Querying and Outlining and Ed Sheeran, Oh My!

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d come in and give you a short update.  I’ve started outlining the Rose’s Hostage sequel, while waiting for an expert to answer a few questions.  I’m also reading something related to catching the villain (can’t tell you yet).  And I got a very good idea about some research I can do while in London.

The Universe gave me the finger on that special request (dammit), unless it’s got something planned later down the road.

Dream crusher!

Dream crusher!

Image:  arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Still, maybe the Universe isn’t saying no; maybe it’s saying not right now.  But because of that nice little chunk of bad news, I didn’t sleep much last night, and still I worked all day and did two sets of stair climbs.  So you can imagine that today hasn’t been a great day.  Here’s hoping I sleep tonight and don’t dream about it.

In addition to all that, I’ve been making notes and tapping out a few things here and there on a much more ambitious work, which the special request sort of would have helped (dammit again).  It’s something I’ve been sitting on for a while, but it requires specialized knowledge I don’t have.

Plus, I can’t decide on a period for it and that would make a difference.  It’s fighting to get out, so we’ll see if I can settle it down and work on two things at once.

Possibly; or maybe, I’ll just lose my mind. 

Possibly.  Or maybe, I’ll just lose my mind.

Image:  Wikipedia.com

I’ll catch you up more later.  Meanwhile, please enjoy this video of Ed Sheeran’s catchy new single, titled “SING.” The album x comes out June 23.  I love this guy.  Yeah, I know the video is a little weird; just roll with it.

 

London Links!

A friend at work and I went to lunch yesterday, and we were talking about my upcoming trip to London and Cardiff and her planned trip to London next year.  I told her I’d send her some links.  Of course, my enormous email turned into a blog post.

Doesn’t everything?

Doesn’t everything?

Image:  yingyo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of just sending them to her, I thought I would draw on my previous trip (though it was very long ago) and recent research and post it here in case anyone reading wants to go.  Seriously, off the top of my head, I know five people besides me who are going either this year or next.

So this may be my longest post ever, but here is my compilation of travel tips for first-timers in London.  If I got anything wrong, please correct me in the comments.

General stuff

First off, a few useful facts:

  • The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (aka UK or Britain) consists of England, Scotland (for the moment), Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • London is the capital of England.
  • Edinburgh is pronounced ED-in-burr-uh.
  • Say Gloucester as GLAW-ster.
  • Say Leicester Square as LESS-ter.
  • Say Grosvenor Street as GROVE-ner.
  • Say Thames as Tems.  
  • Striped pedestrian crossings are called zebra crossings.  Pronounce zebra to rhyme with Debra.
  • ATMs are called cashpoints.  Rick Steves has more info on how to use them here.

Temperatures are in Celsius.  Weights and measures are metric (except for miles, I think).  You may see 24-hour time (00:00–24:00) in train stations, though if you ask someone the time, they’ll tell you it’s four p.m., not 1600 hours.

Some public bathrooms are pay toilets (mostly in tube stations).  You have to pay to get into the stall.  Save your change!  I have no idea how much they cost now.  Keep a pocket pack of tissue in your bag in case you get caught without any.  Self-cleaning toilet booths are pay also.

It’s okay to ask for the toilet in London; alternately, the loo, WC, lavatory, bog, ladies’, or gents’.

Airport

If you’re going through Heathrow, you can take the Underground (commonly referred to as the tube) to central London.  It’s cheaper than the Heathrow Express.  Find travel information here on the airport’s website (Transport & Directions).

Power adapters

Voltage is higher than in the US.  You’ll need UK adapters; ones for Europe in general won’t work.  Amazon has them.  I’d take one with you so you have it right away in case you need to charge your phone, etc.  For more info, check here.

UK power outlets are bigger than ours.  Many of them have switches.  If you plug something into the outlet with your adapter and it doesn’t work, try flipping the switch.

uk outlet

Image: amazon.co.uk

If you forget anything, you can buy it at a drugstore (chemist).  I won’t even bother to pack toiletries, just put travel sizes in my carry-on in case my luggage is delayed.  I’ll buy shampoo, etc. there and then ditch it when I leave.

