writers THINK kids behave (seriously, you can tell which ones have kids and which don’t), or how the believe kids SHOULD behave. I like to refer to this as the ‘Brady Bunch Effect’ even though some of these are arguably worse than the characters in that show. These characters are usually so stale that when a bully does something to them, and then turns around and accuses them of the same crime, the character will just stand there and accept the punishment, despite having done nothing wrong.

I’ve spoken about this trope before as it’s honestly one of the few times you’ll find me screaming at a book. It literally drives me insane. There is no rhyme or reason for this other than the fact that these characters are, by nature, frustratingly passive. This causes a whole load of other problems, but that’s a conversation of already had.

Back on track…

What is wrong with perfect characters? Well for starters, they aren’t actually characters. They aren’t dimensional, they don’t grow, they don’t change, and there is little to nothing dynamic about them. They are perfect character ‘archetypes’. As such, they are not relate-able and by default are also very unlikable. Most people I’ve spoken to find these types of characters frustrating as you spend most of the story hoping to see a reaction or some ounce of humanity that they can attach to.

For people to be able to relate to a character, that character needs to have traits that an audience can attach to. Contrary to the beliefs of some, that includes flaws. Your character has to have flaws… and no, what I said about a character being so perfect that they’re not relate-able is not a flaw, that’s a cop out. They need to have a realistic flaw, being a character flaw, a fear, a temper, a naivety, something that normal people have.

Maybe they made a bad decision that landed them in a situation that members of the audience can relate to? Hindsight is 20/20 and we don’t always know what the right decision is.

This is likely the reason why people are gravitating towards tragic villains and anti-heroes.

So how do we write characters that people can relate to?

I’m sorry to say this, but if you don’t know how to do that, you need to stop writing. Put the pen down or turn the computer off, because if you’re writing characters the way I mentioned above, you’re going to run into problems.

My advice is to stop and think of someone you know that you like. Why do you like them? What about them do you relate to? Explore those things and figure out that person’s positive and negative traits. If that doesn’t work, go out in public and just listen to people. Listen to their stories, listen to their conversations (without being creepy) and think about what they have to say. It should help.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Collab about Collaboration

Hi Jim,

I was wondering if you’d ever done a collaborative work? If so, what’s your opinion on the best way to organize it? I thought it would be fun to work with someone on a story because they have a plotline that they’ve been working on, and I’ve got one that I think would go along well with it. I’m concerned about some of the characters I’m writing and whether or not my partner will be able to properly portray them. I don’t want to just give up on this as the story really sounds great with what we’ve come up with.

Thanks,
Julia


Hi Julia,

Good question. So I think the most important part of a collaboration is communication. When the two of you are working on the same page. Make sure that s/he knows what you’re hoping to accomplish and how your character is written. If after all of that, you’re still worried, there are a few options;

  1. Fix the character in editing. You’d be surprised how much changes when you go through and edit a book. A lot gets changed and in some cases even some of the themes are altered. This will be a really great place to go through and make the desired changes.
  2. Have him/er write his characters and you write yours or have them tell you the scenario and you write the characters into it.

Collaboration is not easy given that you’ve got two people with likely very different sets of ideas of how a story is going to play out. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and if things get too bad, then feel free to walk away. Though I would do this only as a last resort, especially since you both may have to abandon the story and said characters in their entirety. I’ve heard accusations of plagiarism come from failed collaborations, so you do need to be careful.

At the same time though, YOU need to be able to give a little. An idea may sound good to you, but may not make sense or mesh well in the story. You need to be prepared to take constructive criticism as it comes and be ready to change something as needed. You cannot stonewall someone and expect the collaboration to be successful.

I’ve only done one and admittedly, it didn’t go well. So the likelihood of me doing it again is minimal. I’m not against the idea if its someone I can work well with, but too often I wind up butting horns.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with admitting that. If you don’t work well writing with another person, that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to write with someone else, you can write your own story and be done with it.

