in Blog, Writing Craft

Two guest posts

I’ve never (?) written a guest post before, but I’ve had two published in the past few days.

First, while I was in the woods getting hit with foam swords, Kate Heartfield, a fellow Codexian, published my piece on What I Learned About Writing from LARPing as part of her Unlikely Influences series. I learned a lot about storytelling and my own process just thinking on the question, and I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with my conclusions.

Then, yesterday, Joanna Meyer, another writer I met through last year’s Pitch Wars, published my querying author interview. If you yearn to know things like how I take my coffee, go read it!

Thanks, ladies, for letting me visit your corner of Blogsylvania!

  1. I don’t think I agree that “each character has to be the center of their own plot” is thaaaaaat relevant to fiction.

    Or, to be more precise, there are two separate things, one of which is desirable and one of which isn’t. You want to convey the impression that the camera can turn 90 degrees and explore another character or another part of the world and it will be just as interesting a story. But you do not need to actually turn the camera 90 degrees.

    For a more concrete example, take a story in which people die. You probably want the POV characters to live through, or to die in a meaningful way. “Meaningful” can mean “meaningful to the world,” e.g. “died to prevent the evil wizard’s plot from succeeding,” or even “meaningful to what you’re trying to say.” It’s completely fine to have one of your POV characters die midway through the story, without giving their story arc any satisfying conclusion, forcing the other POV characters to pick up the pieces. The Wire does that to great effect. This sort of abrupt cut just needs to reinforce some theme you’re putting in the work. With minor characters, it doesn’t; death can be about other things, e.g. showing something about the setting, or advancing more important characters’ plot. It can even create suspense – not about the POV characters, but about minor characters who they care about. For example, Cedric Diggory’s death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire signaled that the series was going in a darker direction, and important side characters who Harry cares about may well die (even if it’s not Harry himself or Ron or Hermione).

    In fact, there’s actually an argument for not spending too much time on the side characters: it’s infodump. It’s useful at places, but other times, you end up including too much filler (hi, GRRM), or spelling out things that are better left unsaid, or breaking the flow of the story. It should be like information about the world: hinted at, and spelled out when necessary to enhance the story, but only given in moderation. HP does that well: J. K. Rowling went and created each student in Harry’s year – all 40 of them – but managed not to dump the background on the readers.

    • I think essentially we agree at this intersection: “You want to convey the impression that the camera can turn 90 degrees and explore another character or another part of the world and it will be just as interesting a story. But you do not need to actually turn the camera 90 degrees.”

      Of course, it’s basically impossible for every character to be a main character. Life is fleeting, books are short, and reader patience is limited. We just need enough to be convinced that they *could* be. Making them more important than the reader expected can, as you say, be disruptive.

      Sometimes when you ask yourself “Would I enjoy playing this character in a larp?” and answer, “No,” the “fix” is actually to make that character less prominent — more in line with what we expect of “spear carriers” or NPCs — or to combine them with another character.

      The basic thing we are trying to solve is avoiding players feel like they could be replaced by a mechanic, or characters in fiction coming off to the reader as just taking up space.

Comments are closed.