Language

Accents aren’t that hard, especially if you watch a lot of BBCA, but not everyone in England sounds like they just stepped out of Downton Abbey.  The only person I had trouble with was a cabdriver with the thickest accent I’ve ever heard in my life—he was damn near incomprehensible.  He was nice; he laughed pretty good-naturedly when I admitted I couldn’t understand him.

If someone is talking too fast and you can’t quite keep up, all you have to say is “I’m sorry, I’m not used to your accent.  Could you please repeat that more slowly?”

Brits have different terms than we do for things.  Look at this link for a list of words that might trip you up.

In Wales (Cymru), everyone speaks English, though signs are in both English and Welsh.  Click the link to hear someone say the word Wales in Welsh—it’s nothing like it looks!  I’m planning to practice a bit of pronunciation, so I won’t end up in the sea if I ask where something is.

Good to know.

Good to know.

Image:  bbc.co.uk

Getting around

The London Underground

Last time I was there, the Underground had little yellow paper tickets you put through the barrier (yes I’m old—shut yer gob).  It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, but now people have Oyster cards.

You use an Oyster card on the London Underground (tube) and the bus.  This link helped me understand the Oyster card / Travelcard thing.  If you’re staying more than a few days, it’s cheaper to get an Oyster card at Heathrow when you get there.  You can top it up at the tube stations.  You can also load the Travelcard onto the Oyster card, apparently, but NOT if it is a Visitor Oyster card.

No, it doesn’t have a picture of seafood on it.

No, it doesn’t have a picture of seafood on it.

 Image:  Frank Murmann / Wikimedia Commons

Here is the Transport for London website for more information.

UPDATE:  According to this Buzzfeed article, TfL is moving to contactless debit/credit card usage on the transport system.  You should still be able to get/use Oyster for a while, anyway.  Keep an eye on the TfL website.

London is a massive city and people are in a hurry.  The main things to remember on the tube are (1) have your Oyster card or ticket ready at the barrier (so you don’t create a traffic jam), and (2) keep right on escalators, stairs, etc.

The tube has been in use (though obviously updated) for over 100 years (1863), so there are stations without lifts (elevators), and THERE IS NO AIR CONDITIONING.  Delays are common.  Twice when I was there before, they closed the line for something.  Once was a train problem and once was a suicide on the track, and I had to find another train or a cab.

Try to plan ahead when you take the tube and avoid peak times (rush hour):  6:00—10:00 am and 4:00—7:00 pm.  This is a good post about etiquette on the tube.

And this post!  :)

London A-Z

Image:  amazon.com

Buy one of these!! You should be able to get it at the airport or at any newsstand (newsagent).  British people don’t say Z—they say Zed (rhymes with bed).  So ask for a London A-Zed.

I hung onto mine for years, and I finally threw it away because it was so outdated (and I didn’t think I’d ever go back, waah).  London is very walkable, but you’ll need good shoes and make sure they are rainproof.  Because it will rain.

 London Cabs

1200px-A_TX4_Taxi_at_Heathrow_Airport_Terminal_5

Image:  Unisouth / Wikipedia.com / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Drivers of the iconic black taxis have to pass an insanely difficult test called The Knowledge before they can drive the cabs.  They know where stuff is and will not jack you around on the fare.  Find out how to take a London cab here.

DO NOT TAKE UNLICENCED MINICABS.  In my research, I’ve been warned that women especially have been assaulted by drivers.  In any case, they don’t have The Knowledge.  Legit minicabs must be booked in advance.  Some people are upset that they are taking business away from the black cabs; how you feel about that is up to you.

WARNING:  remember that people drive on the LEFT in England.  If you value your life, look right when you cross the street, and ONLY cross at the zebras!

1024px-Wavy_lines_before_pedestrian_crossing

Read the road. Tells you what to do.