The way we did it was that I’d write one story and he’d write the next one… unfortunately he took the story in a direction which was the polar opposite of where I wanted it to go. There was no give and take and after being stonewalled, I refused to write another piece for the series. I was done.

So hopefully this helps you a little. Be vocal, but also be willing to give a little in the exchange. Writing with another person can be an interesting experience if you’re both on the same page… or at least in the same chapter.

Readers, what do you think? Are collaborations not worth the trouble or is there something rewarding about them? Share your experiences with Julia in the comments!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Long and Short of Writing Long Distance

Hi Jim,

You may not be the right person to ask, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m writing a story about a long term relationship that also happens to be a long-distance relationship. However I’ve never had a long distance relationship work out. I want to write this so it sounds somewhat realistic, but it seems like the odds are staggeringly against such a relationship. Do you have any advice about how I could write my couple?

Thanks,
Lilly


Hello Lilly,

This question would probably be better suited to a relationship counselor or therapist… but I’ll do my best to help. I’m sorry to say, but what everyone is saying is correct. This is coming from someone who has been involved in two separate long distance relationships and watched both of them fail. I’m sorry to say, but I don’t have much experience in one that has succeeded for very long. So a long term, long distance, relationship (depending on your definition of ‘long term’) might be a hurdle for some readers to overcome. Mine lasted about 1.5 years at best, personally.

My advice to you is pretty much the same advice that I would give someone who’s entering into a long distance relationship. There are a few prerequisites that I would recommend before getting too serious:

  1. Frequent communication: Don’t let your characters go for too long without talking to each other. Probably a few days at most, though I know some people would say 24 hours is enough. Maybe that’s a little clingy, but if you’ve gone for over a week without speaking to the person… without any outstanding reason such as work, then are they really together?
  2. Establish a game plan: Okay obviously this isn’t something you’re going to do early on, that’s just psychotic. However, as things get more serious, if there is no plan to close the distance between the two of you, then likely you’re pretty much dealing with a pen pal, not an actual relationship. If the goal of the relationship is commitment and some kind of domestic partnership, there has to be a plan on the table.
  3. Trust and lots of it: Relationships require trust. Long distance ones even more so. If one of your characters is constantly wondering whether the other is being faithful or get’s highly suspicious of a friend of the opposite sex, it’s going to crash and burn real fast.

There are more essentials out there, but these three are the biggest ones in my opinion. Honestly, you might do better having it an on again, off again, relationship… or perhaps an open one, though I’m not a huge fan of those. In any case, I’d say you’ve got quite a bit of work ahead of you to make this something this work. If your story is set in modern times, skype and other remote tools are going to be essential.

Hope this helps, but lets open this up to our readers. Does anyone else out there on wordpress have any advice for our friend Lilly here?

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Perception of Beauty Trope

 

I want to talk today about a trope that lately has been driving me crazy. I call it the Perception of Beauty Trope, but perhaps it would be more like ‘the attractive guy gets the girl’ trope.

This has caused so many problems throughout the literary and movie world. Let me give you a few examples:

IT (2017)

Pretty much the one thing that kept this movie from being perfect is the infuriating love triangle, especially for those of us who read the book and saw the original. Bev seems to go back and forth between Bill and Bev… and for some reason… Ben just kind of turns the other cheek the entire time.

I’m just going to come right out and say it, even in this latest installment, BEN AND BEV HAVE FAR MORE ROMANCE THAN HER AND BILL! However who get’s to spend the last few moments of the film with her and gets the meaningful kiss? Is it the kid she first connected with, the one who wrote her poetry… the one she ends up with in other mediums? NOPE! It’s the stuttering leader. Why? Because he’s the good looking guy. There is virtually no other reason for it. (And yes, I am FULLY aware of she does in the book, but that is irrelevant here.)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame –

Yes, I know what happens in the book, but both the ’39 and ’96 versions are such a departure from the novel that I barely consider them the same story. Again, considerable chemistry between Esmeralda and Quasimodo, but does she end up with the Hunchback? Heh, please… in the animated one she ends up with blonde knight captain while in the ’39 version, she ends up with a starving Poet who pretty much stood by while she was about to be executed. Again, pretty much just because they were the good looking guys.

