“Flaw” or “The Shortcomings of Perfection”

Once more Danielle chooses to briefly cede control of her blog’s content in the name of vocal variation.

Her character Bruno had his time in the sun near two months past, and in the process suggested – or, stated outright, rather – that he thought me under-qualified to produce an Ever On Word-caliber post. “Allyn’s not really blogger material,” said he; “deer-in-the-archer’s-sights minstrel”, he called me. And while I shall now state outright that this is utter nonsense, how he came by this impression is wholly understandable; is, in fact, directly related to the topic of this piece: The all-important character flaw. (“Hyperteller,” I’ve been instructed to say, “this one’s for you.”)

Allyn-a-Dale, the famed Merry Minstrel of Avalon Faire.

Why is it considered so vital that fictional characters be given

“an imperfection, oft concealed,

impairing soundness; or revealed

for any and all to detect,

their vague shortcomings and defects”?

(In a minstrel-run world, all dictionaries would by definition include rhythm and rhyme, didn’t you know?)

From all I’ve heard, the reason most frequently cited is that perfection is an odious bore, but I feel that explanation may go slightly astray of the mark. Rather would I say that perfection is inhuman. And while characters may be anything from regular humans, to magically reanimated humans, to Fey folk or Sky folk or some imaginative combination thereof or, I don’t know, talking rabbits, they are all of them by humans written and read. And humans do not relate well to those in which they can see nothing of themselves.

What sorts of flaws ought an author to choose, and how?

Firstly, consider the story. What are the characters needed to do? Which flaws would drive them toward that action, and which flaws would impede them? Does it take an inquisitive person to open the box that transports them to the alternate dimension they’re destined to save? Might that same curiosity compel them to spend valuable time investigating a hidden room when they should have been running for their lives five minutes ago? You want the plot to flow, but never too smoothly – not for the ones who must live it.

Second, consider the backstory. What have your characters’ lives been, up to this point? What people and circumstances have influenced them, over the years? We are none of us made in a moment, but a culmination of all of our moments thus far. Our pasts will inform our present flaws. Goodness knows that’s where the majority of my issues stem from; a repressive apprenticeship under the late greatest minstrel of all time can make deer-in-the-archer’s-sights mental cases of us all.

Thirdly, consider beyond the cosmetic. For every author who’s followed tips one and two and views this third as rightfully redundant, there’s likely another who needs this said loud and clear. One might not think to look at me that I am so terribly flawed. Certainly, you would not think it to hear me. In accordance with retellings of the legend that inspired me, I was given a voice of unparalleled beauty; and, whether Danielle really intended it or not, a face to match. I happen to have little in the way of physical flaws, which I daresay some writers might frown upon. (I’ve not always been terribly pleased about it myself, actually. I’d just as soon not be fussed over and admired.) And certainly a cast full of men and women who all happen to look like the children of Adonis and Aphrodite will severely lessen that relatable humanity we hoped to attain. But to rely too heavily on imperfect appearances to do a proper flaw’s job helps nothing. Superman with an unsightly wart on his nose is still the Man of Steel; unless the wart is full of Kryptonite, you haven’t really accomplished anything.

Lastly, consider the flipside. As in the hypothetical example of the inquisitive fellow mentioned three paragraphs ago, a flaw can be more than a flaw; it can double as a virtue, as seen o’er and again in my world of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. Little John’s disinclination to communicate much can make him difficult to talk to (and even more so to drag anything out of), but it adds to his air of Bodyguard Supreme and leaves space for the rest of us to get a word in around Will Scarlet. Talking of Will (who always is), one of his chief flaws is a refusal to stop and think a thing through before charging right in. On the other hand, his manic mind moves so fast that he’s actually the only one able to keep up with himself (…mostly), and so can more or less successfully plan on his feet. As for me, a deep-seated sense of insecurity had me feeling rather weak and useless, betimes; and yet there came a point where that very weakness was my only weapon to wield against the dark forces endangering Avalon.

I shudder to think where my world would be if I had been the strongest, the bravest, confident and capable of anything. It would have lessened the story. Paradoxically, it would have lessened me (…or made me my father; but he has his own failings, never you fear).

When it takes a weakness to make a character stronger, the one flaw you don’t want to write is perfection.

“Voice” or “Can You Hear Who I Am Now? Good.”

Okay, so here’s what’s up. Danielle got this idea for a “fun” blog post where, instead of talking about “the distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book”, she’d have one of her characters talk about it. Y’know, kinda like a guest post. Except she still has do all the work. April fool’s on her, I guess.