Image:  Benjamin D. Esham / Wikipedia.com /

Etiquette

English people are reserved, though they are usually quite nice when you do speak with them.  They LOVE it when people are very polite.  Their sense of humor ranges from extremely sarcastic to gross / borderline offensive to incredibly silly.  You’ll always find a few rude jerks anywhere you go, but overall, they are really lovely people.

Keep your volume low.  The British don’t bellow like we Americans do.  On the tube, please refrain from chatting up everyone you see.  If someone is reading or wearing headphones, leave them alone!

They don’t smile at everybody they see either (this is a knee-jerk reaction where I live).  Just act like you’re in New York and you’ll be fine.  This link is for kids, but it’s awesome and if anyone is confused about anything, it explains it very well.

Food and stuff to do

I’ve skipped the obvious tourist stops, which I’m sure you’ve already googled.  The only thing I did last time that I might do again is Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.  The original is in London and it was totally worth it for the Chamber of Horrors alone.  Don’t be put off by the insane website.

I found a terrific Trip Advisor thread for those of us without a trust fund.  I googled links or names of places I found interesting to see if they were still open.  You can sort it by newest or oldest posts first.

Though it’s a bit old, this is a good post also (scroll down to #8, by caffn8me):    This person gave a lot of good advice, including stuff to avoid.

For tea and fancies, visit Fortnum and Mason.

Harrods has a dress code.  I’ve heard people have been turned away for wearing too-casual clothing, including celebrities.  For Harrods FAQs, visit this link.

I highly recommend you see Hampton Court Palace.  It’s Henry VIII’s house (Tudors!)  Seriously, this place is AMAZING.

My mother said I HAVE to go to this place.  The bakery here has been going since Tudor times (wonder if Henry VIII had any of their little treats?)

Or perhaps he had too many of them.

Or perhaps he had too many of them.

Image:  Wikimedia Commons

I hope that gets you started, or at least dreaming of the ultimate British holiday.  If you spot any mistakes, or if you have any recommendations about fun things to see and / or do, please share in the comments.

See you soon!

See you soon!

Image:  bbc.co.uk

 

Related links:

Transport for London

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

National Rail website

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Here’s a cool blog about London with lots of info.

http://londontopia.net/

Visit Britain!

http://www.visitbritain.com/en/US/

Find out what to wear around the world, based on the weather!  http://www.clothesforecast.com/index.php

London events you can attend for free!

http://www.freelondonevents.co.uk/index.php

If you decide to nip on over to Cardiff, it’s only 2-1/2 hours by train.

http://www.visitcardiff.com/

The Sad and the Glad Today

Sad news today:  we lost Maya Angelou, poet, writer, and activist.  She was a strong voice for change and equality.  She will be greatly missed.  Rest in peace, beautiful lady.

 

Angelou reciting her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning", at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, January 1993

Angelou reciting her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning”, at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, January 1993

Image:  Office of the White House PD-USGOV-POTUS / Wikipedia

 Today is my birthday!  No one hit my car!  Of course, I still have to go to the rink later, so let’s hope it stays that way.

 

Birthday mall haul!

Birthday mall haul!

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I went to the mall and got a REALLY REALLY EXPENSIVE pair of walking shoes for my holiday.  The scarves were on sale at Charming Charlie’s, so I got two for less than the price of one.  I don’t typically wear scarves, but I’d like to start.  Now I need to practice tying them so I don’t look like a complete fashion fail.

My favorite food truck gave me a delicious pie for my birthday.  :D

My friends have all wished me a happy birthday.

Back to work tomorrow, but today has been a good day.  Think I’ll mail another query.  Hope your day is splendid as well!

A Notable Birthday and an Update

Sir_Arthur_Conan_Doyle_1890

Image:  Herbert Rose Barraud (1845-1896) / Wikimedia Commons/PD: US

Happy birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!  Born May 22, 1859, died July 7, 1930. Creator of our favorite high-functioning sociopathic detective, Sherlock Holmes.  :)

So what have I been up to since the A-Z Challenge?  Well, I’ve finished the semester of course, and I’ve queried Tunerville  twice (and been rejected twice). Yeah, it sucks, but rejection is part of the process.

