Saturday, May 9, 2015

When You See Characters Go Wrong

Originally, when I was composing this post, I was thinking of a specific movie. A cartoon that recently came out. And as I thought about it, I wasn't ready for the emotional backlash that would come with mentioning the specific movie, so I thought I'd talk around the issue at hand.

I'm looking at the composition of the male v. female balance in media as drawn out by the Geena Davis Institute and also considering the Bledchel Test when I write these days. One of my newer projects is larger in scope than initially anticipated because it is non-fiction and crosses over several issues with regards to race and gender. But that ignores characters, fiction, where my heart lies.

So in the aforementioned movie, the character is forced to physically change to take on the challenge that is placed before the character. The character does so reluctantly. And the character gets the challenge and wins and everyone celebrates. And in the sequel, because what is life these days without a sequel, the character changes physically yet again.

What I object to: a character having to physically change. Emotional changes come and go, and yes, sometimes they physically change because of the emotional change, but the removal of some part surgically. Apparently the only way to achieve your goal is to change physically. And it's not always about getting to feeling attractive, or having someone in your life, or being accepted. But here it is, the story as it is laid out.

So how do I respond as an author?
  • I look at the character I have in my folders and try to make sure that should they need to physically change that it may be against their will. 
  • I have characters that do physically change because they age or are gravely ill.
  • I have characters that understand the physical changes are permanent and there is nothing to reverse the changes
  • My characters see the benefits and succumb to the evils of their changes.
  • My characters find their happiness without the physical change.
As for gender balancing, it is hard, my primary fictional work usually has a romance component. It is easier in family stories as I can always find a model family, regardless of gender balances.

As for addressing the diversity of characters, I find this probably the most challenging. I find there is little I am interested in outside of the creation of a period piece and even then, because of my lack of first hand, or even second hand, knowledge, my worlds are sometimes too ideal in the diversity world.

I have three major projects in my lap right now. I seriously wrote my opening scene in my newest work into a corner and so I decided to look at my characterizations. And I realized I had no motivation beyond very simple old hat tricks and I wanted my character to be better than that.

Hopefully, my character will change. I will find the answer eventually. Characters are those voices that speak to me, they may have a path I can see for them, but they have to get on that path and go. If I chose the wrong character, I'll find another.

Writing is demanding. I have more to finish.

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