Tag Archives: David Heyman

To Quit or Not to Quit?

That wraps it up for us this month, and what a month it was! We dove into making goals, how to make better goals, when to amend your goals, and when to quit your goals. We hope our insights were helpful to you, and that you carry some of our hard-earned wisdom with you into your future work.

In case you missed a post this month, here they are:

The Stories that Just Don’t Sell by Mary Pletsch

We Always Need a Goal by Ace Jordan

Quitting by Nicholas Ruva

New Goal: Stop Making Goals by Kristin Luna (that’s me!)

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting by Heidi Wilde

How Goals Can Destroy Your Writing Career by Gregory Little

Finish What You Start, or Not by Kevin Ikenberry

A Faster Book, or A Better Book? by Frank Morin

Quitting with Feeling by David Heyman

In Favor of Failure by Colton Hehr

The Goal Post by Sean Golden

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear by Kim May

To Goal or Not to Goal, That Is The Question by Jo Schneider

Made to Be Broken by Hamilton Perez

2018 – Hello, Universe Calling, Is Scott There? by Scott Eder

When Chronic Illness Sabotages Goals by Ace Jordan

Setting Realistic, S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Shannon Fox

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals by Kristin Luna

 

What were some of your favorite posts this month? Did we leave anything out? Comment and let us know!

If Your Character Isn’t Memorable, Don’t Despair – Here’s Help!

You’ve read all the books, taken the workshops, and you’ve created your character bibles. You’ve even thought a little about which characters you like and why (see my post Memorable Characters – Who Do You Like?). Still, your character isn’t quite quintessential and therefore not memorable. What to do? Learn from the best. “But!” you say, “I don’t have time to study all those books, see all the movies!” The solution is easy – read April 2016’s blogs on Creating Memorable Characters. I’ve gleaned some tips and have summed them up (or have taken excerpts). Click on the links to each person’s blog to read it in its entirety.

These are the best how-to’s! Seriously, there’s a lot of great take-aways in these.

Sometimes less is more …

For David Carrico (Enter the Villain), Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is an absolute sadist, a pederast, and an incestophile, yet very little of that is shown “on screen” so to speak in the novel. The reader is given glimpses here and there of the raw evil lying beneath the surface of what is otherwise a very forceful, articulate, and urbane man. Herbert made the Baron memorable by understating him

Leigh Galbreath (Chaos For It’s Own Sake) says she doesn’t want to sympathize with a great villain and wants a villain that will make the hero work for every inch. What she loves about the the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, is Nolan’s conscious decision to leave some of the story up to the audience.

Mat Cauthon in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is a stellar example of how to make a character funny not by what they say, but by who they are. In Gambler, Trickster, Son of Battles, Gregory D. Little notes that the humour of Mat’s character isn’t in what he says, but rather the irony the series continually thrusts upon him: contemptuous of nobility he, of course, marries an empress.

 A Mix of Good, Bad and Ugly or, the Imperfect Character

In Taking Strides in Character Development, Sean Golden points out that Strider’s mysterious past, his wit and wisdom, all factor in to create a reluctant hero in an almost a surly way. Strider struggles with self-doubt. He falters. He worries. He doubts. He takes chances. And in the end, he finds himself.

Characters become more likeable and sympathetic when they suffer or show genuine concern even if it’s at their own expense. In The Roller Coaster that was Tig Trager, Jace Killan explains that Tig wasn’t all good or all bad and it was Tig’s good traits that got him into trouble and sometimes it was his bad traits that got him out. It wasn’t easy and it took time for Tig to recover from what he had done.

Not every memorable character needs fisticuffs

You don’t need fisticuffs to be a hero or memorable. Evan Braun (The Ultimate Philosopher King) writes that Jean Luc Picard is the philosopher who rules as king, the true pilot who observes the stars and the heavens to preside over his ship. In the midst of near-perfect humanity, Picard shines brightly. As Shakespeare might say, he is the paragon of animals.

Inner strength without physical prowess can make for an admirable persona and Dashti in Dashti of a Thousand Days proves that. Colette Black notes that it’s complex characterization, where Dashti learns to temper a character flaw and discovers that her real power lies, not with physical prowess, but in her determination, an inner strength and loyalty.

The everyday man is tested…

In Yippee-ki-yay: The Most Reluctant Hero, Kristin Luna writes about how John McClane is a great example of how a hero doesn’t always have to be willing. He can be the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time and still kick some major butt. Giving your hero a strong personality and a little reluctance can be a recipe for one of the most memorable heroes of all time.