Hat Sherlock

Of course it is.  Now get back to work.

Image:  benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

There’s something in the book that’s been bothering me–I’m not sure I got it quite right, so I’ve reached out to an expert for assistance.  Since no one’s asking me for pages or a manuscript, I can take a bit of time to check it.

This upcoming holiday week, I’ve taken some extra PTO and will begin chucking crap out of The Crumbling Albatross (my house) and get some research and outlining done on the RH sequel.  Look for another vocabulary post coming soon; I’d like to finish that series.  I think we left off with S before the Challenge, didn’t we?  So T will be next.

I’ve got two things bouncing around in my head that are dying to get out.  One might be novel-worthy.  It’s been in there for a long time and may be literary in nature.  I’m not sure.  Nearly everything I write has some weird component to it, so we’ll see.

 The other one is only a vague, half-formed notion at this juncture but will probably end up being my fledgling attempt at a screenplay.  Part of my self-imposed curriculum this summer is to learn how to write those.  I’ve got some study materials recommended by a screenwriter friend, so I’m ready to go.

BUT FIRST:

I’m taking a long-needed break, during which I’ve started the UK version of The Office (hilarious), watched the world’s saddest movie (you can rent it on YouTube), and become enamored of Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow and the world’s saddest song (it plays over the credits of the world’s saddest movie).

Seriously, get back to work. 

Seriously, get back to work.

Image:  imageevent.com

Of course, Mr. Holmes.  I promise.  :)

Net Neutrality Takes a Hit

Well, shit.

The FCC voted 3-2 today to let Big Bidness make deals with websites for faster internet.  That’s basically going to kill net neutrality (see more about that at the link).

Read this article at the Washington Post for shenanigans.  I don’t believe Wheeler for one second that this won’t become the slipperiest slope of all slopes ever.  We’re already paying way too much for internet in the U.S.  This only reinforces my opinion that we’ve become an oligarchy already and the corporate assholes are running the country.

I kinda want to leave. But where to go?

I kinda want to leave. But where to go?

Image: Ktrinko / Wikimedia Commons

Write your Congress critter and contact the FCC here to protest.

Update:  Here is a comment email you can use to send a comment.   openinternet@fcc.gov 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

BLARGH!

I just turned in my research slide assignment.  I only have to comment on other people’s slides (apparently, that’s our final) and take a test and then I AM DONE with the World’s Worst Semester.

Haaaaaaaallelujah!

Haaaaaaaallelujah!

Image:  samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There will be time off.  I must begin The Great Purge, in which I divest my dwelling place, nicknamed The Crumbling Albatross, of an excess of crap that has piled up over time.  I have also decided, when I’m ready to begin the next book, to do a mini-NaNoWriMo.  There is a little bit of organization to do first, because I haven’t looked at it in ages.

Someone in a forum, in response to a mini-rant about crap, said my world is about to get bigger in a bit.  Let’s hope so—I placed a pretty tall order to the Universe.  It can wait just a little, like my Eddie Bauer raincoat I won’t get until July, but not much longer.  For a change, I’d rather not see this:

 “Universe here.  Your order has been canceled.  We shipped it to someone else.” 

W-what?  Noooooo!

W-what?  Noooooo!

Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 When it could just do this:

“Universe here.  Your requested item is no longer on backorder and has been shipped to you.  Enjoy!  :D” 

Much better.

In the interim, I’ll occupy myself with taking numerous Buzzfeed quizzes (I got Captain Kirk, people!) and planning what to do on my vacation.  I’ve already bookmarked so many things that I’ll need another month to do them all.

Fine by me. Not gonna want to leave.

