It’s the Eye of the Tiger

May 30, 2010

Here we go!

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Robin McKinley. Each one of her books has had an impact on the way I write, the way I see the story, and what effect I want to have on the reader. One day I actually got brave enough to email her—having her respond is on the short list of Amazing Things That Make Me Squee.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing?

Heh. I’ll quote Lizzie.
“One day, you are going to walk into a story and your characters will be there with children. And you will say, ‘Who are these children, Characters?’ and the characters will say, ‘They are ours. We are married and have six of them.’ And you will say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me there was sexual tension?’”

So, no. Not so much. Not that I don’t, more that I’m generally oblivious.

17. Favorite protagonist and why?

Of mine? I’ll assume that this is mine. I love Madac’s sense of honor. I have other characters that are more skilled or more important, but so much of what happens in his story is because of his baseline, rock-solid loyalty to his brother and his best friend.

He can also be exasperating, hard-headed, egotistical, and painfully not-bright (it took him *way* too long to catch on to some pretty obvious stuff), but I can’t help but have a soft spot for him. Also, he was the last of that group of characters to emerge, and most of the others have significant character flaws that, in many ways, distance me from them emotionally. Madac’s errors are honest ones; he does what he can for the greatest possible good, and he knows that he occasionally loses his sense of humor. That goes a long way with me.

18. Favorite antagonist and why?

This is hard, because I rarely have true antagonists in my work. My characters are more often forced to face unyielding circumstance or their own character flaws than a cackling villain and his dastardly henchmen.

But, if you will excuse a short jaunt to a more um. . . let’s call it sentimental (?) period in the way I crafted things. . .

I have one story where two characters grow up together, in a forced-work environment (They’re on a farm, it’s not dreadful, but it’s a government-sponsored method of controlling an undesirable ethnic group.)

One of the girls, of the ethnic minority and of the opinion that the majority must be overthrown, finds her way to a group of rebels and proceeds to make life difficult for the overlords. The other (naturally—please keep in mind I started this very young!) is a contender for the throne of the kingdom—a wicked uncle seized power in a coup, and she was secreted away by a sympathetic (what else) nurse. In the fullness of time, she is able to overthrow the uncle and begin to make changes that are fair and honorable. She’s willing to do what is right for everyone in the country—as long as the rebels are willing to Chill Out And Let Her Do It. The rebels are in no mood to hear promises, and from there it can only end in tears and righteous battle between military forces.

Both are very proud, neither are aware of who the other is, and, of course, both have compelling reasons to believe that the other side and their leader has to be brought down. Eventually, one is captured by the other, and, sadly, neither of them are on their best behavior at the moment of reunion.

Okay, so the story itself is one lavender letter away from a twilight of purple prose. . . but I really love watching these two very confident women, focused on doing the RIGHT thing, make life hell for the other.

And, I love the essence of their crisis (well, eventually)–how do they walk out of that tent and say, “Oh, okay, ya’ll. It’s all good—we know each other from back on the farm, and we’ll just throw something over the fire, have dinner, and talk it out.” They can’t—both sides have been driven to war.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

Kieran. He’s Madac’s best friend, and the trouble-maker of the crew. He’s also the one that refused to die, refused to stay dead, and came mighty close to high treason. Basically, Kieran’s a game-changer whenever he shows up.

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

I love the near-miss moments when two characters have *almost* enough information to see that they’re not necessarily on opposite sides. . . but can’t quite get there, and keep digging and digging and making the situation worse. Loyalty and betrayal are very common themes for me, and I always become very involved in the characters’ emotions at those times.

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

I defer to #16—my characters may well have kids, but I haven’t seen them yet.

Although—I have a sequence that I know is set in the epic universe, but I don’t know who these characters are. There’s a guy and a girl and they’ve gone to ask a Crazy Old Coot for help in bringing down a recalcitrant, aging warlord. They may or may not be calling the recalcitrant warlord “Madac”—and the girl may or may not be Rae’s daughter, according to the Crazy Old Coot (who refuses to identify himself to me).

But I’ve never heard anything about Rae having a daughter! And I know that Beren had a thing for her, and Beran is Madac’s older brother, so it would be interesting to see Madac square off against his niece, but why is Madac an old guy, a bad guy, and holed up in this fortress pissing people off? None of these things make sense!

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.

Okay, I can do this, but it bothers me a little, ’cause there are some deep emotions at play in it.

Basic premise of the Universe Building Epic:

Semi-industrialized fantasy world has a stable system of human governments. Wizards are science-wielders with a healthy dose of religion, and they’re state-sanctioned. Elves exist, too—off in the woods, where you don’t have to deal with them, because elves freak the humans out. They’re magic-wielders, and humans have a set of prejudices that sort of say a magic-wielder may not be able to, um, contain themselves. . . if they want something, they’ll spell you (even if they don’t really mean to), and you’ll never know. Best to contain them, register them, limit them—for their own good and the good of the citizens. Wizards have ways of telling who is and isn’t magical, and there are periodic witch-hunts, where the mood turns ugly and things go awry in the city my characters live in.

