Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters PUNCTUATE!

*cough*

Okay, so I got a couple things going today, but y'all know I'm nuts, so I thought maybe you'd just roll with it with me.

First up... Alex Cavanaugh and co-conspirators are holding another BLOGFEST! (Two in one week? Are you nuts? Well I think you know the answer to THAT one.) The theme? Writing compelling characters! As writers, it is so important to do, and it is so obvious when you have and don't have them... but how do we GET THEM? (hold your breath—I'll get there)

Second! (and I warned you about this) It is NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY! Wahoo! (I talked briefly about THIS on Wednesday.

And because I am thoroughly insane, I thought what I WOULD DO is combine themes! *shifty*

(okay, now breathe)

I considered using MY characters, but you don't KNOW that, and since I have swim meets to attend and needy children this week, I thought characters most of you know might be more illustrative...


Period Characters: These characters behave predictably (and make the rest of us do the same). Most stories have a couple and stories that DON'T can be somewhat exhausting. They are the nice balance against which all your other characters contrast. They are stable. And they give you a chance to breath. They might offer up a surprise or two (what book can tolerate characters with no interesting details or activities?) but like Minerva McGonagall, they are always reliably present. (in fact their absence is a bigger disturbance than anything else could be). Hermione falls here, too, as does Hagrid, ironically.

(My MC and her beau fall here, partly I think, because I find rational characters in irrational circumstances can be fairly amusing.)



Question Mark Characters: These characters seem like one thing, but may very well be another. There is some answer to find, some resolution to seek. In the genres I write, these characters are essential—they would be the suspects, unknown bad guys, conspirators... Or they might just be people we don't know very well and we really want to know what makes them tick. Mad-Eye Moody of his first incarnation... Sirius Black... Maybe even Ron, with his mood swings and insecurities. But the biggie, is HARRY—Why DID he live and what is his connection to Voldemort?

(ALL the suspects, except one... you'll see her in a minute)


Exclamation Characters: These are colorful, loud, and used well, can be exciting, but you don't want very many of them... Fred and George! Tonks! Dumbledore! (you can't deny, Minister, the man has style)

(My MC's dad, who seems quite popular with the ladies...)


Interrobang Characters ?!: WAHOOOOO! Can you say WILD RIDE! These characters are over the top, unpredictable, and somehow can pull off what the exclamation characters can't because there is some QUESTION about them in addition to the excitement. LUNA!

(My MC's best friend and primary sidekick “I'm naked!” (she might have some of me in her))



The Helper Characters

Comma Characters: every story needs a couple place holders to set the pace—to keep things working in the flow you want... commas are one variety (the most boring, but least distracting form—only annoying when you get too many in a row. Parvati, Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchy...

Ellipse and Em-dash Characters: These have a similar function but are a lot bossier about it, so you want to keep them to a minimum. I would classify Arthur Weasley as an Ellipse—he is whimsical and fun and adds... his wife, Molly however, is an em-dash—fierce, but for your own good.


Semi-colon Characters: I hear female writers have lots of these *shifty * They reinforce that two characters go together by being the pause between them... Cho Chang romantically but I think Neville is the best example (I say Neville because he often accentuates why things are so hard... he brings out the best and worst in others and allows us to see clearly (look at what he brings out in Draco versus Harry)

Colon characters: These try to increase order by annoying everybody. *cough*  Seriously though... these characters instill structure that inadvertently work against our characters... (the police officer who is set in his ways and won't listen to my MC, for instance.) Most of the Ministry, Dolores Umbridge in particular, but Cornelius Fudge, too. (and their chocolate frog babies )


The main important point though (yes, there is one) is that a great story needs a combination... the periods to keep it flowing in an orderly fashion, the question marks to keep us curious and engaged, the exclamation points to shock us now and again, and the commas and such to break it up a little and make it flow in a little less choppy a fashion. And if you are REALLY LUCKY, you can create an interrobang character that people will pull out as an example of beloved, inside or outside the story, for ages to come.

So there... Now you're insane to.

31 comments:

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

Oh my gosh! That has got the be the MOST original post I've read in this blogfest. HArt, you never disappoint! So which character are you? Come'on cough it up :o) Me, I reckon I'm a questions mark ... or am I not? ;o)

M.J. Nicholls said...

Wow. This interrobang blog woke me with a bang this morning. Harry Potter characters are closer to "types" maybe than fully-rounded characters, but the reader does respond well to one dominant trait. It's using this trait as a way-in to the character's psyche that works well, I think.

Pavarotti is the only person who fits all categories. Three cheers for the greatest tenor who ever lived!

Creepy Query Girl said...

I didn't know there was a ponctuation day! I think it's so funny how 'compelling characters' makes everyone think of Harry Potter. I used J.K. as an example too! lol.

Simon C. Larter said...

Posts like this make me heart Hart. (I know, I could've just said "you," but then it wouldn't've rhymed, now would it?)

Very clever, good lady! Very, very clever.... *steeples fingers* *nods mysteriously* *pets fluffy white cat* *sneezes cuz he's allergic to cats*

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica- *Snicker* If by original, you mean MAD... teehee

Mark-maybe types to a degree, but every one of the 'good' guys is well flawed, and some quite complex, even if the bad ones are mostly a little bit canned. (though staying in Harry's PoV saves that--Harry isn't a terribly complex guy--he isn't going to PERCEIVE the complexity, so Jo doesn't have to relay it...

