Tuesday, October 12, 2010


If I have a writing weakness (okay, so AMONG my list of writing weaknesses), it is that I am TOO NICE. Oh, I know... one doesn't usually think of your happy neighborhood dominatrix as a warm, cuddly thing, but really... I get attached to my characters... I want good things for them. I mean sure... a little mundane emotional torture, but really putting them in deep danger? Doing horrible, rotten things to them? I have a hard time doing it. So I thought maybe we should explore some ways to make ourselves meaner... you know... on paper.

1)  Read some really bad literature and ponder how THAT book got published and yours didn't.
2)  Record a reading of your rejection letters and play them back to yourself while you sleep.
3)  Give up caffeine.
4)  Start an strict exercise routine so your muscles all hurt.
5)  Call upon memories of a cheating ex.
6)  Think of a time YOU got in trouble for something someone else did.
7)  Play some computer or video games and find out how much fun it is to blow stuff up.
8)  Write a SIDE STORY where you torture a character you really hate from one of those bad books in step one and realize if you are truly ROTTEN, it is actually fun to READ.
9) Think about your cantankerous partner getting rid of something you love because it was 'in his way'.
10)  Make yourself wear pants. Pants make EVERYONE mean.


While I am too nice, I am NOT a happily ever after gal. Endings that are too tidy or where 'love' is the solution to everybody's problem are a little too saccharine for me, but there is one thing I really am a stickler for in my endings. I want to experience some sense of JUSTICE. I want the downtrodden to get a little triumph. I want the arrogant jerks to get their comeuppance. I want the sweet, innocent people to have gotten a little dose of reality *shifty* (maybe that last one is just me). I can live with good stuff for the bad guy if he or she has gotten a really hard lesson.


You know what I really can't tolerate. Beautiful people. I mean I can if they are a side character, and their behavior is either stereotypically bitchy or disarmingly NICE. But beautiful people as MCs who seem oblivious and have no CLUE they are beautiful? Not buying it. Characters everybody wants to date? Then they darned well better either be a jerk because of it, or embarrassed by it. They certainly are AWARE or they are NOT realistic. For some people, beauty is a tool, and they use it. For OTHERS it is a burden and they hate that they can never tell whether others are genuine or not.

I also hate the 'romance formula'. I can get along with OTHER BOOKS that include romance... romantic suspense or chick lit with some side romance to go with a nice dose of personal growth. But a man being the answer to a woman's problems is never going to ring true.

Jcounter *shifty*

One year ago today I added my stat counter, and I am thrilled that in that time, I've had 55,000+ blog hits, and according to the counter, that is by almost 19,000 individuals (though I am skeptical of that). I also had my 116th country yesterday and LOOK how darned cool that flag is! (Martinique)


Cold As Heaven said...

I'm writing some cool torture scenes right now. One of the bad guys in my story is a dentist, still bitter because he didn't get into brain surgery school.

I'm not into computer games, always found it very boring. When I was in high school, I enjoyed programming computer games (they were very simple at that time). But once I finished a program I started making a new one, rather than playing it >:)

Cold As Heaven

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I'm with you on the beauty part, it's a little too Disney princessy for me:) But I couldn't do anything mean to my MC... He's old and grandfatherly... But there are a couple of others I could do pretty nasty things to, if they continue to annoy me:)

Old Kitty said...

Give up caffeine?!?! Jamais!!! It's worth the price of being, erm.. nice. Well nicer than normal! LOL!!!

I would definitely get put off if a blurb of a book starts with "Lucille Fox-Trotty-Sunburn is a socialite married to Handsome Brick and has 2.3 adorable children but one day she finds a nail" by Ghost-writer in the form of a super model. Bleagh.

Take care

Kassy with a K said...

Hmm. The beautiful people thing never bothers me because I think SO many people in real life are beautiful. They just have their own unique KIND of beautiful. And I find that it's my OTHER characters who insist that each other are beautiful... mainly because it's part of that whole love and eye of the beholder thing.

And somehow I never realized YOU were nice to characters.. I'm certain we've talked before about how much we enjoy tortured characters.. Hmm.

Hart Johnson said...

CaH-ACK! A bitter dentist is SURELY made for torture!

Alexandra--yeah--older people are especially hard to be mean to--totally with you there!

Jenny- *giggles* Not willing to give up the caffeine to be mean?

Kas-I think this is central to some of the characters you really like who bug the heck out of me for READING. You, as a writer, torture your character enough that I can get past the beauty thing *snicker* And for my 'can't be mean' thing... my example is maybe best seen in Aunt Trudy in tOP.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I cannot identify with perfect heroes. On the other hand, I am weary of the author who confuses sociopathic characteristics with coolness.

I sigh when I read a book or see a series of books about a formal wallflower suddenly becoming beloved of every good-looking undead or fur-sprouting guy she meets. Even Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox occasionally meets a good-looking man who thinks she just looks trashy.

LTM said...

da*n, hart! No lie, you totally stole my Thurs post which is already written as a follow up to yesterday's... b/c what happens when you fall in love w/your characters??? Yep, what you just said.

