Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Quiet Hero

Protagonists are supposed to be strong. They need to take charge of the scene, and not be passive little noodles. They’re part of what helps the reader get involved. The reader gets to know the protagonist(s) on a personal level. They hook the reader and drag them along.

So naturally the protagonist’s personality needs to be up to the challenge. A protag who is passive and lets everybody else do the work isn’t going to intrigue the reader (probably!). So they need a strong presence most of the time. Sometimes, that means being extroverted.

But sometimes, the hero doesn’t have to be outgoing and chock-full of leadership qualities. Sometimes the hero doesn’t even need all of the leadership qualities (I know some of mine don’t). But sometimes, the hero doesn’t need to be very outgoing at all.

Sometimes the hero can be a shy, quiet introvert.

I know I just said protagonists are supposed to be strong and take charge. But nobody said introverts can’t! They just do it differently than the extroverts. And that’s okay. It’s even better when, at the end of the day, their introvert-ness isn’t something to be fixed, something to be “cured.” A protagonist who is shy but who can do the same job of drawing in readers as extroverted protags is awesome, in my opinion.

Let’s look at one of the newest introverted heroes who does this. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander is our protagonist, and he is just about the nerdiest, shyest, introverted characters I’ve ever seen in a protagonist role. He keeps his head down, especially when he gets into trouble with Tina, and when Tina takes him and Jacob home with her, you can see his shyness right away around Tina and Queenie. He’s quiet, draws back a little. Definitely not much hero-material here, right?


Newt is shy and maybe a little awkward around people, but when you put him in his element, when you put him in his little case of magical, beautiful creatures, he opens up. He becomes a little less shy. We see his personality and charm. Behind his shyness, Newt is smart, and knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants.

And that is exactly what makes him the perfect hero for this film.

When his creatures escape, he is the best man for the job of putting them back. He knows exactly what to do (you all know this if you saw that mating dance scene ;) ). He wields his creatures to his and Tina’s advantage when they’re in trouble, and his knowledge of them saves their butts more than once.

More than that, it’s his quiet way of doing things that also makes him the perfect candidate for the protagonist role. His experiences with animals and his natural quiet, gentle personality make him the ideal person to approach a very scared and a very hurt Credence. The boy with an obscurous writhing inside him has burst, betrayed by the man he thought was safe. Now, he’s scared, and he’s trying to escape. Newt finds him curled up in a train station.

What does he do? Newt gets down, making himself small, and he speaks quietly, gently. Exactly as he’d do with one of his scared creatures. Being so shy and so absorbed in the magical creatures of the world made Newt a little bit of a misfit among others, but those traits and that knowledge are exactly what made him the best person to approach Credence. A quiet, introverted hero was the ideal person to approach a frightened young man. There was no “fixing” Newt’s introverted personality. It was his introverted personality that saved everyone’s hides.

And that’s okay! That’s awesome, really. Newt doesn’t dominate the story. But being an introvert, it allows the others (Tina, Jacob, Queenie) to step up beside him. Newt was the one to drive the story, but he stood side by side the others and let them help him lead. Especially when he was in a place he doesn’t know well.

Introverted protagonists can be every bit as heroic and complex and complicated as extroverted protagonists, as they can bring skills to the table extroverts might not have. But at the same time, it’s important we don’t “cure” the introverts. Introvertedness shouldn’t be “fixed” or “cured.” It doesn’t need to be (unless your hero is supposed to be more extroverted. I mean this only when it’s simply trying to “fix” being an introvert). We need the quiet heroes too. They’re just as important, and they can be just as strong and “take charge” as anybody else. Maybe they need to grow into those qualities. That’s okay, let them, but don’t let it “cure” what makes them them. Heroes can still be amazing heroes even when they’d much rather read a book to going out and inspiring the good guys before a battle.

Heck, I know I would. ;)

Do you have any introverted protags? :D How do they manage the daunting task of being the hero?

