creating flawed characters . . . and dooba dooba

Dooba is a word. Look it up. I’ll wait.

Made you look.

I been scheduling my posts days apart so the (two) people who follow my blog aren’t overwhelmed. One post went up early because I realized too late that it was on the wrong timezone. Sorry, lol, I’m trying.

Just finished writing Chapter 7 of The Harvest tonight — well, not really because this post is scheduled to go live tomorrow and I’m writing this right before bed.  But I’m very satisfied with how it ended. There’s a new character in the second book who I’m really starting to like, even though I don’t have a real grasp on her personality yet.

To be honest, it’s hard to develop any of the characters in this book, even Quinn. Right now, Zita is the only one with a distinct personality. It’s so distinct that if she started narrating a chapter in first person, you’d know it was her.

The other characters aren’t that well developed and for some reason, it’s really hard. This is weird because developing characters — just making shit up — used to be something I found fun and easy. Right now I just feel kinda stuck. I even filled out some character sheets which . . . still didn’t help much.

I think Zita is well defined simply because I love writing her. I love writing Zita and other minor characters more than I love writing Quinn, the main character, and that’s bad. I need to find some way to really love writing Quinn so that she becomes more defined. I think most writers get over this hump by self-inserting with their main character, and then the main character becomes fun to write. I can’t do that with Quinn, though. I don’t see myself in her.

So who do I see in her? That’s the question.

Zita is fun to write because she’s female Bruce Willis.

Varzo (new character in The Harvest) is fun to write because she’s so young and shy and confused but at the same time tough and defiant and wild. Exploring the world through Varzo’s eyes is fun because she’s so biased and bitter and racist but at the same time willing to listen and learn better. Maybe that’s it: Quinn is too nice. Which kinda makes her boring.

In an interview, I compared Quinn to David Carter from Invasion America. In the beginning of the series, David Carter is bitter and angry that Rafe and his mother are keeping secrets from him. As soon as he learns the truth, he stops being a wild and bitter teenager and grows up almost overnight, becoming dutiful and responsible and making sacrifices to save other people. And . . . it was really boring to watch. David Carter stopped being interesting because he stopped being flawed.

Granted, David did screw over some of his own people early in the show. If he hadn’t been so hell-bent on rescuing Rafe, he wouldn’t have gotten the Oshatti with him killed, only to wind up wandering the desert alone. But even this mistake is sympathetic because he was just trying to help Rafe. We never see him make a mistake that has hefty consequences — granted because it was a kid’s show but still . . . . A good example would have been if David’s best friend got killed by the hybrid after he very unwisely roped him into his very dangerous mess. Simon was a vicious asshole. David’s friend should have died and it didn’t make much sense that he did not. I guess WB didn’t want to make the children cry.

I think the key to making Quinn more interesting and fun to write is giving her a great flaw. I just can’t decide what.

In A Time of Darkness, Cricket/Nineveh’s flaw is that she rants about killing the dragons but then is a terrible warrior who freezes up in battle constantly and almost gets her companions killed. It was a shitty fault to choose because instead of being something sympathetic, she just looks like a buffoon. I think I’d be hard pressed to find a reader who actually sympathized with my character rather than being disgusted by her lack of spine (– to the point that I always expect a one star review every time someone buys A Time of Darkness. A lot of people have bought that book compared to my others but no one cared enough to rate it or leave a review. That says something. Something unfortunate.)

I remember getting to the end of the witcher books and being pissed that Ciri ran from her enemy instead of turning to face the man and kill him. That was her moment to shine, to triumph, and instead of defeating the man who tortured her and murdered her girlfriend, she ran from him and he died a cartoonish Disney death where he fell down through some beams. Sapkowski could have done better. Throughout the entire series, Ciri was kicking ass with weird, unrealistic powers, but suddenly, Sapkowski wanted to get realistic — during the climax, no less — and have Ciri be nothing more than a scared kid.

It was crap.

I’m worried that I’ve done something similar with Cricket. She was a coward, but at the same time, was also a child in the first two books. In the first book, she’s just seven going on eight. In the second book, she’s a teenager entering adulthood, and unlike Ciri, she’s an untested warrior who’s only been in a few battles — all of them with friends at her side . Then she faces a dragon for the first time and fails.

The problem is, Infinite Athenaeum didn’t do a good job of making Cricket’s flaws sympathetic, though I’m pretty sure a lot of us would freeze up when facing down a dragon (for the first time anyway . . .).

All that being said, Chapter 7 ended on a really touching note. It was a little too good for a minor character. Now I kinda feel like . . . how am I gonna top that scene with Quinn? I’m over here writing 9.0 scenes for minor characters. /face desk/

So far, the book is 162 pages long. My goal is 400 pages. As I mentioned at the end of Project Mothership, I want to expand the lore and do nerdy world building. Back when I was sharing free stories online, this was something I would do through the dialogue (rather than boring the audience with rambling exposition). It’s something I’m trying to do again.

In Chapter 7, our favorite racist Varzo learns about entirian culture through some dialogue with an entirian character who explains about the powers/abilities of young entirian women. For me, dialogue has always been the best way to impart the lore. I tried doing exposition in the narrative itself (kinda like A Wizard of Earthsea) when I rewrote The Seaglass Stair only to discover I wasn’t good at it.

Dialogue is what I know how to do? Duly noted.