For Frank Morin (When a Gardener Helps Defeat a Dark Lord) Samwise Gamgee is memorable because he accepts that his place in the world is not to be the hero, but to be the hero’s cook, assistant, and bodyguard. And yet, he demonstrates in his simple way that heroes are not always the great warriors, with the flashy armor or dazzling magic. Heroes get the job done. Any one of us could be Sam.

In the life of every evil person there is a series of decisions that lead, inevitably, to damnation. This is the moment where your villain goes wrong. The moment where he or she makes the decision to do the wrong thing for all the right reasons. After that, it’s a slow and gradual slide into hell. That’s Frog Jones’ take on Walter White. To learn more, read Regarding the Humble Blowfish.

Just because that’s the way it is…

Kim May (Marty Stus by Moonlight) writes about Chiba Mamoru being an ideal of a man: strong, silent, and enigmatic. The perfect gentleman whose sole purpose is to be Sailor Moon’s love interest, to rescue her from peril when her klutziness and fears get the best of her. You have to admit. There are times when we really really need that kind of rescuing. Marty Stus were never meant to be the ideal we should hold out for. They’re the ideal that we have little escapist fantasies about on a moonlit night when reality is too much…and there’s no shame in that.

Which brings me back to Leigh Galbreath’s post about the Joker because sometimes you want Chaos For It’s Own Sake.

Villains come in all shades

The reluctant villain and one who you can’t resist! In A Character You Can’t Refuse, Marta Sprout talks about how Michael Corleone does some terrible things and yet we still like him. We’re drawn to him as he is slowly pulled away from his own honorable world and into his family’s mob dealings. When a character changes so profoundly it’s engrossing and it was done one reasonable step at a time. At each moment Michael is held tightly into his role where he can’t back out.

The loveable antagonist. Instead of hating Gollum, David Heyman, reveals in A Preciously Complex Character that he liked Gollum, felt sorry for him, and hoped Frodo would find a solution to his problem that didn’t force Gollum (and Smeagol) to lose. Gollum’s love of the Ring is heartbreakingly pure: even as it destroys and corrupts him, he wants nothing from life other than to possess it.

That’s me! Sometimes the villain is us pushed to the wall. In Walter White, you monster, E. Godhand says that a villain protagonist whose methods may not be right, can win your sympathy and support because after doing everything right and getting nothing in return, he has nothing left to lose. We feel the adage, “But for the Grace of God, goes I.”

Pure Evil. And, as David Carrico said in Enter the Villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is an absolute sadist, a pederast, and an incestophile. Pure evil works too!

A Personal Truth We Can Relate To – and it comes in all shapes, sizes and tropes!

Character Arc – In Summoning Character Development, Sarah Golden found that Yuna’s response to adversity (not the sword but endurance and wisdom) made her an admirable character with emotional and spiritual strength. But, she didn’t start out that way. She develops from doing what other people want to having her own thoughts, and making her own decisions.

Someone different yet real – When you bring in a character who is so different from the others, she not only illuminates the cast, but her character is more profound. But, as Peter Clampton explains in The Girl Who Changed EVERYTHING!, Asuka Langley Soryu is no cheap trope, used to simply spice things up for she brings her own history, strengths and weaknesses. She’s a protagonist with real and profound problems who deals by self-medicating in isolation.

I love doing this! Jacqui Talbot’s admiration of Flavia de Luce (You Had Me at Nitrogen Pentoxide) comes from her own love of chemistry and solving mysteries. As she says, Flacia is a beguiling cross between Pippi Longstocking and Sherlock Holmes. Flavia is an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry (specifically poisons) and a penchant for crime solving.

The hero within rises! D.H. Aire (A Lesson in Character from Superman) tells us that Superman was created during the cusp of Worlds War II to illuminate Americans about the Nazi threat. Thus a superhero who fights for truth and justice was more than a mere story for Siegel and Shuster. Superman is memorable because he had a secret identity (a hero deep inside), and that’s a feeling we all have, that inside, we too are heroes.

Do what must be done! For Joshua David Bennett (The Power of Pain) Kaladin Stormblessed’s ability to overcome pain and hardship, not wallow in it, made him memorable. He’s an inspiration to rise to the occasion, to do what must be done.

The devil is in the detail so find one!