Images found via Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Throne of Glass Series (Sarah J. Maas)

I’m trying a new way to do book reviews today. :D At least for books that are a part of a large series (or trilogy, even), in which I read all of them. Hopefully this will cut down on spoiling anybody (I will provide ample warning if any do come around), and I can still provide the sections I include at the end (for violence, profanity, etc.). This way I’ll also still be able to talk about the books, but on a broader scale. ^_^ I’m also trying to be a little more casual in writing the reviews, and not sound so formal. Just me squealing (like a crazy person calmly of course) about the books and what I liked, or discussing what I didn’t like. ^_^ Let me know what you think. I’m totally open to suggestions, as the art of book reviews is still unknown territory. XD

Two things really grabbed me right off about this series. The first was Sarah J. Maas’ main character, Celaena and her personality. She matures a lot over the books, but what I like is how energetic and social she likes to be. She’s not overly talkative, but she’s welcome to conversation being started with her and once you get her started about subjects she enjoys, she can be quite talkative. She’s super kick-butt (almost to the book in later books where it seemed, to me, that she was little too skilled?), but she loves being girly too. She will wear luxurious dresses and spend half a day on a manicure. And if the day calls for it, she will easily lay in bed reading and eating chocolates all day. These habits tend to take a backseat as the plot progresses, but it was nice to see a heroine so… personable. While she’s serious sometimes, she’s also friendly and exceptionally sassy.

Her arc has also been rather interesting to see. After book three the arc takes a new turn, and things about her change that show how she’s maturing and accepting her role and purpose. She still has many faults, like trusting people enough to include them in her plans, but I’ve liked seeing how she grows and changes.

The second thing that grabbed me was Maas’ ability to write descriptions. Seriously guys, I fell in love with the way she described the settings of this series, the way she described Celaena’s dresses (gorgeous). It’s vivid and colorful and easy to imagine. It added to the colorful variety of characters and the intense plot, enhancing it all beautifully. The worldbuilding of Erilea (and those beyond it) and its countries are extremely diverse, and Maas’ description of them in the series and novellas are beautiful. Her worldbuilding is complex, with different cultures and peoples, all with their own customs and lands. It’s vast and there’s nearly always something new to learn. :3

The plotline of the ToG series builds up through the first two books, and then it kind of explodes in the next three. The series isn’t done, but the plot keeps the characters moving and scrambling and there’s enough action and epic battle scenes to keep the pages turning. There’s almost not enough space for breathers. ;)

But when there is, the characters work out how to interact. The cast grows bigger, and the series gains several more POVs, as the plot goes on, and it’s interesting to watch them all figure out how to act around each other. They all come from very different backgrounds, and all of them with vastly different personalities, which sometimes makes for tense situations within the group. Everybody tries to figure out where they’re supposed to belong in the hierarchy, and occasionally working out rivalries or personal grudges.

The villains are deliciously twisted, but their personalities varied and make them all different from each other. Their motives are cloaked exceptionally well, but rest assured it’s evil and world-changing (go big or go home, right?). It’s had years to sit and stew. ;) There are villains from two different corners, but both are after the things the heroes are after too. I’m eager to see how everyone clashes.

My favorite character of them all is probably Prince Dorian. X3 He is a precious muffin all throughout his arc. And while he’s not quite the strongest of them all (but he’s certainly getting there) I like how the others ensure he stays protected. His survival is as critical as Celaena’s, but I like how he adjusts to the rapidly changing world around him, and his own situation with all of its emotional struggles and inner demons. I just really love the guy okay? XD

The romance in the novels tends to grow a little bolder with each book (or Maas’ writing of it), with a nice blend of relationships that are fairly smooth sailing to others that are hesitant and careful, and others that nobody really knows what’s going on or why. XD But with the boldness also carries into writing actual sexual scenes, which I personally could have done without. I liked it better when any bedroom scenes were brief and the door closed without much description. It tends to be sweeter that way. I know what they do, but I don’t always actually want to read them doing it.

The novella prequels are precious. X3 They offer a look into Celaena’s life shortly before the events of the series. It was nice after the whirlwind of Empire of Storms to revisit the Celaena I met in book 1, and it was really fun to have those events explained in greater detail, and know how Celaena makes a few of her connections in the later books of the series, as well as how she’s so skilled in her occupation. I would recommend reading books 1 and 2 before you read the novellas, though. Or at least book 1. I read them after all five of the currently published books, but it may be a little more fun to read them sooner if you’d like. ;)

But even with all of my own personal issues with the books (I know some of them are unavoidable), or the ones in the section below, this series in action-packed and intense, and it will keep you glued to your seat. I personally greatly enjoyed the series, and I’m glad I got caught up, even though I was about five books and four novellas late. XD

This section is not meant to warn readers away from the books. This section is only meant to allow them to be aware of what's in them, and to use their own discretion when reading. :)

(Brief notes for the novellas can be found after these, which are for the series.)