            Originally, she was going to have Allyn-a-Dale do it, mostly because – hello – he’s Allyn-a-Dale. You want a voice in the “musical sound produced by [scientific yadda-yadda]” sense? Allyn’s got a voice. Thing is, though, Allyn’s not really blogger material. His style or manner of expression is far more suited to songs and poetry and little sound bites that sound like they ought to be songs or poetry. Tell him to throw together a five- to eight-hundred-word editorial, and he’ll look at you like a deer staring down the shaft of a Robin Hood arrow. Plus, part of the point of this gimmick is that you ought to be able to distinguish between the voice you’re getting now vs. the voice you usually get when Danielle’s skulking around WordPress as Deshipley, and since she expends so much time and energy in trying to talk like her minstrels, the line can get a little blurred.

Yeah, that's me. Sorry.

           So I guess Plan “B” is for Bruno. What up, world; “World of the Dream” saga protagonist, comin’ atcha. I’ve been mentioned around here a few times before (way few, compared to, say Gant-o’-the-Lute or Edgwyn the author’s pet, but hey, who’s bitter?), most notably in “Sequel”, “Q and A”, and “Modify”, if you really care enough to check the archives. And apparently, I’m here to rep for voice. Zero pressure.

            So. Voice in books. It’s kind of a big deal.

            Go to a literary agency’s website and read the agents’ preferences; it’s almost like a cliché. “What’s your number one wish, Beauty Queen?” “World peace!” “What do you want in a book, Agent?” “No vampires!!!” “Besides that.” “A fresh and engaging voice!”

            What was the difference between Danielle enjoying that “All Good Children” dystopia she was talking about, way back whenever, and her suffering through 300 pages of heck-on-a-stick with the most martyr-like pout you ever saw? Mostly, the voice of main character Max, that’s what (which, she’s decided, reminded her of me. I can’t tell who’s supposed to be flattered or insulted or on first with that one, so we’ll just leave it alone).

            The story you have to tell is only half the battle; the other half is how you tell it. This goes for both third-person and first-person narration, and possibly even more so with the latter. I mean, if you’re gonna have a character doing all the talking, you want them to come across as interesting, right? Otherwise, why is this person getting a book?

            Even if it’s only Nameless Omniscient Guy telling the tale from behind a curtain, Oz style, you can’t let character voices slide. Or you could. But your book might tank. The thing about characters is, they’re people. (And I’m not just saying that because I am one; I’m saying it because that’s the kind of thing I’m getting paid the big bucks [read: diddily-squat] to say.) And people don’t all talk the same. (Thank goodness. Have you heard some people talk?) So if you’re reading a book and can’t tell the difference between a) the deer-in-the-archer’s-sights minstrel and b) the modern teen with attitude issues who dreams of solving his differences with a sword without throwing in an “Allyn/Bruno said” every time, there’s a problem somewhere.

            How to make sure that your voice is distinctive, fresh, engaging, and conducive to world peace? How the heck should I know? I don’t write. Whatever, I can still throw opinions around. How ‘bout you don’t try to force it? Don’t throw in big, pretentious words that you never actually use just to try to impress anyone, because nobody worth impressing will be. That said, I wouldn’t advise that you write exactly how you talk conversationally, because let’s face it: Real life conversations need major editing. So try to find something comfortable, but not sloppy. Make your voice something you feel able to keep up consistently for however long the book lasts. If it matches the tone of the story, that’s probably a plus. Unless you’re trying to be ironic; that can work, too. And lastly? Try to make it sound like you wrote it. Maybe/maybe not like you, but like you, writing. Because if you, writing, tell good stories, well, people will keep coming back for another listen to your voice. And I’m assuming that’s what you authorial types want.

            There you have it. My two cents. And with my promised salary of diddily-squat for this post, that leaves me two cents in the red. Big thanks, Danielle.

“Process” or “Slogging Your Way to Authorial Awesomeness”

Been wondering about the Deshipley secret to writing novels left and right? Well, wonder no more, my friends, because today, in cooperation with self-professed “editor, blogger, and all-around book lover” Ariel K. Price, I’m coming clean and telling all! I am most appreciative of dear Ariel’s invitation to write a guest post for her blog, and I now invite you, readers, to join us for a behind-the-scenes look at one author’s “series of operations performed in the making or treatment of a product” – the product being, in this case, my stories. Link on over, folks!

“Pregnancy” or “And Story Makes Three”

My gracious hostess.

Congratulations: It’s a guest post!

