Saturday, December 14, 2013

Building Heroes

I love writing complicated male characters. They're fun and interesting. How they behave has less to do with the labels we try to hang on them than the situations we set them in.

If you've ever watched the old movie Clash of the Titans, you'll understand why I sometimes feel like a goddess. I have the power to create or destroy. Which of these raw and undefined figures will catch my eye? Who will I take off the shelf and set down in an unfamiliar time or place? How will I arm them for the events they're going to face? You can't leave them completely unprotected. They're also going to need support for the trials ahead. I might give a nudge here or there, but it's far more satisfying to watch how they develop and grow into someone to be reckoned with. I'd much rather sit back and watch how their adventure unfolds.

Writers generally fall into two camps, though there's often some overlap. There are plotters; those who prefer more organization and details up front. They can have all their characters named--down to backstories and relationships--not to mention plot twists and the climactic moments established before they ever write the opening paragraph. Then there are pantsers; those who have a vague idea, maybe only the initial meeting or event that sets the ball rolling and that's it.

I'm a pantser. I don't tell my characters who they are, I let them tell me. They bring in friends and relations. They show me their personalities, their wishes and goals, and the ways they can be crippled. I don't create the heroes. I want them to prove they are the heroes and that's entirely out of my hands. All I can do is set them in the action and put a sword, a gun, a cellphone, or a steering wheel in their hands. At this point, it's entirely up to them.

Let the story begin.

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