The Myth of Character Development

It seems like everyone who wants to give advice to aspiring authors has one thing they harp on more than anything else. They claim that it will make or break your story. It will draw in or alienate your audience. Your success and skill will be endlessly measured by it.

The it, of course, is character development. The things they are saying are pretty much all lies. Or at least, half truths. You can’t even google “authors who didn’t need character development” without getting a bunch of posts about how to develop characters. It makes me sad.

 

1. The Half Truth

One of my favorite authors is Arthur C. Clarke. If you have ever read one of his stories, whether it was a novel or short fiction, I dare you to remember a character’s name. I read his stuff all the time and I can’t. But I can tell you exactly what happened in the story. I can tell you all of the cool ideas. In fact, when I read his stories that are character-centric, I tend to leave them unfinished. He simply couldn’t do it. He can’t write an intriguing character. Except for HAL-9000. And that was a computer.

Yet he was a very successful writer. He wrote and sold a lot of novels, tons of short fiction, and even a few screenplays. The myth of having intriguing characters is much more a result of something else.

2. YA lit

I feel that Young Adult literature has skewed fiction a bit. Young Adults, or as we used to call them: teenagers, are at a point in their development that requires a sense of belonging. Something or someone to relate to. Harry Potter struggles just like they do. Bella and Edward were meant to be together, no matter what anyone else says. All of these things point to a deep need for something other than a story.

3. Visual Media

TV and Movies have always been character driven. Lots of movies have no plot whatsoever. And lots of TV shows have to rely on character development to drive the whole ship. The lines between a written medium and a visual medium have become very blurred, leading to television tactics in the great American novel.

4. It’s not all bad

Now, don’t hear me saying that characters don’t matter. They do. I just don’t think we have to spend so much time developing every one of them to the point that we can write all of their back stories. This epidemic has to be put into perspective.

 

Next Time

Next week, we can discuss fixing this mass falsehood. What is good character development? How much do of it is enough? Why are everyone’s main characters a transcendental metaphor?

Next time! All this…and more…

 

Nerddom is here to stay

What drove you to write Sci Fi in the first place?

Or better yet, what is driving you to write Sci Fi now?

Is it books?

Graphic novels?

Movies?

Cartoons?

What is it?

What do you love so much that it drives you to create?

The importance of being a nerd

The status of nerds has changed over the last few decades. In the 80’s, nerds were made into comedy movies that became instant cult classics. In the 90’s, nerds were given two of their biggest icons in Steve Urkel and Samuel ‘Screech’ Powers, yet they were more the butt of a joke than tailor made heroes.

The turn of the century brought on something new though. Cartoon Network launched a block of shows that were translated from Japanese to English, giving science fiction other than American comic book heroes credence. This led to a further translation of many more shows, leading to a revolution among the upcoming generation of youth.

Of course anime was nothing new then; CN simply brought it to the status of an afternoon cartoon show like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons. What they did was bring it up from the underground and put it in the mainstream. Go ahead and talk to almost anyone age 25-35. I bet most of them know what Dragonball Z is (at least).

With all of this said, the shift had begun. Fast forward to 2013, and there are live action TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and King of the Nerds. Mainstream application of Science Fiction and its fans. I mean, the Scott Pilgrim movie made 47 million at the box office! Have you seen that movie?! It’s silly and full of all kinds of video game references! (For the record, that is one of my favorite movies of all time. I was super stoked that one of my favorite graphic novels was being made into a movie)

Not to mention the commercial successes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Peter Jackson has accomplished what was once thought impossible with the fantasy genre. And now there’s Game of Thrones to go along with the Fire and Ice series.

Nerddom (?) has begun its reign after many years of a slow infiltration.

Which is probably one reason you create

Come on, admit it.

You know that you are a nerd for something. I like lots of sci fi things. I’m currently reading ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by Robert Heinlein. I’m sure I will go see whatever cool Sci Fi movie comes out soon. I need to organize my 400+ comic books and graphic novels. All of these things drive me to create worlds full of adventure and sweet gadgets. The lightsaber still haunts me.

What drives you?

What are you so in love with that it makes you want to make your own?

The Process

Many of my ideas come to me at random times. Sometimes even when I’m already writing a different story! It is very important to keep your ideas documented. How organized you keep them is your own business, but at least get them where you can come back to them.

Once you have an idea, fleshing it out is the hard part. Most people tend to want a novel length project, but short stories are much easier to complete. Combining short stories can also lead to a novel. Don’t count out the short story.

Editing is absolutely necessary. There are mistakes. Your beta readers and editor will find them. Trust me.

Whatever makes you create is just as important as the process. Which is why I spent more words on nerd stuff than process in this post. I have tons of content on process and nerd stuff if you want to check it out. Just click on the archives and start browsing. I hope your holidays were great, and that you got some cool stuff that will spur your creativity even more. I’m off to get a bow this weekend with my Christmas earnings.

Keep Writing!