03 November, 2011

NaNo, Characters, and Soapboxes - Oh, My!

So, NaNo is going pretty well so far!  I've been kind of 'meh' about writing in general the last week or so.  But, since I know how I want the story to go, I can skip around a little and write some here and there.  Word Count: 9,196 - Woot!!

My main stumbling block is that I think this would make a better movie than a book.

Gasp!  I know.  Usually, I think completely the opposite: books are ten thousand times better than movies, even though I love movies.

 But, this time, I really am seeing this more like a movie.  I had this problem with my Ghost idea, too.  I saw the plot unfold as 'scenes.'  And not just 'oh, this scene in the book blah blah blah happens,' but actual scenes with camera angles and landscape shots and other video type stuff.

My problem with this is, I find it hard to describe that sort of thing.  I usually (and hopefully this is the truth and I'm not totally deluding myself about my own writing skill) let the action and the characters lead the way, only describing things when it is absolutely necessary for the story.

I tend to not enjoy books that have overly detailed descriptions of anything, whether people or characters or locations.  It feels...contrived a little.  Maybe it's my overactive imagination or my complete type-a-have-to-be-in-control-ness, but I like to ascribe characteristics to my characters without the help of an author.

And I feel good authors understand that.  Take Harry Potter.  Rowling gave us a few specifics: green eyes, black hair, glasses and, of course, his scar.  She added he looked like his dad, but his eyes were his mother's.  And he was short and kind of skinny, while Ron was broader.  And that's it.  A few important details to cement him into our minds and the rest is up to us to supply.

Another example I can think of is Tolkien.  His descriptions are ridiculously lengthy.  And while it has been a while since I seriously read the trilogy front to back, I do remember some interesting things about his descriptions of characters.

His places are very clear.  He uses his locations as characters, adding depth to the saga.  For instance: Mordor.  Even before the live action movie came along, I could see Mount Doom and the Dark Tower.  The weight of Gondor's history was perfectly captured in the city, showing the wealth it once had, but was now declining.

The hobbits, the central characters, were described at length, but it was to highlight the contrast between them and men like Aragorn.  Tolkien gives us his gray eyes and height, that he is strong and lanky.  But then he compares Aragorn to 'kings of old.'  This gives his personality more definition, but not his features.

What do I care about some dude's eyebrows and nose and chin?  I want to know what he does and how he does it, more than what color his hair is.

I recently finished editing a sci-fi novel I wrote.  The male main character is tall and blond, with angular features.  This was important to note because it gives clues as to where he was born, what region of what planet in the solar system.  Certain ethnicities had colonized certain areas and his cultural heritage is central to his character.  It drives everything he does, the action that ensues in the plot and how he interacts with the female main character.  In that case, yes, describe him.

But the supporting male character? All you know is that Mr. #2 is shorter than the main character and older by some forty years.  This affects their relationship, how they interact.  Other than that...what does it matter?

Now, maybe when (and note my use of when.  Keeping hope alive) this novel gets picked up, the editor assigned to me will most likely be like: 'why didn't you describe this dude?'  And I will explain this exact thing to him/her and they will stare blankly at me and say: 'that's weird.  Describe him.'

But until then!  I will stand on my soapbox and loudly declaim my opinion.  Too much description is boring.  Action is better.  Action involving gunfights and car chases and/or superheroes is best.

And besides, I have a total crush on Husband and imagine every male protagonist to be him, no matter what some author tells me to think.

*sigh*...how smarmy was that?  Feel free to make puking noises.  I won't mind.


shelton keys dunning said... Reply to comment

Your soapbox and mine are similar, so you may officially count yourself as "not alone". My perspective of the world drives my writing, and I would have to say that as a human, I don't generally notice more than hair color and height. Shoulders too, when it comes to men. I tend to write the same way. I believe it leaves the reader license then to dream up the rest, thereby allowing the reader to have a better grasp of the character and more of a personal stake as to what happens to that character.

And now my soapbox has become yours. So to sum up: I love the way you think and I couldn't agree more with your point of view. Cheers!

Elisabeth Treble said... Reply to comment

Yay soapbox buddies! And I lurv me a man with shoulders. ;)@shelton keys dunning