Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

You Might Want to Leave Britney Spears Alone
Or…How to annoy your readers with unwanted character developments

We’ll feature another installment of the Writer’s Guide Character Sketches series tomorrow morning here at The Dragon, but I have to make a side note concerning characters and the arcs they go through to fulfill their purpose in a story. And, considering how very much attention Britney Spears has received since she had her head shaved like some kind of G.I. Jane or Ripley’s-Got-An-Alien-Followin’-Her Wannabe, I just had to forewarn you writers of something.

You CAN annoy your readers if your characters do something stupid.

If your character is supposed to go on a quest for self-righteousness (and I’m not implying Britney Spears has been on such a quest), you can’t let this dear, innocent, everyone’s-falling-in-love-with-him-or-her hero (or heroine) suddenly dive off the deep end and have a sordid romp with some two-bit loser in a back alley (and I’m not implying Britney Spears has ever done such a thing). You want your characters to have their surmountable flaws and their moments of crisis, but, wow, you’ve got to keep it in check.

But there’s another lesson from Britney Spears for writers working on character development. Watch closely.

What you do is gradually take a character from Point A to Point B to Point C and so on until he or she reaches the end of the arc at the end of your story. If you want your angelic Charlotte Church to end up in a tattoo parlor with no panties (that’s a guess on my part) and a shaved head, well, you know, just make sure she first marries some guy no one’s ever heard of and helps him make a fool of himself; make sure she has allegations of child neglect surrounding her in the papers for a few weeks at a time; have her walk into gross public restrooms without shoes or socks on; and then have her call up the aforementioned husband while he’s filming a TV show and humiliate him by dumping/divorcing him by cell phone. That’s a class act right there, my writing friends. But what you see is a believable character that’s developing over time. Your audience will come to expect certain behaviors. By the time you get to the beauty salon, the readers won’t be surprised when the character demands the hairdresser get out the razor and buzz away. Your readers will merely shake their heads in despair as this character heads on over to the tattoo parlor. Now, I’m not saying your readers are going to adore this character, but you’ve got a definite pattern of unwanted character development.

And that’s good fiction.

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

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Blogger M. B. Weston said...

What an amazing parallel you've drawn here. You almost don't have to say anything else about character development.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Except maybe that in the second half of her life (Book II), it would be nice to see the arc go back the other direction, eh? Some readers might like to see a character's fall from grace be amended...if you leave them some room to care or sympathize.

Do you care at all about Abigail Farrier? ***insert evil smile here***

Sandy L.
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

7:48 AM  

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