Madac, Madac’s twin (Ganden), and Kieran are inseperable growing up. Older brother Beran is in the city guard. Ganden goes off to do something, Madac and Kieren get into trouble, and Kieren gets inadvertently outed as a half-blood. Beren doesn’t get to him in time to save him.

Madac feels (and is) responsible, and proceeds to go off rabble-rousing with a band of Down With the Wizards Now, Dude anarchists. Beren attempts to reform the system from the inside. Everyone figures Kieran’s dead. He’s not—the wizards have hidden him away for Nefarious Purposes (I am such a goof). At a certain point, Kieran gets turned, and the wizards send him out after the anarchists.

I’ve never written the scene where Kieran breaks. He is reluctant to discuss it with me, and I think it’s because it’s not a matter of *them* turning *him* against his will, because at some point, he intentionally and rationally decided to buy their arguments, and I don’t want to know what they could have said or done that would make him ignore fifteen years of growing up together. I have theories, and I know where Kieran’s weak points are, but when I’m writing, I’m feeling what my characters feel, and I hate the thought of digging into that much mental agony—and a fair amount of physical discomfort. Wizards don’t believe they have to be nice guys.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

Too long. Forever. I’m awful about finishing stories, so generally you’ll only see me post the short little ficlits—1k-3k, tops. The longer stuff lives life as a WIP. In my defense, however–any time that I’ve been writing to a deadline, I’ve managed to produce the work per spec and on schedule. Just haven’t had that particular bit of pressure all that often.


24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

I hate it. It feels like I’m betraying them, I rarely do it, and I don’t go out of my way to make it interesting.

I have one that dies in battle, and when I wrote it, she was so angry at me. . . She was in the middle of something! She has things to do! Every minute she’s standing there dead arguing with me her troops are dying on the field, and I need to Send. Her. Back. Right. Freakin’. Now.

I couldn’t—it simply *was*–she died at that point. It was ugly, it was senseless, and it was inconvenient for all parties, but it was true.

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

I mean, I guess they *have*, at some point. A guinea pig or a puppy or a pet goldfish named Stinky or a pink chimpanzee with a mohawk, because that’s what people do and that would be logical. (Wes Janson just began rattling off about ten pets he’s had over the course of his life. Apparently, one was named Hobbie. Oh, Wes.)

I’ve never had a character with a pet who became part of a storyline, though.


26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

Let’s not. I do not draw. I do not have others draw. I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I Am.

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

I’ve never liked it when a writer gave me too much character description—ESPECIALLY if it was already after I’d put together a mental image of someone. I’d have a working model, be going along in the story, and the writer decides to mention “the blonde one,” and I’m confused.

I also don’t like writing too much character description—it’s boring to write, it’s boring to read, and the reader will be just fine bringing said dude to life on their own. Description doesn’t come up in my writing unless it informs the character in some way. Does the character have floppy hair? Then at some point it will obscure vision during an inopportune moment. I’ve had someone’s blue eyes give them away. Daenor is missing a few fingers, which is why he’s a librarian and not still a craftsman in his family’s mines. Stuff like that.


28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.
Does being a ghost count? Other than that—not really. Kieran has what would be considered a disability in his society, and he struggles with coming to terms with that.

Like Billy, the next-closest would be Murdock, whose ”illness” I’m not quite sold on. If anything, Murdock’s mental troubles stem from hyper-abilities and the problems that come from being highly talented in our society (which is actually one of my super-rants, so please, folks, don’t let me near the soapbox).


29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

Freakin’ constantly. I have snippets of dialogue in my head all the time, and it’s not unusual for me to lose track of a conversation because it tweaked a story-related thought or reference, and I actually have to stop and evaluate if the reference is something that the other person will know about. To me, my characters and stories are alive and playing somewhere in my mind at any given moment.

That said—I go through generative and non-generative phases. Sometimes, I’m getting constant new input—either new stories altogether, or work on old stories, or even just fine-tuning characters and tightening things up. It feels like I’m writing all the time and my brain is overflowing with imagery and dialogue and miscellaneous scenery, and I worry about getting everything out before bits get lost and making my friends crazy with listening to information about people they don’t know.

Then, I’ll go through a spell where I can think about my stories the same way you remember a favorite book or movie—the facts are there, the old friends are there, but there’s zero productivity, zero synthesis. I’ve described it as “running out of words” for a long time, but it seems like they just don’t string themselves together anymore, like I’ve run out of vocabulary. I might get a random something once in a while, and I always keep a notebook with me so I’m not stranded if the phase passes. . . but for the most part, I’ve lost it all.

I can usually tell when I’m about to pull out of one, though. I’ll pick up something to read and be able to fall into it, which I struggle to do when I’m not able to write. For the space of time I’m reading, I am gone and utterly in the writer’s world. I go through four or five books in a couple days—some old and semi-memorized, some new. . . and then, suddenly, it’s like the words have refilled the scrabble bag of my mind, and I can pull them out and rearrange them into sentences for my stories, and I’m off and running again.

And on that note. . . *have* to crawl into bed. I get to tour an aircraft carrier tomorrow! One of the largest helicopter-staging areas in the Navy! I AM SO EXCITED I CAN’T SLEEP!


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