Image:  David Dixon / Wikipedia.com

 

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge 2014

A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]

And so we’ve reached the end of another Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  Thanks to Arlee Bird and the A-Z Team!  I’m posting my reflection early because I can.  And because I’m behind on homework (again).

Doing these character posts has been more difficult than I imagined.  When I create a character, I don’t always think about these elements consciously.  Writing the blog posts forced me to dissect the process.  I’m not entirely sure that’s how I even do it.

It’s magic.  No, really.

It’s magic.  No, really.

Image:  eofdreams.com

Now I sit here eating fancy avocado toast with sea salt and Old Bay and sipping a cup of tea (seriously, I should just move to London already–I drank a whole damn pot) and wondering what to write about next.  I suppose I could finish the Vocabulary series.  I should think up something else.  I’ll study on it and get back to you.

I’m very glad I made a plan.  Without it, I couldn’t have kept up with a post a day.  I only had to double up twice—that makes me rather proud of myself.  Especially considering that I’ve been in two of the most insanely insane classes this semester.

  • A document design class (I suck at this)
  • A healthcare writing class (I could not possibly care less about this)

Learning to work with InDesign has been interesting, but I doubt I’ll ever use it.   I don’t use it at work now and if I suddenly had to, I could have learned it online for free.  With school more expensive than ever and less return on that investment, I’m not sure I want to throw more money at it.

I’m already in indentured servitude to student loans. 

I’m already in indentured servitude to student loans.

Image:  Wikipedia

I’ve decided to take the summer off to write the sequel to Rose’s Hostage.  You’ll be kept up to date on my progress; I might do another mini- NaNoWriMo of my own for it.  I may not go back in the fall, depending on what happens.  If I do return to school, I can do it in the spring semester and not face any issues, according to my adviser.

My plans for the next five or six months include:

  • Doing another edit of Tunerville: my last reader bailed (she’s having a baby—yay!), so my sister has stepped up and is working through it now
  • Hopefully getting my Rose’s Hostage critique back from Brian and doing those edits
  • Querying Tunerville
  • Working
  • Working out
  • Going to London and Cardiff to:
    • Visit some friends and family
    • See Riverdance (!!!)
    • Attend the Doctor Who Experience
    • See the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios
    • Nom on as many delicious things as I can stuff into my face (hey, I’m going to be walking everywhere)
    • Do whatever else I feel like doing that won’t get me thrown out of a pub or arrested, heh heh

I’m driving everyone crazy because this trip is all I can talk/think about.  Sorry, but it has been so long since I had a real vacation, where I actually get to go somewhere far away for EIGHTEEN COUNT ‘EM EIGHTEEN days instead of just taking a day here and there.  Weekend trips don’t really count.  And you have no clue how badly I need to get the hell out of here.

This was starting to look pretty good.

This was starting to look pretty good.

Image:  fanpop.com

Speaking of which, about those Sherlock pictures in every single post in this series?  It started as a joke in my chat room, so I decided to put one in each post and see if anyone would call me on it.  Nobody did.

YOU HAVE FAILED ME, PEOPLE!

YOU HAVE FAILED ME, PEOPLE!

Image:  Dave Buchwald / Wikimedia Commons

Just kidding.  It was fun.  If you have any thoughts about a series you’d like me to do, feel free to make suggestions in the comments.  I’ll be pondering.  I keep having this weird feeling that something major is going to happen and it has nothing to do with school, so maybe whatever that is will give me extra goodies to post.  In the meantime, I’ll try not to go AWOL while I finish these final school projects.

Thank you for stopping by during the Challenge, and thanks to those of you who have been reading on a regular basis.

Character: Z is for Zzz–Death of a Character

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Z is for Zzzz—the Big Sleep, or death of a character. 

Killing characters for fun and profit is sometimes part of a writer’s job.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, however, especially when you’ve created one for whom you (and the readers) have developed a fondness.

