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.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Do Your Characters Live on the Edge?

Why should readers read your stories? Because you're a nice person? I'm sure you are, but I'm not so sure about my myself. Still, I'd like people to read my stories. Thinking about this, I've hit my head against a basic idea: Will your characters survive their trials and tribulations. 

[This is a little difficult with my Half-Elven, but I need to address the principle in some way. Maybe asking: how much skin do your characters stand to lose in your story, might help?] 

Last Friday, I finished Karen Marie Moning's Shadowfever, the last of her Fever series. The almost 700-word-book spent too much time in the head of Mackayla, the main character, for my taste. But still, the book managed to move instead of spin. The Rainbow girl, oozing with Georgia sunshine, is no more ... and has turned into something darker ... and has to cope with that transformation ... and survive, if not live happily ever after. The series is a paranormal romance, after all.

Actually, the Fever series is longer than the five books listed. Moning included characters and situations from her Highlander series. Hints appeared here and there in previous books, but Shadowfever had the Keltar clan playing a major secondary role. Found it kind of amusing that the hyper-virile Keltars had to play second fiddle to Mackayla. Still, they got to snap and snarl at Barrons and his crew.

All in all, she managed to create a great twist on the Fae. Not the cutsie fairies. But the terrible inhuman Fae of serious legend. I thought her ability to give strange creatures understandable motives one of Moning's more striking achievements. 

Moning managed to tie up the loose ends, as far as I can remember, while throwing in some twists which I didn't see coming. I had suspicions that some of the characters weren't exactly what they seemed, but the "reality" Moning presented wasn't exactly like I thought. Moning has two series on my keeper bookshelves.

An Aside:
A good share of my time on Sunday mornings is spent reading the book reviews in the New York Times. Yesterday, they did their children's book insert. Elizabeth Bird's review gave me the most to think about. Consider this beginning:

"Imagine the difficulty of creating an active crime-fighting protagonist in the age of helicopter parents." 

One writer solution would be to put your characters into a historical time, which is what Greg Ruth (City of Orphans) and Chris Moriarty (The Inquisitor's Apprentice) do. Baker's take:

"And for today's readers, finding themselves caught beneath the omnipresent, not to say suffocating, love and attention of their hovering parents, reading about children free to go anywhere and to solve crimes, not to say their own problems, may offer them the escape they understandably crave." 

[Please excuse the typos. NaNoWriMo is really eating into my time.]


Anonymous said...

Hey now, I've got a serious thing for Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books, and if there's one thing you learn there it's simply: don't expect that anyone will survive, main character or no. Nice may have little or nothing to do with it - in fact, often enough, I think readers get a guilty pleasure out of seeing how bastardly (excuse the language there) an author can really be to his characters.

That's not to say, of course, one should always be that way. But one should always have that element of uncertainty - will this character survive? Will (insert great bad evil) really be allowed to happen? The heroes will win...won't they? Adds flavor.

How much skin do the characters stand to lose indeed - one should always ask themselves straight out, and use it to help plot their way accordingly through the works. Half of all the fun is in the struggle, after all!

Unknown said...

You've put your finger on why I'm still reading Martin's "Crown of Thrones". I'm fascinated by how it puts things together ... but I not reading him to get lost in his world, if that makes any sense.