As Josh Vogt explains of his own writing in When All Else Fails, Bring in a Lizard, the protagonist, Dani wasn’t memorable until he gave her a quirk. A pet lizard! The lizard seems at odds with her original self. That presented a mystery (even a minor one) to unravel, which created personality paradoxes which were entertaining.

Taken to another medium, some characters sometimes become more memorable and others we wish we could forget.

Watching Sidney Poitier play Kimani Wa Karanja was profoundly moving for W.J. Cherf (Something of Value: Of Boyhood Friendships and Harsh Realities). Kimani (Poitier) became his favorite character (actor) because of his immense depth, passion, pride of place, and desire to succeed. Even with his dying breaths, after bitterly fighting his boyhood friend Peter, Kimani died hoping, yearning, for “something of value.” Poitier absolutely nailed the character and the role.

Good characters usually have clear motives with stakes involved Matt Beckett states in Lex Talk About Lex, Baby. Reintroduced characters shouldn’t rely too much on a savvy audience already familiar with the brand. Lex Luthor wasn’t given a good platform this round. His motive didn’t hit home and wobbled.

When Kevin Ikenberry (The Most Successful Bankrobber Ever) saw Jack Foley played by Clooney it was the perfect match! Kevin wrote: as I read Road Dogs, I could not stop seeing and hearing Clooney in the role. That’s where Foley transcended being a likable sympathetic character into something different. Clooney’s effortless performance as Foley indelibly attaches his “aura” to the character. But is it the actor or the character that is memorable? I vote character. No matter the actor’s talent, commitment to the role, or appearance, the character is developed on paper and is the vision of the writer/screenwriter that the actor is to bring to life. When it’s done perfectly in a book, it resonates with us. When we see that on camera, it’s more than memorable. It’s legendary.

Readers must care about a character!

Memorable characters, Mary Pletsch wrote in More than Meets the Eye, must be seen as people we come to know, then we become invested in them and their stories. When we see that their actions not only affect the plot but drive it forward, we care about what they do. And when we wonder and worry about what will happen to our favourites, we keep coming back–issue after issue, year after year. It’s the character work that makes the story shine

Marta Sprout sums it all up best when she said: When we write characters, we balance two seemingly oppositional things: the character must have qualities that resonate with the reader and he or she must venture into areas the reader would never go and take actions that the reader could not do. Therein lies the grounds for spellbinding characters.

There you have it – great lessons for making memorable characters. Pick your angle, work with it and you’ll have readers asking for more!

A Preciously Complex Character

A guest blog by David Heyman.

 

GollumGollum. It had to be him.

When I learned that this month’s theme was memorable characters, Gollum from The Lord of the Rings grabbed my imagination just as surely as if it was the One Ring itself. His was the first name in my head, arriving independent of any thought process or reasoning.

But why Gollum? Initially, even I wasn’t sure.

Sure – he’s a great character, as I’ll discuss below. He’s hardly my Favorite Character from Literature of All Time though. Heck, he’s not even my favorite character from The Lord of the Rings! (That would be Sam, and I have a soft spot for Gimli as well.) To discover why Gollum was my first choice, I ended up on a journey of my own- -and I learned quite a bit.

At the age of 8 or so I was first handed a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring by my grandfather. I was probably too young for the story at that point, but I dove in anyway. I’m pretty confidant I glossed over a lot of the songs and longer meetings, but I was still sufficiently enthralled to check out The Two Towers from the library and continue the story. Along the way, I had been assigning ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ tags to the various characters, taking a particularly strong liking to Frodo, Sam and Strider. There were hints of Gollum in that first book- -whispered mentions of a threat, enough so that I knew he would be a problem for our heroes when he arrived. I was prepared to hate him, the way I hated Sauron and Saruman and all the bad guys.

By the end of The Two Towers though, I found that not only did not hate Gollum, I kind of liked him. I felt sorry for him, I found myself hoping Frodo would find a solution to his problem that didn’t force Gollum (and Smeagol) to lose. This gave me my first real clue as to why Gollum was my go-to character choice. He was my first complex character as well as my first likable villain.

For my pre-adolescent brain, this was a game changer. Gollum was a bridge to more adult stories and motivations. He was the first step on a path that led me out of children’s books and into increasingly complex fantasy stories.

(As an aside, the timing for this could not have been better. I first read Lord of the Rings after I had seen Star Wars, but before Empire Strikes Back came out in theatres. Gollum sufficiently prepared me to accept and relish the more complex character Darth Vader becomes in the second movie.)