It's that psychic connection. I know. ;p <3

Dawn said...

I had a problem being mean to my characters once, and then I studied with Steve Berry, who essentially red penned out all of my "niceness." Though I considered being mean to him (in jest), I realize now what a valuable lesson that was. I'm mean when I need to be now. Especially to the beautiful people :-D

MJenks said...

Working part time in a bookstore...I do number 1. Often.

I have no problem making bad things happen to my characters. The thing I try NOT to do is to do bad things to them simply to do bad things to them. Whenever I write something, I always try to have every action be meaningful for the overall story. I'm hoping that character development and plot progession falls out of the bad things happening to my characters.

Hart Johnson said...

Roland-I have trouble with that socio-path coolbess confusion, too. I can only find sympathy for rotten characters if a compelling REASON is shown for their current rottenness. And I snorted about your unnamed Bella hint--EXACTLY who I was thinking about.

Leigh--you forgot your foil hat, didn't you? Brain thievery is my specialty!

Dawn-a good way to edit! Mark all my spots I'm not rotten enough and ramp them up!

MJenks-you're right of course, that a reason is needed--no rotten for rottens sake...

Will Burke said...

I love your crank-ifying methods! I too am too nice to my 'babies.'

Ellie said...

I love the justice thang, most of all! I want those wronged to have the last word! Beauty is
blinding, disrupts the story's path. I love your list, caffeine, been there did that...not fun!
I felt like I was sleepwalking through life, tried that for a year...it sucked! I acted like my life was sucked out of me. Guess my blood and grey matter, need the black oil, it greases my creative wheel! Pants...you are funny!
It is good you are in love, but no splenda, please. I believe you are good, but it wouldn't be your book. You have to have an edge, some grit with Hart!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations on all those hits!
And I do #7 all the time.

Talli Roland said...

Yay! You're popular tart, with all those hits!

I've been accused of being too mean to my little characters. Mwah haha

Holly Ruggiero said...

Some of your suggestions to make ourselves meaner just sounds like pure torture – I don’t want to be meaner to myself!

“man being the answer to a woman's problems” Huge pet peeve of mine and I hate it when I see women searching for that in real life. It ain’t gonna happen!

Hart Johnson said...

Will-it's because we're nice people! *nods*

Ellie-I am not for any long-term caffeine withdrawal (or pants wearing)--just for... you know... the scene.

Alex-somehow I would have guessed that about you!

Talli-actually--with the romantic comedy stuff you write, I can be really darned rotten there. It is the physical torture and killing off loved ones I have a hard time with.

Holly-yeah... I suppose that IS the point... but I mean it in a nice way *shifty* And yeah--I haven't gotten the 'man seekers' since I was about 16 and learned it was a sham. I find it rather a disservice in literature.

Helena said...

I created a character knowing that in a future chapter I was going to have to kill him off. He was such a decent man that I was almost crying as I wrote his death scene.

On the other hand, I also have a MC kill a bad guy, and that felt really good.

Aleta said...

I liked those "get mean this way" list, except for..

"Make yourself wear pants. Pants make EVERYONE mean"

Really? I wear pants just about every day for work.. then again, I manage an office staff, so yeah, maybe that's why I'm mean?! Lol.

Love the justice part of this blog post!

Helen Ginger said...

Congratulations on all your blog hits!

Characters who are too good to believe are too good to believe and too good to like.

Uh-oh. I'm always in pants. Crop pants or jeans, usually.

Terry Odell said...

Perfect characters don't work. Didn't we all hate the gorgeous cheerleader types? Of course, I was never in that "sosh" crowd.

Sometimes it's nice to give your characters what they want, but then let them find out the consequences aren't what they expected.

(And I confess I popped into this post because of the title--not long ago I read a book (historical) where the hero had to put an injured horse down, and he did it by slitting its "juggler vein."

Lisa said...

You're rocking those stats! I am really interested to hear what you prefer in the stories you read. I've tried reading chicklit, but I get frustrated with the focus on clothes, designer names, etc. I suppose I'm a little past the age demographic.

Also, I just read one of those books where it turns into a slog. I stuck with it because I kept waiting for the story to pick up. It never did. It fits your #1 in the list of things to make you meaner. I think it worked.

Hart Johnson said...

Helena-I cry while I write with some regularity. Then again, I cry at commercials, so I might not be a good meter there... I would definitely have a rough time killing a really nice character (in fact I've intended to and backed off.

Aleta-I have very poor tolerance of pants *snicker* (it is the most ME of my list) And yes, an office manager needs a bit of 'mean'

Helen-exactly! Too good is ANNOYING (even in real life)

Terry *snort* That must be the vein that runs near the funny bone!

Lisa-I tend to be a suspense or thriller girl. I can enjoy a chick lit now and again, but prefer the darker end of them (Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood or Poisonwood Bible--both more mainstream but female themed)--Am finishing Secret Life of Bees and that is great--technically historical but abuse/dark racial history stuff. I really just generally prefer damaged people or hard lessons...