Moulin Rouge –

For full context here, you need to watch both the original and supremely inferior Jukebox music version that came out a few years ago.

In the original, the star is a rather ugly (as Hollywood goes) man with a cane. In the remake, he’s replaced with Obi Wan Kenobi… and the movie goes downhill from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Ewin Mcgreggor. He’s a good actor who did the best he could with bad directing in Star Wars… but here… he doesn’t fit. This becomes blatantly obvious in the original version of the best song in the movie… ironically the only song actually made for the movie:

Fast forward to 4 minutes into the song. Ewin McGreggor is replaced with Jim Broadbent (Harold Zidler) for the final cut. When I asked my wife why, she said it was because he was the superior vocalist… well why didn’t they cast someone with said superior vocalist. You put that one together.

I see this in literature too and to be honest, I don’t get why. If it’s not appearance, it’s some other superficial feature. I can’t remember the name,  but I read a story a while back with a character named ‘Keelig’. There was a love triangle between him, a girl, and another guy named ‘Chris.’ Right off the bat, I knew who was ending up with the girl.

Honestly, this is part of the reason why so many of my characters have very distinct names; Piero, Corbin, Giovanni, Tobias, and Raiya. I’ve found that characters with distinct names, personalities, and features are the ones that are most memorable. As such, I can’t figure out why the bland ones get the most attention.

So my advice for my readers is simple, pick a character. Do you care about that character? Do they have the most chemistry with the others? Then let that one get the happily ever after in the end. Ignore the topical issues.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Music Inspiration for Writing

Hi Jim,

I’ve been following your blog for a while and was wondering about the ‘From my Writing Playlist’ pieces you do. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the same music, but I’ve never found music especially helpful in my writing. Now that I’m suffering from writer’s block, I’m desperate to try anything. I read some of your other recommendations, but they only helped me for a little while. Now I’m back to square one. Can you help me understand how music translates to words for you?

Thanks,
Julie


Hello Julie!

 

Seems like you’re in quite a bind here. Honestly music doesn’t work for everyone and different people hear different things. For example, when I listen to Beast in Black:

It makes me happy and brews a story about someone who lost a love to a vicious evil. Years later, after suffering with her loss, he discovers she’s still alive and has to face down that evil to get her back. However you might hear something different.

Here’s what I want you to do…

Take a song that energizes you, one that really gets your blood pumping and makes you happy. Listen to that song twice. First time, really listen to the lyrics, then listen to the melody on the second run. Really focus on the melody and the notes. Then write what pops into your head. What does that song make you think of? Whatever it is, write it out and describe it in detail.
Once you have that all written out, go back and re-read what you’ve written. Next listen to a song that invokes sadness. Listen to it the same way said above. absorb the lyrics and then the melody. Close your eyes and let your mind wander. What’s the first thing that pops into your head? Write it down and describe every detail; every emotion, every thought, every scene. Use metaphor and alliteration when you do it.  I want you to write everything out.

Don’t worry about not doing it right, there is no right or wrong way of going about this.

Then repeat with songs that invoke other emotions. Keep doing this until your mind begins flowing again with ideas. It’s what I call a mental jump-start. Once you’ve done this a couple of times, you should find yourself writing a whole new story out… or several new stories… or you’ve described something in great detail.

Either way, you should be able to write again, and you’ll have started the process of training your mind to brainstorm to music. Keep doing this and when you feel you’re ready, start listening to music while you write. This is how I write my novels.

I hope this helps, please feel free to email me if you have any further questions!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim