Why Do Some Characters Stick In Our Hearts And Others Don’t?

Hey everyone! Gumiho here and I’m back after a mini break with another article on writing! Though I admit that it’s not as much as an article as much as an idea-turned into an article.

But lately with NaNoWriMo going on, me playing the new Pokemon, and writing my book, I’ve been really wondering why we attach so hard to some characters and not others. This may be a multi-part topic or so because I think it’s worth talking about from both a writing, video game perspective, and other media if applicable.

First things first, I’d like to bring up the example in the featured pic. If you’re familiar with Pokemon, or internet memes in general, you know who it is: Colress who appears in Pokemon Black and White and their sequels, better known as the guy who always disagrees and whose hair looks like the Internet Explorer logo.

And then there’s this guy~

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Professor Sycamore, who I actually didn’t know who he was until like a few hours ago. But here’s the thing, he’s from Pokemon X and Y. As embarrassing it is to admit, I played both versions of the game, but I had no clue who this guy was until my friend reminded me. And that’s kinda what pushed me to write this topic now. Usually I try to remember every professor name in the games, but this guy was just so forgettable that I was surprised that I didn’t know him.

On the other hand, Colress is kind of a guy that you don’t forget because well, he’s so bizarre looking, but also, he wants something as a character: to bring out the potential in pokemon.

Here’s another case.

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Another memorable character. Because if you’re familiar with Sans and seen him in action, you know you’re gonna have a bad time. 😉 But even before that, Undertale acquaints you with his other endearing traits such as his laziness and delightfully bad puns.

The way I see this as extending to writing is this, what makes memorable characters memorable is that there is at least one unique trait that draws our attention, a hook trait. One trait that a reader can associate with something familiar right away and pin down in just a few words.

This is what causes us to run into spotlight issues between main characters and minor characters aka the usual “My Minor Characters Outshine My Protagonist” problems. Because in the creating process, minor characters usually start off with one unique trait and then develop over time if they’re used more that once. But writers don’t always do this with their main characters because we get so caught up in building up a hero that we think can go through all the hoops that we’re setting up in the plot. However, while this isn’t “wrong”, it doesn’t always let your main character shine like the big star they’re meant to be, and they might feel a little flat compared to other characters with interesting traits and hobbies.

If you’ve been having that problem, maybe take another look at your manuscript, and see if you can maybe give your MC an interesting trait or a hobby that can distinguish them from others. But here’s the important part…

It’s not enough to just put in a random interesting trait. You’ve got to bolster that quirk or hobby by giving it use in the plot. Let the MC use it to solve problems, let the MC use it on their love interest, etc. Think Harry Potter’s lightning shaped scar; it doesn’t just sit on his head, you know!

But enough yapping from me. Keep at that NaNoWriMo if you’re still at it! Only a few more days and you’re done! 🙂

 

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Mini-Thanksgiving NaNoWriMo PepTalk

Hey, hey, I know it’s Thursday and not Friday or Wednesday, but I wanted to check up on those of you guys doing NaNoWriMo? Are you guys on track to finish? Or are you lagging behind?

Whichever it is, don’t get too discouraged about finishing. And if you’re almost done, don’t get too complacent! Major comebacks and major setbacks can still shake things up these last six days, and it’s still anyone’s game.

But on the other hand, don’t forget to enjoy your Thanksgiving. Whether you’re furiously writing, or playing video games, (or doing both like me), there is a world around us still. 🙂

A Little Bit Of Undertale Teaches A Lot About Story Writing

Hey everyone, Gumiho here and I’m back with another post on something that I never expected to be talking about.

If you’re a PC gamer, or any kind of gamer at all, you may have heard of something called Undertale. It’s a popular video game on steam that I’ve been curious about for a while because the claim to fame is that is has such an amazing story.

And naturally when I hear the word story in any context these days, I have to check out. What makes it a good story?

Well, I sat down and looked at different runs of it to find out.

And holy sh*t.

There’s stuff here that even us story writers can learn from. And the biggest lesson here is that good and evil are all relative. If you think about it, we as writers often make “heroes” and put those “heroes” against “villains” to get a “satisfying ending”.

But something that writers don’t always consider is that “villains” aren’t really evil. No one is really ever born evil. Characters are only evil because we see them that way, usually they’re doing what they think is normal, right, or the only option. And Undertale is a game that really challenges your mind to really think about what good and evil really means, which is what I love about it. You do what you think you should do in a normal game, “fighting evil”, and you get the shock of your life for it.

It’s something that I wish I could see more of in the books I pick up rather than the traditional hero slays monster story. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s done so much that it’s hard to put an interesting spin on it because we all know who wins in those kinds of stories.

But who knows, maybe we will see more books like these. I know I’m definitely taking some pointers from Undertale. And if you’re thinking about playing it, I’d definitely recommend it. If you’re out of story ideas and looking for something to refresh your brain, I’d still recommend it for that too.

In the meantime, I’m off. See ya’ll next post.

Fun Friday: Pokemon Sun and Moon Is Here! And A Tiny Talk About Fear

Hey hey everyone! Gumiho here and I’m back (quite late) with another post. While it’s true this has nothing to do with writing whatsoever, what the hey, most Fun Friday posts don’t! 😀

And this game is something that I’ve been so hyped up for that it’s amazing that I haven’t combusted into marshmallows and sparkles from the wait. I kid you not, I was at door guard duty all day from 6am this morning because I was just that excited. Buying the main Pokemon titles are a tradition, and I’m glad that I was able to preorder mine way ahead of time.

But in the meantime, I had an idea. While I’d been fascinated by all the leaked news and trailers, I also started looking at the channels of my favorite Let’s Play YouTubers and I thought…hey, I love Pokemon, why not give Let’s Plays a try?

Immediately, my stomach shriveled up like a squeezed sponge because I’m like: well, I’m quiet, awkward, and I can barely communicate well to friends to friends and family, let alone strangers. And I don’t have any of that fancy capture equipment, or a modded 3DS. Hell, I don’t even have a tripod. I just have a digital camera that’s decent. So I kinda thought… who would want to listen to me?

But then the stubborn, don’t-care part of me stepped in saying, “Try it anyway! You don’t know that.” So then I decided to try and practice the motions of recording days ahead of the release so that when the games came out, I’d be ready to record my gameplay.

So today, I put out my first video.

It’s not great by any means. I didn’t expect it to be, but I had so much fun making it! I actually looked at other first videos of Let’s Players, and surprisingly found that their beginnings were no better than mine. Blurry cameras, dim lighting, shy voices, and all. It’s crazy how people like Chuggaconroy and Masaeanela are worlds away from when they first started.

And that gives me hope.

So I decided, to treat these Let’s Plays that I do as a lesson in learning communication to an audience and improving my verbal skills in general. Hopefully, I’ll improve this over the years.

Maybe it’ll even be something that I want to stick with permanently.

If you want to follow and support me through this journey, you can do it here.

Happy Friday everybody! If you happen to be a Pokemon fan, I hope that you have or get your copy of Sun and Moon soon.

See you all next time. 🙂

 

 

Write Or Die 2

Hey, hey, everyone Gumiho here. I know this post is going to be coming up later in the day than usual, but I wasn’t feeling particularly well earlier and I wanted to wait until I could tolerate a writing session, so please bear with it. But if the picture is any indication of fun levels for tonight, you’re in for a treat.

Some of you may have heard of something called Write or Die before. If you haven’t, then good! 😀 (Just kidding!) I picked up its baby Write Or Die 2 on a whim one day. Not because I need the extra program, but because sometimes as a crazy writer, I want to live life on the edge like this guy here…0e0a8d5c29ccc0ab8634258870d40895ceb8246e48c06f1da56ef50370ab7c62.jpg

And I have to admit, my feels on the matter are mixed. I can only describe it as being frightened, fascinated, in-love, and paranoid all at once.

The good thing about it is that it’s got a lot of nice settings and cool features that your average program might not offer, like playing sounds for you as you write, adding scenery in the background, letting you set your word count goals, (which is great for you NaNoWriMo people)! Additions like this are what I enjoy the most in a writing program because we all know that every single one of them is going to let do the necessities.

But of course if you’ve used Write or Die before, then you probably know what’s coming next.

And that’s the “Die” aspect.

*takes a deep breath* Oh boy.

Where do I even begin? If you’re the type of person who can only work via loud noises, flashing colors, and other types of paranoia-inducing madness, then keep reading. For me, I love this because it’s crazy, chaotic, and super effective (no pokemon joke intended). If you’re lagging on your NaNoWriMo word count or you’re the type to keep getting distracted, you can set noises and unpleasant images to scare you back into focus. Another feature that it’s most famous for is the fact there is a mode where you can set it to erase your words if you get distracted for too long. I haven’t used that one myself, but I’m definitely looking forward to trying. As for the flashing colors and loud noises, all I can say is that they do their dastardly jobs.

Overall, despite the scary parts, I’d recommend  Write or Die 2 to anyone who’s struggling to keep their bums in the chair.

*Update*: I actually did get around to trying the word-erasing Kamikaze mode and it’s interesting. At first I wasn’t sure what was going on when it started erasing my words, but when I looked at it, it looked like it was just erasing the vowels in the words I typed and not the whole words. It didn’t seem like I could customize the Kamikaze mode in anyway, so I’m assuming there isn’t a variation that erases your whole word. I like that because my biggest initial worry, and maybe you have this too, was that it would erase everything you wrote, but I guess they didn’t want to make it so that you have to rewrite everything.

Most importantly, you aren’t forced use anything other than the basic type functions and the word count goal gauge, so if you don’t want to be bothered with the pressure of noises and your words going ka-blooey, don’t worry. You can just do vanilla things if you want. But if you’re up to the challenge, give some of the other ones a go!