Katie-I need to get around now! The HP books are definitely the ones I've spent the most time thinking about. And because there are several books, it really does cover all sorts. I could have done Twilight, but really it only had a period (Jacob) and three commas in it *shifty*

Simon-Hart hearts you back! Glad you share my madness...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, Hart, that's quite a twist on characters. And you merged it so well with Punctuation Day!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

This is such a fantastic post, Tami. Why did I never think of characters this way?

They are so true.

Old Kitty said...

I want me some Interrobang Characters now!!! They so rock!! They so speak to me!! :-)

You are so right in saying a story needs a mix of punctual characters LOL! Oh ok - a smorgasboard of characters and punctuations! Oh yes!

Happy Punctuation Day!!!!!

Take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

Alex--that's because I'm twisted--you know that! teehee

Natasha-As my twin, I knew you'd understand. Thank you!

Jenny-I love the Interrobang characters to. I think I'd try to BE one, but I can't seem to find anything all that mysterious about me. In writing I am probably closer to the exclamation points, and in real life, I am a plain old period...

ViolaNut said...

Pavarotti was a lousy tipper, though - played a gig for him, got his latest CD as a tip. Meh.

'Kay, anyway, I think the idea of Fudge and Umbridge having chocolate frog babies just made me rupture whatever-this-painful-thing-is laughing. *dies*

Hart Johnson said...

Leanne- that was a Wizard War Delusional Thursday theory... beautiful, isn't it? I don't remember who came up with it, but it seems it might have been one of the Irish teens... Joris will surely correct me if I'm wrong.

clp3333 said...

Great post. Love the thoughtfulness of how each character fits their mark.

Dawn said...

BRILLIANT! I'm printing this post off for repeated viewing pleasure. LOL

Nicki Elson said...

This post is fantastic! You're so clever (even if you are a bit crazy, as you say) to combine punctuation with characters. And who would have thought that it would all come out making so much sense! Really brilliant work here. Excellent point that not every character has to be---or should be---shoot the lights out. Nice job.

-Nicki

P.S. I am totally going to think of Arthur and Molly Weasley any time I use an ellipse and em-dash from here on out. ;)

Carolyn Abiad said...

Fabulous work, Hart! This is going to keep me busy for a while.

Matthew Rush said...

What an amazing mash-up of a post! I LOVE how you went about this. I mean your points are also very astute, completely true, and totally unique, which also rocks, but it was really fun to see your take on the topic.

Thanks for sharing Hart!

arlee bird said...

Excellent analysis of character types and I love the juxtaposition of the two events. I'm a big fan of rational characters in irrational situations, or the opposite. I am so entertained by absurdity.
Fun post, Hart.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Hart Johnson said...

Chris-thank you!

Dawn--PRINTED? Holy cow! That's a high honor!

Nicki-that is sort of me in a nut shell... making my insanity make sense--that is how you know I've sucked you into my nefarious plan...

Carolyn-thank you!

Matthew--mash-up... good way to put it! That is actually the most fun I have writing--mixing things in unexpected ways. Always a bonus if it makes sense.

Lee-Are you calling me absurd? *snort* (I take it as a compliment) And I totally agree--nutso characters in normal situations or normal characters in insane situation really is the perfect balance.

Helena said...

What an original idea! LOVE how you classify Potter characters as punctuation. Only now can I see why all of J.K. Rowling's wizards and muggles and others stand out so much on their own and yet together balance and hold up a whole series of books. Brilliant, Hart!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That was so clever! I loved it! Such a great analogy and I'm certainly going to remember it now...great post.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Travis Erwin said...

Love it. Thanks for the smile and the education.

Hart Johnson said...

Helena--TOTALLY Serendipity (which Carolyn blogged about today, by the way)--forcing me to put ideas together that don't go is where my creativity strikes.

Raquel and Travis, thank you!

Clarissa Draper said...

You may have combined two blogfests together but I think it's brilliant what you've done with it. And, thanks for visiting my blog.

CD

lettucehead said...

Wow, way to take a step back to realize each character's importance. Thanks for the reminder in a complete organized, well thought-out, post! :)

Lisa said...

This is excellent! I love how you related the two subjects. Now as I reread (again), I'll be placing punctuation tags on my characters.

Mary said...

Very clever the way you tied these two subjects together. I'm going to reread to make sure I caught it all

Just so you know I had to come back three times before could post a comment. Maybe we overloaded blogger today.lol

Melissa said...

Your wit amazes me. I love how you tied punctuation with characters. If you didn't already win me over with the Harry Potter references, you certainly have me now.

This is original, unique. Your are definitely in my top 5 favorite posts today

Cruella Collett said...

I swear I left a comment here yesterday. Actually, I swear I TRIED to do so about five times, and when I STILL wouldn't post I got so mad I just left it alone.

But I mean to comment.

Since you are brilliant. Brilli. Ant. (I am taking the opportunity to use punctuation day [though I am pretending it is punctuation week, apparently...] to use punctuation, even more than ! it should be;)

RaShelle said...

Hart - You are one talented lady in that I approve of the excellent usage of puntuation in correlation with characters. Heh heh =D

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was brilliant! I can't imagine how long it took to sort out those characters into punctuation, but it resulted in a tremendous post. Thank you.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I like your approach to this topic!