The death of a character can advance the plot or it can be secondary.  In crime fiction and mystery, which is typically about murders (more dramatic), a death sets the plot in motion.  We rarely know the victims or see little of them before they’re killed.  But without their sacrifice, there is no story.  We don’t usually feel for them except a passing sympathy for whatever plight caused their demises.

It’s different when a writer kills off a beloved character.  In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I don’t really need to put a spoiler warning here, do I?), the shocking death of beloved Hogwarts headmaster and Potter mentor Albus Dumbledore caused a great deal of mourning.

Yes, I bawled all over my hardback.  Not ashamed. 

Yes, I bawled all over my hardback.  Not ashamed.

Image:  cinefantastiqueonline.com   

While this was a very upsetting thing, the story needed it in order to move forward.  Harry had become too dependent on Dumbledore’s aid and comfort.  He needed to step up and fulfill his destiny as the Chosen One and take charge of the mission to stop Voldemort.

What are some of the good reasons writers kill characters?  Well, they vary, but here are a few:

  • He’s standing in the protagonist’s way, either benignly (as Dumbledore did) or malevolently (as Magnussen in the Sherlock episode “His Last Vow”)
  • He’s grown tiresome (Nikki and Paolo on LOST) and adds nothing to the plot or character development.

In this case, you might reconsider whether he belongs there at all.  If you needed him for a purpose—he stole the elderly protagonist’s purse, thus setting her on a road to becoming a crime-fighting granny—fine.  But make sure his death doesn’t compromise your other characters.  If Granny’s moral code isn’t to kill but to capture, having her beat him to death with her cane is a non sequitur.  It won’t ring true, and readers will notice.

  • For dramatic effect, to force either a situation or growth on the other characters (Dumbledore again)
  • To enable the succession of another character (killing off a protagonist is tricky, and will probably require some pre-planning)

Before you decide to remove someone from your narrative, ask yourself the following questions.

Do you need to kill a character?

What do you hope to accomplish with this person’s death?  If you’re killing someone just for the sake of doing it, then you’re probably wasting your time.  Meaningless deaths that don’t affect the other characters in some way aren’t necessary and can piss off readers or viewers.  Think about The Walking Dead.  This show kills people right and left, but fan favorite Hershel’s brutal death at the hand of the Governor in the Season 4 episode “Too Far Gone” left everybody in a state of shock.

Hershel, we hardly knew ye.  Well, we did, but that’s beside the point.

Hershel, we hardly knew ye.  Well, we did, but that’s beside the point.

Image:  hollywoodreporter.com

Is it the right time for him to die?

Harry Potter was able to step up after Dumbledore’s death because he’s gained enough strength through training and experiences both at Hogwarts and outside it to handle the situation.  He grew up.  In Deathly Hallows, the Harry we see has worked through his angst about being the Chosen One, and he’s able to accept the help of his friends, who leave school to go with him.  He’s mature enough now to deal with it.

How will you do it?

Sometimes, you have to do the big, grand gesture, if for no other reason than this person would not go gentle into that good night.  But a character’s death doesn’t have to be dramatic.  A quiet exit can carry just as much (if not more) emotional impact.  Joyce Summers’ death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a huge, Big Bad-caused train wreck.  After recovering from a serious medical problem, she simply laid down on the sofa one day and slipped away (“The Body”).  I triple dog dare you to watch Buffy find her mother without crying.

You don’t have to show a death to make it tragic, either.  In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the faithful, hard-working horse Boxer collapses one day and is sold by Napoleon the pig so he can buy himself a drink.  The scene where the injured horse is carried off in the knacker’s van, with Benjamin the donkey attempting a futile rescue, is heartbreaking.

We don’t see Boxer die, but we know where he’s going, and we don’t want to know.

Will you bring him back somehow?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, and readers of the magazine The Strand canceled their subscriptions en masse.  He was so inundated with letters begging for his return that he resurrected Holmes in The Adventure of the Empty House.

