Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cars as Characters... And Other Objects

Recently I retired my old 98 Saturn, affectionately named "Sippy The Wonder Sedan" after 246,900 something miles.  I replaced it with an 08 Toyota Yaris named "Go-Kart The Wonder Hatchback".  Not everybody names their cars but they do have distinct personalities.  That's why cars end up with names from things like Ted or Susan to Smokie or The Beast.

Anthropomorphizing things has a long tradition dating back to the beginning of storytelling where hunter-gatherers sat around their camp fires telling stories with characters such as the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, and mountains.  Stories where these natural objects had spirits and could talk and interact with man and each other.

More recent stories include the Dresden Files stories by Jim Butcher and Leviathan by Scott Westerfield.  Harry Dresden has a rickety old car that works for him (barely) because it isn't modern or filled with modern electronics which his magical influence tends to react poorly with.  The Leviathan is an actual living creature that is also an airship and home to a crew of World War I era British sailors.  When the ship suffers you feel its pain, just as its crew does.

An extreme case of humanizing cars would be the Pixar films, Cars and Cars II.  The vehicles come alive with personalities ranging from the cocky athlete (Lightning McQueen) to the simple trusting friend (Mater).

By humanizing cars (or other inanimate objects), you draw your readers in to someone or something else they can love and cheer for, or hate and despise.  Things are just things, until they are given personality and a life of their own.  We are social creatures. We like to imagine things as like ourselves, with feelings, motivations, and passions.  So take advantage of that in your storytelling.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A Status Update And Additional Lessons Learned from LTUE 2012

What have I been up to lately?  Mostly working on adding the extra scenes and polishing up the existing ones for Blood On The Vine.  My pace has been slower than I'd like, mostly due to changes in my work schedule snipping away at my morning writing times and something attacking my Saturday writing times.  I still managed to get some in so I haven't been at a dead stop for writing.  Soon, my work schedule will improve again and the pace will pick up.

I promised some people to provide additional insights and observations gained from Life The Universe And Everything-2012.  Here you go.

Advice from actual editors.    Seek to get the message itself to shine, not your name.  That will take your book(s) and career farther.  Be professional, polite, and friendly.  This is a gentleman's business but still a business.  As a writer, be willing to accept feedback from your editor and be willing to make substantial changes to your book if needed.  Don't change anything just because someone says to, but work with your editor as a team to make the book a worthwhile read.  Don't let ego block your growth.  After submitting manuscripts, don't wait for the editor/agent to accept/reject the work, dive into writing your next project.

Advice on villains.  Give them clear motivations and "I want to oppose the protagonist" or "I'm evil therefore I kick puppies" are not good motivations.  Remember the villain is a real person.  Villain does not equal antagonist.  Your protagonist can be a villain like Dr. Horrible in Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog or Gru in Despicable Me, though both could be labeled anti-villains instead.  More on that later.  Javier in Les Miserables is the antagonist but he is a lawful good, dedicated to truth and justice person.  Look up Peter's Evil Overlord List on Google to avoid stupid villain mistakes.   Don't "lamify" your villains to make them beatable by your protagonists.  If you have to weaken your villain then your hero is a wimp and nobody will care about them.  Anti-villains are people who want to be evil villains but are actually too nice and soft at heart to succeed at it (example, Gru from Despicable Me or Goob from Meet The Robinsons).  Heroes and villains both believe they're doing the right thing for the right reasons (usually).

Advice on writing for LDS markets.  The LDS market is smaller than the national market but you can have greater influence within the niche.  For non-fiction, establish yourself as an expert in your field.  You don't have to go to college for eight years to understand the scriptures or write about them.  But do be professional, studious, and prayerful about your writing.  Have an original take and good insight.  For fiction,     be conscious of language and situations in your book.  The LDS market is the wholesome alternative to books filled with teen sex, drugs, etc.  Families and kids, even of other faiths, do want to read fun clean uplifting stories.  Within the LDS market there are many niches and genres available.  Understand your target audience.  Even the savior of the world was an avid storyteller.  He spoke in parables and allegories.

Some food for thought and I've only made it through half of the first day's notes of this three day conference.  There was a lot of incredibly good advice.  Stay tuned for more.