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Monday, April 7, 2014

The illusion of control....

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
David Sedaris, interview in Louisville Courier-Journal, June 5, 2005


One of the most common questions that readers have - and that writers ask themselves and each other - is where do we get our characters? Do we make them up or are they someone we know? Or is it a mix of both? Some advocate sharing the inspiration for the characters with readers. I'm not one of them. To me, it steals some of the magic that you, the reader, bring to the story. When I write my stories I'll give a description of the characters, but you'll see them in your own way, and bring to them your own stuff. That's the way it should be.
One of the tropes that I've grown to dislike is the flawed anti-hero which is so at odds with what I know to be true - the kind of people who ran into burning buildings on 9/11. There are real heroes, although they wouldn't consider themselves that way if they were asked about it. They were just doing what was right, as dozens of others did, helping others escape...or staying with those who couldn't so they wouldn't die alone.
What is wrong with being honorable? With trying to be the best person you can be without constantly debating it?
So when I wrote The Coming Storm, I wrote about people who did what was right because it was the right thing to do - even when it was difficult, even when it cost them to do it, and they knew what the price would be.
One other thing always bothered me - the question Nichelle Nichols faced until Dr. King convinced her to stay with the Star Trek series. Star Trek had a large multicultural cast, and for the first time people of other races had prominent roles. She had wanted to leave, unsure that she was making an impression. To see woman who wasn't just cast as the male leads romance made a huge impression on me - no less than the fact that she was another race. One of the things I've had a problem with when it comes to epic fantasy - or any other novels - is that divide. And one of the problems I had with later iterations of Star Trek was taking the 'easy' way out. Star Trek Next Generation, for example, portrayed a female dominated world in which the women acted just like men - rather than strong women acting like women, as various Queens and rulers had for
centuries, although they were often overlooked. (At least until Captain Janeway.) Queen Elizabeth I didn't get as much press as King Henry VIII, although she was arguably a better monarch.
It's far too easy to stay with the stereotypes. So I won't. I'll have dark-skinned lead characters, or Asian, or gay, or Middle Eastern. Some of them may have real counterparts, and some will have been made up out of whole cloth. And I will never tell you which is which.
I'll also have intimacy, because in that I'm with George R. R. Martin who said, “I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off,” he said.
“To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”
There has to be love, and pleasure in love, because that's life, and that part of life is why so many of us do the things we do for others.  Even in friendship, in the kind of friendship where someone stays with a coworker who can't escape the burning building.
There will also be those who abuse that, because that's life, too.
In Song of the Fairy Queen a character makes a terrrible mistake, and then makes the ultimate sacrifice to make amends for that mistake, because sometimes people do that, too. And we need to honor that as well.
So I won't show pictures of the people who inspired my characters. I'll leave that to you and your imagination, so you can bring your own stuff to it.