Violence/gore: This increases as the plot progresses. It can get really bloody and gory in some places.

Profanity: Similar to the previous section, the number of times language is used seems to increase as the story goes on. However, the words used, while there is a variety, are fairly mild (“mild” is my own opinion). P****, s***, a**, d***, b******, and b**** are the main words used often. Characters may also swear by the world’s own gods (or say things like “gods above” or somesuch).

Sexual content: There is a lot, but I think the majority of it is only briefly described in a background setting, or simply implied through dialogue. Prostitutes are also in the background quite often. We see characters touch and kiss affectionately, but the bolder descriptions come later, especially in Empire of Storms, in which is a borderline explicit sex scene (chapter 38, if you would prefer to skip it). Others are not as described, but readers are still well aware of what’s going on. Homosexual references are made frequently, and a few named characters are either homosexual or bisexual, but very little is shown on the page.

Other: Plenty of liquor is consumed, and opium is used by a few characters. There is a lot of magic in varying forms. Demons (Vrag) are a part of the story, and witches also come into the story (but without as much magic as you might expect).

Assassin’s Blade (the novellas bindup)
All of the novellas actually had very little in the way of sexual content and profanity compared to the series (which was refreshing after coming off of EoS). There was still a fair amount violence, naturally (comes from having a cast heavily set in the assassin occupation). Liquor is consumed, too.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Villains Going Solo

Usually villains have a horde of minions at their disposal. An army of brutal followers ready to strip the heroes of all confidence and advantage. Those villains are terrifying. It looks like they have all the power in the world.

But what if I said that, sometimes, villains don’t need all that grand backdrop of followers?

The main villain going up against the heroes on his own, his own wits and power at his command. Maybe he has a small following, or maybe he’s a one man band. But he’s a loner, and he’s going to destroy the villains that way.

These kinds of villains are some of the most dangerous because you might not see them coming right away. Or if you do, you don’t see their true intent until it’s too late. They work quietly, use misdirection, and then slam the heroes with their work and a sneer of triumph as the heroes flail to recover.

Armies draw attention.

Loners can sneak in undetected.

Now not all villains should be this way, of course. Not all stories call for it. But they’re an interesting category of evil and wickedness.

Let’s look at Tolkien’s Morgoth from The Silmarillion. Morgoth was cunning, prowling Middle Earth and whispering into the ears of the most susceptible. He lured Sauron to his side, and we all know how dangerous Sauron turned out to be!

Morgoth didn’t outright defy the Valar. He was subtle, patient, quiet. He gathered followers, but he undermined the Valar with his cunning, too. He had the ability to stand alone and make himself into a force to be feared for many, many years on Middle Earth. He moved the right people, and did it quietly, slowly building.

In his wake, he left the world with one of its most powerful villains in years to come. Before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sauron did a lot of damage by himself, too. He took after his master, prowling and creating trouble. He didn’t raise much of an army then, but he was still a pain in the heroes’ backsides.

While Morgoth quietly undermined the Valar and Sauron disrupted the peace that followed, the villain in Captain America: Civil War was a man quite literally going solo. Zemo was a single man on a mission, and his clever misdirection brought the heroes right where he wanted them, right where he could make them most vulnerable and turn them on each other.

Now if that isn’t power, I don’t know what is.

Zemo did everything on his own, though he did use outside resources he had available. He used Bucky’s past crimes to flush him out, to create conflict among the Avengers. He had no minions, no forces to back him. He was one man against super-powered fighters, and while he covered his tracks for a time, his smokescreen distracted the heroes from his real mission. And it left everyone in shatters.

Solo villains provide a force unto themselves. And while not all villains need or should be a one-man team, it may make your villain that much more intimidating if he has the capacity to wield that much power on his own, even when he has an army at his back and ready to do his will. Even if he doesn’t use it, just knowing that he could, while he still uses minions, could make him an intimidating presence for the heroes to face.