If you dare.

 

EZ Breezy Writing Hax# 2: How To Get A Handle On That Beginning

We’ve heard it all before: begin at the action, hook in the reader, foreshadow x, and yadda yadda yadda. And I’ve been giving this some thought lately. What makes a good beginning? I don’t know about you guys, but for me, the beginning of my book Vicissitude: Lost Earth was one of the hardest parts of the book to write. Endings are easy. Usually, I can imagine endings long before I even write the beginning. But a beginning is harder for a few reasons:

  • You have to hook the reader in the first place
  • You have to set the tone in the book
  • You have to set up/establish everything (plot, genre, characters, story problem, etc)

So, a beginning has a lot of work on its plate. And if that didn’t make things worse, beginnings are tend to be more up in the air, aka, you can begin in an infinite number of ways without upsetting the ending too much. This infiniteness can make it a nightmare to settle down and pick one, so here are some guides to hopefully help that decision become easier.

1. Does the reader have a reason to care?

No reason to care= no reason to read. Case closed.

This is why the general advice for beginnings is to begin “medias res” aka in the middle of the action. It’s an easy-attention mechanism. Although it’s well-meaning, I’d give this piece of advice a wide berth because though it fits for those of us in action-heavy and faster-paced genres, what if you’re writing a gentler genre like a romance, christian fiction, or children’s fiction? Sure a super flashy car chase scene is fun and attention-getting, but it’s not always appropriate.

So in this case, it’s a little better to instead ask yourself, why would the reader want to keep reading? If you’re looking over your WIP and you can’t find a reason, then you’re in big trouble. It doesn’t have to be a huge life-endangering reason, but there has to be a reason.

But also consider this when you look over your beginning: that’s what people are going to see when they open your book preview in Amazon, or whatever store your book is in. If you would skip an author for doing the same kind of tricks that you do in your beginning, it’s probably not a good idea to start there.

2. Does the reader even have enough context to have a reason to care?

Here’s the biggest reason why I don’t always agree with media res. If you start a story with two people arguing, an army going to war, or in the middle of battle, and the reader is struggling to understand what’s going on, then there’s a problem. The last thing a reader should be feeling is confused or that your story started too late.

In my opinion, the only element in a story that can “start” too late or chopped in half is a character. We readers understand that characters are not 100% perfect people and will falter and stumble. But a story beginning isn’t a person and it can’t be heavily flawed or chopped in half or feel incomplete. Unless maybe you’re writing a mystery, but even mysteries need context.

The context part is important because we readers use this context to know what’s good or bad in your story world. If we don’t know that, then how do we know who to root for? How do we even recognize that your character is in any danger? This especially goes for a sci-fi and fantasy book where there is a whole new story world that we have to get acquainted with.

3. Do You Need A Flashback?

Now let me start off by saying, I’m not talking about scenes that specifically happen in the past, but are told as if they are the present of the story. For example, Warriors Into The Wild by Erin Hunter begins with a battle that happens in the past, but you don’t know this until you actually get to the next chapter or so. These are fine in my opinion because they’re still happening chronologically.

But the problem, I’m talking about is when you start a story in the present, but you need a flashback to explain something that is happening currently, maybe consider starting a little earlier. Maybe even consider starting with the flashback itself and write that in real time.

A good beginning is like riding a bike and flashbacks are like training. When you’re a little kid, and you’re barely learning, you get training wheels because you don’t know how to keep your balance on your bike. But if you know how to keep your balance, training wheels are kind of pointless. Not to mention, they make your bike heavier to pick up, and you have more unnecessary parts that can bash and get stuck on other things.

Same with stories. If you know how to write well, you don’t need bulky flashbacks to weigh your beginning down. In the middle and towards the end, sure maybe we’ll want them/

But of course, don’t forget that every story is different and every writer is different. A flashback might be appropriate for you, but use it wisely. Everything has it’s place, but the only way to find that out for sure is to write it out and test it. 🙂

 

 

 

Fun Friday: Writing Challengeception! WARNING! Potential Fun and Madness Ahead!

Hello there~

It’s November 9th already. How are you all doing in your NaNoWriMo challenges? Making your quotas? Great! Sitting on a fluffy word count cushion because you’re just that awesome? Great! Barely started? Great! Welcome to NaNoWriMo! Only left the cat in the microwave once this month? Great! At least you’re still trying. Not making your quotas? Hey, don’t give up. Just because you’re behind doesn’t mean you’re out of the game.

But as for this Fun Friday, I’ve been rolling around an idea for a challenge to do since I’m not doing NaNoWriMo myself. But I thought I’d share it anyway in case some of you are kind of running out of steam in your WIP. Use it for NaNoWriMo. Use it for a novella, short story, poem, whatever you want. 🙂

The rules are as follows~

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