Poor Watson. *cue The Lonely Man theme*

Image:  screenrant.com 

It should go without saying that you need to write the character’s comeback so it makes sense within your fictional world.  Holmes had an elaborate ruse to explain his resurrection.  In fantasy literature, writers use magic, potions, or other supernatural means to bring back characters.  In my novel Tunerville, the city is infested with newly raised ghosts, the first of which becomes a comical secondary character.

———-

Regardless of how you do it, a character’s death is a profound moment for the other characters.  Death brings change, and with it, your story will have to move in a new direction.  Make it count; give your dying character the best death you can.

Character: Y is for You (and not Mary Sue!)

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Y is for You.

You are the author.  These are your characters.  You gave them life and imbued them with all the traits you wish you had, you think they should have, or you’re glad you don’t have.

Every character has a little bit of the writer inside him.  But there are problems with basing a character entirely on yourself.

The Mary Sue conundrum

You may find that you’ve slipped into writing an idealized version of yourself.  It’s doubtful such a character will pass the Mary Sue test, but you can try it.  It’s difficult to look at yourself objectively in this fashion, and a character based on you may not be as authentic as you’d like him to be.

Let’s face it; we all want to be him.

Image:  Wikipedia

If you write yourself into a book as Stephen King did (he appears in Book Six of his Dark Tower series as himself in 1977), you might be tempted to go too far the other way to avoid the Mary Sue conundrum and make yourself into a weak, whiny character.  You could actually end up with something pretty amazing, if you’re a skilled writer with years of experience.

It’s too meta

Metafiction is when a work of art uses self-reference to draw attention to the fact that it is a work of art.   The Stephen King/Dark Tower thing was very meta; the writing of the books actually affected the outcome for the rest of the characters.  Sometimes, the narrator of a book will reveal himself as the author, as in Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone, or as in the book itself telling part of the story (Toni Morrison’s Jazz).

In TV, stories about characters who are in show business are meta.  Personally, I hate this; I’d rather see shows where the characters are a bit more of a stretch.  Actors playing actors, writers writing about writers writing, singers performing on shows about singers.  People who do not do these things have a hard time relating to the characters’ situations.  I don’t want meta when I’m watching TV; I want to escape into an alternate universe.

This show is all about escape. 

This show is all about escape.

Image:  geekstra.com

That’s what made the early seasons of Roseanne so brilliant.  The Conner family was a working-class, everyday family with the same problems and issues as many of their viewers.  It was a little meta in that Roseanne Barr’s comedy had its roots in her blue-collar origins, but it worked because the viewers could relate to the characters.  I had a very hard time with Full House for this reason:

  • Danny Tanner had his own talk show (played by Bob Saget, a TV host and stand-up comedian)
  • Joey Gladstone was a comedian (played by Dave Coulier, who also did stand-up comedy)
  • Jesse Katsopolis had a band, Jesse and the Rippers (played by John Stamos, actor and musician)

These aren’t things most of us do.  The only thing that saved the show from being impossibly meta was that the focus wasn’t on their jobs but on the relationships between the characters and their unusual family situation, and that it was so clean it squeaked.  There was nothing objectionable; everybody could watch it.  But meta characters like this are usually hard to take seriously.

 Criticism is too personal

If readers don’t like a character who is a reflection of you, can you handle that?  Writers sometimes have a hard time taking feedback on characters that are nothing like them.  Imagine if you poured your heart and soul on the page and it’s really yours, and they rip it to shreds.

Next on Oprah:  Writers who play the characters they write on TV!

Next on Oprah:  Writers who play the characters they write on TV!

Image:  pbs.org

When you write anything, whether it’s based on your own life/experience/traits or not, you lose yourself in the creation of it.  It comes out of you.  It’s yours even if you’re writing about a sentient dog who runs an underground railroad for stray cats.  (Okay, I have no clue where that came from, but I just climbed three flights of stairs four times for my afternoon workout and I’m dizzy as hell.)

Alisa Carter has a good post here about how to take criticism.  While you’ll probably be lurking inside your own pages anyway, it’s less of a blow when the character someone is critiquing (or attacking) isn’t your own.