Images found via Pinterest.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Beautiful Books Linkup: NaNoWriMo/2016 Recap!

Hello people! I come to you today with another Beautiful Books, hosted by Cait and Sky. :3 There wasn’t any in December, so they’re doing the last Beautiful Books this month instead. :D

1. What were your writing achievements last year?
I did Camp NaNoWrimo in April for the first time last year. :D I used that to finish my Wattpad story The Empire Thief. And then my second Camp NaNo in July I wrote my Peter Pan/Alice in Wonderland crossover. I finished that, but didn’t make the word goal I set for that month. XD I drafted my November NaNo, The Lost Crown, last year, too. :3 All three stories were so, so much fun.

For my final class of college (graduated this year too, whoot!), I was able to write a novella for a huge paper I had to write. Here I Stand is a Christian high fantasy, and I had a TON of fun writing it. :3 I may self-publish it eventually as an ebook. ^_^

2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?
Draft, edit, and send EOBAS to alpha readers and possibly beta readers. :D I’m not sure how far I’ll get, but I’m staying optimistic. ^_^

Participate in at least one Camp NaNo, and November NaNo. Maybe for November I’ll go to another write-in. But we’ll see.

I want to try rewriting my very first November NaNo, Clockwork Apprentice.

Keep up with my blog. I’d like to write more writerly –type posts, but we’ll see.

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
Top-priority is Empire of Blood and Shadow. I’m really close to finishing the first draft, and I hope to make it pretty far in the editing process. I’ve made quite a few changes to the plot (and even more that I didn’t plan that the characters decided they wanted), and it’s looking a ton better than it has before! :3

Another project would be the sequel to The Empire Thief, Thief of Promises. :D It’s been really fun to write so far, and I hope to keep writing it this year. I’m not done with Talyx yet. ;)

4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
I want to continue getting better at developing aspects of my writing. Characters, plots, worldbuilding. I can’t think of anything specific, so improvement overall is always a good goal, right? ;)

At the end of 2017… closer than I ever have been to publishing EOBAS, I suppose. XD And have a few more stories under my belt, too. I’d like to have a good schedule/pattern for writing, too.

5. Describe your general editing process.
I’m not sure I have one? My plan for EOBAS (after the first draft is finished) is to make major edits (edits to plot, worldbuilding, characters), followed up by smaller ones (grammar, spelling, wording, etc. The little details). After that, we’ll see!

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?
I’m assuming the draft in question is the NaNo draft? In that case, I’d say about a 7. I realized partway through I needed to switch up the situation my heroes were in. And being a first draft it comes with its own first draft baggage, but overall I think it went well. ^_^

7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
See question 6. XD I need to make adjustments to the plot, to how the antagonists are introduced, and let them raise a little more havoc around the heroes. My MC’s development may need a little work, too.

8. What do you like the most about your draft?
The brother-like relationship my main characters develop between each other. I loved watching them get used to each other’s ways. One is a commoner, and the other is a prince, and they’re thrust together on turf both familiar and unknown to each in different regards, and it’s fun to watch them learn how to get along. :3 And they’re just adorable boys overall, so. XD

9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers?
I’d thought about posting it on Wattpad. After I get around to editing it, anyway. But that could be a ways off. We’ll see.

10. Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
For the NaNo? Likely Wattpad, as I said. XD But if I have to choose between the options given, self-publishing. The Lost Crown has that feel about it. ;)

11. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?
Good. Freaking. Job.

I’m not kidding. Awesome job! You’ve just set to paper a whole BOOK, my friend. Yes, it’s probably a hot mess, and that’s okay. It’s supposed to.

Now let it sit. Back up that draft and set it aside for a while. Recharge. Go eat ice-cream and read a book, or maybe start up a new file (of a different story, mind!). Let the draft sit and stew, and let yourself cool down after that whirlwind of a story. Especially if there were feels.

Another thing to remember: It’s gonna look like crap, your first draft. It is, and it’s best you admit it right now. When you do, it’s a little easier to accept that it’s going to change, maybe in places you liked best. I learned this, am still learning it. But it’s good to remember. Let it be awful. Because you know what?

It’s going to be beautiful later.