M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moving Your Plot Character by Character

Fiction Lesson:
"The characters are cardboard.  The plot's so simplistic," people have complained to me for years about the fantasy I read.  I've never apologized for reading fantasy.  I enjoy it.  Never joined a literary book group either.  Maybe I'm a reverse snob, but I thoroughly enjoyed my private Anita Blake book fest the last week.  [I took a break from serious reading after attending the Northern Colorado Writers conference.]  

The books I read came from what might be called Laurell K. Hamilton's middle phase before Blake become an all out "sex machine" and where she's learning to control the various vampiric skills infecting her.  The books:  Blue Moon, Burnt Offerings, Cerulean Sins, and Incubus Dreams.

Sterotypes are difficult to remove from people's  minds, but I can't see where Hamilton's books are simplistic on any level.  Even some of her sex scenes take three chapters.

Let me count the ways the character groupings that interact with Blake to move Hamilton's plots forward:
     --  the main triad of Blake, Jean-Claude and Asher, who keep the vampires of St Louis safe from the big bad Vampire Council in Europe;
     --  the were-panther pard with Blake, Micah, and Nathaniel living together with others of the group wandering in and out of her house and Jean-Claude's businesses;
     --  the triad of Jean-Claude, Blake, and Richard Zeeman which is close to non-functional because of personal issues over loathing of being a werewolf, differing sexual parameters, and proper relationship roles among other things;
     --  as Jean-Claude's human servant and as her powers grow, Blake forms her own triad [vampiric servant - animal to call -"dinner"] with three other characters.

Each book develops aspects of these relationships as it progresses.  The different characters grow in each book.

You also have to add various friends and family who pop in and other of Hamilton's plots to complicate things.  Granted Hamilton has a series featuring the same character so there is a time line involved, but she has complicated Blakes these situations in each book she completes.

As if that's not enough, Hamilton develops other relationships that add texture to Blake's life.
    --  the animator business that supports Blake and the people involved with it;
    --  the miscellaneous vampires that form Jean-Claude's empire as the Master of the City of St. Louis and the various weres that guard them;
    --  the cops -- local, federal, and private [including Edward, the arms supplier] -- where Blake acts as the Executioner in her role of solving preternatural crimes;
    --  miscellaneous bad guys passing through St. Louis;
    --  various trips outside of town where she encounters new complications;
    --  the local werewolf pack where Blake has performed various roles through the books;
    --  an organization to protect the 'furry challenged" of St. Louis from hate crimes;
    -- the Vampire church that's run by a master vampire not affiliated with Jean-Claude; 
    -- and last by not least various members and servants of the European Vampire Council who show up regularly to cause consternation and mayhem.

Is Hamilton's fantasy world an anomaly?  I don't think so.  I think I could go through the same process with Karen Marie Moning, Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris among others with the same results.

How does the structure of your books stand up to this standard?   I think the bottom line is that you're most likely to sell if your people live in a real world and interact with the other people within it.  The huge sigh of relief you heard was me.  I write middle grade ... so my world isn't as complicated as the adult world ... but it still needs to be real.

Promotion and Web Stuff:
I'm pulling the bags forward.  Don't have links today since the above was so long and I've been running out of time ... every day.

I'm just about to combine two chapters of Emma to make the plot move faster.  Now my guilty conscience is wondering if that'll count as one or two chapters completed.

Got my short story, "The Noticing One", rewritten but still have to dink with it at least once again.  Then there's the pain of submitting it ... somewhere.  ...  Don't mean the rejections are painful.  It's going through the list of the various publications for their current requirements and deciding which one to send it too.

The Christmas cacti are blooming again.  Nice to have them joining the daffodils, squill, tulips, and crocus, even if they stay inside. 


Maria Zannini said...

I just picked up one of LK Hamilton's books. I've been warned that the later ones are getting out of hand reality-wise. I'll have to read it and see for myself.

Kay Theodoratus said...

I still enjoy the later books, but I think Hamilton is stressing a bit to keep the franchise going. Incubus Dreams is where I found the 3 chapter sex scene. Which does stretch reality a bit.