Gollum is an antagonist for Frodo, but he cares not a whit for the machinations of the main villains like Sauron and Saruman. In one sense, his motivation is much simpler and easier to understand: he simply wants has precious. Gollum’s love of the Ring to me is heartbreakingly pure: even as it destroys and corrupts him, he wants nothing from life other than to possess it, to look at it and appreciate it. To everyone else in the story the Ring is either a burden or a Tool. It may be part of his essence, but even Saruon needs the Ring in order to accomplish larger goals. Gollum alone seems to value to Ring for itself.

This made him fascinating to me as a new reader encountering this type of character for the first time. Because his motivation was both simple but also independent from the main story, he felt like a much more direct threat to Frodo and Sam. He was unpredictable, murderous and chaotic, not to mention clearly quite mad. Yet he was also sad, pathetic and at times even capable of kindness. Was it all a ruse? Was he really just a slave to the Ring, or was Gollum truly capable of redemption, of becoming Smeagol again? As a reader, Gollum kept me on edge because he was impossible to predict. He served his own agenda, his own master and whenever he was on the page, anything might happen.

In preparing for this blog post, I realized that Gollum has greatly influenced me as both a reader and a writer. I have a strong preference for ‘grey’ characters with complex motivations. I like my villains to be a bit tragic, to have some kernel of good inside them as well as having their actions come from a place of pain rather than greed or lust for power. I adore antagonists who operate outside the main plot, who serve no master other than their own needs. Even on the hero side I like a little dark edge there, some place deep inside where they resemble the villain more than they care to admit.

All of this creates more tension through unpredictability, which leads to experiences I like to read about as well as write.

I realize now all of that started for me with Gollum, once a simpler creature who found a most extraordinary present on his birthday- -a present that would transform him into a character for the ages, and my personal guide into more complex characters.


Dave writes both novels and short stories in the various genres of speculative fiction. His other passions include his family, gaming and reading about mountaineering. Sleep is added to the mix when needed. You can visit him at daveheyman.com

SLICING THE CAKE

A Guest Post by David Heyman

“Honey, where are you?”

Physically I’m in the store with my wife, where she is asking my opinion of an item she’s seen. In my mind though – I’m on a far-off snowy plain, trying to get my heroine out of the scrape I’ve written her into. This is the world of the writer and their family, and it’s one I’m betting most of you are familiar with. Managing the scales between the time and energy we give to our writing and the time we give to other demands can be one of the more difficult challenges an aspiring writer can face.

It’s commonly called the work/life balance, but for us it is a more complex beast – one more properly named a work/work/life balance. We all have lives that include family, friends, pets and the many activities that make life worth living. These are all wonderful, but they rightfully expect an investment of your time. Then most of us have the job that pays the bills, taking care of that rewarding life and keeping the road ahead of us clear. That job also makes demands on your time, demands that can be harder to negotiate with than Fido.

Now you want to add writing, but for most of us writing no mere hobby. It doesn’t fall into the ‘pursuits’ section of that life category. No, writing for us is our second job – the one that might not be paying bills yet, but someday….

Something’s gotta give – somewhere a sacrifice must be made.

cake

I always view my time as cake. I cut a piece of cake for my family, one for work and one for myself. If I want to write and that’s going to use some of that available time, then someone’s piece of cake is going to get smaller.

My advice: make sure you are the one making the sacrifice. Cut into your cake, not someone else’s.

Want to write on your lunch break? Sure. You can bang out that scene while you have your sandwich. Write during that boring dial-in meeting where they never call on you anyway? No, that time is committed to the job that pays the bills. Writing after play time with the kids and TV time with your spouse? Sure, but discuss it with them first.

You are the one who wants to be a writer, the big time sacrifice must come from you. Video game time, Game of Thrones watching time, Facebooking time.

Your time.

I would caution not to take all of your time, though. Don’t take away the sleep you need, or the time you exercise to stay healthy. Reserve some time for yourself to de-stress, to recharge and get the creative juices going again. Moderation is the key.

Each day is a cake that you choose where to make the cuts and choose the sizes. Your job, your friends and families all have their plates out, waiting to be serves a slice of your time.

How you distribute those slices will have a big impact on your support system going forward – and you will need that support to succeed.

David Heyman:

Dave writes both novels and short stories in the various genres of speculative fiction. His other passions include his family, gaming and reading about mountaineering. Sleep is added to the mix when needed. You can visit him at daveheyman.com