            Fellow blogger, writer, and awesome-sauce person Emerald Barnes has done me the honor and pleasure of hosting a Deshipley original post over at her blog, Dreaming Awake. So for those of you who don’t already hang around Emerald’s domain with some sort of regularity, I encourage you (read: threaten you at water-gunpoint) to pop over there now, via this lovely link of delight. (:

“Onward”

Well, we’ve had our fun with reminiscence. Time, now, to turn our collective gaze “in a direction or toward a position that is ahead in space or time”.

            What’s in store for Deshipley in 2012?! …As far as life in general, I have no idea. Certainly, I have my hopes. More publications would be great – in magazines, anthologies, and of course, for my novels. I’ll probably get back to querying literary agents soon, so your prayers, well wishes, and/or hookups would be much appreciated.

          While I’m dreaming, I would also like a husband. Bums and creepers need not apply. And heck, I’ll take a cross-dimensional rift to Wilderhark, if there’s one to be had!

            Back in the realm over which I have a reasonable amount of control, what will the upcoming year mean for my blog baby, Ever On Word? Well, I’ve got some ideas…

Visuals

            Talkin’ about “pictures, charts, or other presentations that appeal to the sense of sight”. Obviously, words will continue to take priority, here, same as they’ve always done. But this writer’s a visual girl, too! I enjoy the creation, or simply the viewing, of visual art. One is never too old for illustrations to go with their text! So from here on in, I’ll be keeping an eye out for apropos images to accompany my blog pieces. No promises that every single piece will have visuals, but you’ll definitely being seeing more of them around here.

Subtitles

            As I’ve mentioned in the past, titles don’t tend to come easily to me. I’ve hitherto kept the pressure down, around here, by limiting my blog titles to single words (barring the rare exception, like say, “Sequel 2”), and that’s been all very fine and dandy. But now that I’ve had a few months to warm up, I plan to take things a step further with a new titular formula: “Word” or “A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work”. This may ratchet up the challenge factor just a bit, but I think I’m up for it. (Or if I’m not, I’ll just leave Bruno in charge of the subtitles. That chapter title, as featured in “Title”, about the attacks of bloated frogs? That was all him. The character’s got skillz.)

Redesign?

            I am as yet undecided as to whether I shall “make a revision in the appearance of” this blog. To date, these lovely gradating blues and grays have been brought to you by the “Ocadia” theme. I have no quarrel with it; it was precisely what I was looking for, a third-of-a-year ago. However, I am fond of visual variety; the reason I invest in calendars over posters is that it ensures a monthly rotation of art upon my bedroom walls. If I found another theme as utterly me as is the one now in use, I could easily be persuaded to toss the old and embrace the new.

            But I desire to be sensitive to the preferences of my readership. Were I in your place, I might be dismayed at coming back to that lord among blogs I’ve been following (and oh, what bliss it’s been), only to discover that it looked all disquietingly different. So do please weigh in, readers! If the prospect of my switching themes on you makes your tummy hurt, I want to know about it! And if you’ve been thinking for months, “Minced biscuits, will this woman never lose the blankety-blank ‘Ocadia’?!”… wow, okay, you could have said something before now… You mad, bro? ( <– This link is a must-click. Best indie music video ever!)

Guest

            I may not go out knocking on people’s blogs and ask them to post pieces lovingly crafted by yours truly, but I am ever open to having such invitations extended to me. (I had a great time talking about character Q and A’s over at Andrea S. Michaels’ blog, back in November.) What’s more, it could be fun to be on the other side of things and play host to “one who is a recipient of hospitality at the home or table of another” of my own. So if anyone out there is interested in soliciting my words, or would like to organize a post swap, you’re always welcome to offer!

HYSRT!

            That’s an acronym, folks, standing in for the phrase, “Hey, You Should Read This!” With a frequency yet to be determined – weekly or semimonthly, most likely – I would like to take the time to briefly direct everyone’s attention to some blog post I’ve found somewhere and deemed worthy of sharing. Why? Because I, for one, really love it when random people read, like, and/or share my writings, and I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in this. (For the proof in the pudding – or rather, the blog post – read here.) But Blog Land is a very big place, and even this whole “Freshly Pressed” deal that WordPress has generously got going can only lift so many people out of obscurity. So I figure, why not jump in there and up somebody’s odds by linking them to my readers? Do unto others! Love thy fellow bloggers as thyself! You’re welcome in advance, countless happy strangers!

            And those, ladies and gentlemen, are my blog-related resolutions of sorts for the new year. Here’s to making Ever On Word, as we all move ever onward, an even more awesome place to hang in 2012 and beyond!

            Microphone on you, now: What sorts of plans have you got lined up for the year to come?