In my mind, there are two kinds of “reality”, in stories and in life. One is lowercase reality, and the other is uppercase Reality. Both are important, and one cannot exist without the other – not perfectly.
Lowercase reality operates in writing. It is rules and regulations, titles and authority figures, treaties and contracts. It is what “should be” according to tradition or regulation. On paper, where does the power lie? What should be done according to protocol? This type of reality exists everywhere, and no one can escape from it. It is the cement that holds the bricks of society together. It is also not the only type of reality.
Uppercase Reality operates in facts. What is actually happening? Who actually has the power? It also deals in the world of truth and lies, right and wrong, integrity and honor. It is the standard that holds the world together or tears it apart. Authority figures may not truly hold power. Contracts may not truly hold sway. When Reality breaches the realm of protocol, there is no stopping its force.
Often, I see different situations where characters ignore one kind of reality or the other, and the results are catastrophic. Most of the time, Reality is ignored, the truth behind the legislation. Characters get caught up in what is broadcasted, what is written down, or who should “technically” be in charge. Traditions and habits are cycled through without the character waking up to Reality. If people get too bogged down in technicalities, they cannot surface long enough to realize what is actually happening. They follow orders and schedules. They ignore their conscience and forgo morality for the death trap of written reality.
Occasionally, characters will do the opposite. They are too deep into their own sense of justice and honor that they ignore the consequences in lowercase reality. Sometimes characters will reveal their noble intentions too early and render their roles worthless in the story. Sometimes the kind and gentle, the pure and selfless, don’t make it far. They ignore lowercase reality: the laws that still exist. The soldiers still at the gates. The authority figures that still rule over them. Lowercase reality refuses to be ignored.
Uppercase Reality has power. It has the power to change and alter reality. It can break rules and start new traditions. It writes names out of the books and calls new ones in. Lowercase reality can always be changed. Uppercase Reality can’t. Even solemn oaths can be broken, but truth cannot. Reality stays true and always will. People can write their own laws and try to blot out the force of Reality, but it also refuses to be ignored. It is often seen as vague, but is also solid and material. It manifests in every word and deed. It speaks its wisdom and haunts those who refuse to hear its call. Reality is the stitching of the universe.
Anyone can call themselves a king.
Kings do not have to.
I have a book review of Veronica Roth's new fantasy Carve the Mark on The Odd Writers!
It was so unique and fascinating on every level that I had to do a review on it as soon as I closed the book. Carve the Mark is a crazy, amazing fantasy world that will take you in from the very beginning – that is, if the characters don't first.
I've been working on several book reviews recently for a new blog. I am collaborating with some talented writers and poets, and I post on the blog once a month with a new book review. I have been reading a few new releases recently, some of which were INcredible. I'll be reviewing Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands sequel: Traitor to the Throne, as well as others to come.
Check out my book reviews (and also the other lovely short stories) at: The Odd Writers.
Often times, in stories where the character who plays the villain is supposed to come as a surprise, it doesn't. It's really not surprising. It is hard to set up the board with characters who all have a place in the narrative except for one. But the best books I've ever read, and the best movies I've ever watched both have one thing in common: they employ common character archetypes to achieve the element of surprise. If the villain hides behind a mask that we all recognize and take for granted, it is easier for them to be looked over. For example, if the surprise villain poses as the: wise mentor, geeky sidekick, or comic relief character, readers are more apt to say, "Well, I already know the role of this character, so it can't be him."
Sometimes I get confused about the purpose of a certain character's actions – for the reader. When characters do something radical, unusual, or questionable, I wonder if the author is advocating their choices, or if they are teaching a lesson through them. Sometimes it can be neither, or both. Many authors set up characters as examples for us to identify with and to follow in their footsteps. But other times, the character's choices are not as honorable and are simply meant to make a point. Other stories even set up the entire book as a metaphor, or as a clear depiction of "what not to do".
How are we always supposed to tell the difference? Usually, the author will try to make the distinction clear. With some stories, it is harder to spot. The most important thing to me is always consequences. What happens because of a character's choices? Some stories that are set up to tell negative character arcs spell out with the catastrophic consequences why the character had set their course toward destruction.
I am constantly reminding myself as I write that idioms change and evolve constantly. Every aspect of culture plays a part in creating our speech, year after year. I write a lot of stories that takes place in "ancient times", before many modern idioms came into being. Things we say all the time suddenly don't fit in these simpler times.
Here are some phrases and words that I tend to trip over:
"Scanning" a room
My brain was "fried"
"train" of thought
"Pause" and "Rewind"
It makes a lot of sense in retrospect that medieval characters wouldn't know about these things, but they are engrained in my mind, seeing that I live in the twenty-first century. The two main subjects that writers should look out for are references to trains and computers. It is surprising how often those two pop up. The list is much much longer than my sample, but it is good to keep this concept in mind for the future–er–I mean, for the past.
, Something I distinctively remember from the movie Oblivion (2013) was the co-pilot character Vika. As the story told, Vika and Jack were cloned, many many times, to create mechanics to run sci-fi machines. They were copies, without memories. Vika would appear perfectly bland and colorless if it weren't for a beautiful detail that the script placed in the story for her character: her favorite little phrase "Another day in paradise." She said it before the cloning ever took place, and she continued to say it after. It gave a little window into her personality, proof that there really was a person inside. Real emotions. Real quirks. Her phrase let us know that she was still, well, her. It reminds me that, no matter how small a part your supporting character has, he/she needs details in their character design that separate them from the crowd – even if they are a clone.
Sometimes, I think back on books I've read where I was really annoyed with the main character. Sometimes, it was because they were too ridiculously perfect, the little "Mary Sue" protagonist and her endless talent and competency in every area. But other times, it was actually because the main character could have made some obvious choices that would've saved them from the BIG mess they eventually found themselves in. There seems to be a fine line between characters that are smart, who make good decisions and learn the art of communication in order to avoid unnecessary conflict, and characters that are just too plain stupid and incompetent. I don't have the answer to this puzzle. In fact, it is something that could be debated on a character-to-character basis. I just have to keep remembering that I've felt the frustration from both directions and keep it in mind when I sit down to write my next character to life.
Not everything is black and white. It's been told to us a million times. But it is still easier said than executed in a story.
Your characters aren't just the good side fighting the evil side. People, real people, get scared, make mistakes and fall on their faces, can be tricked and manipulated, and can be selfless and unexpected. They sit on the fence, they switch sides, they second-guess themselves. They are capable of more than just the sum of their heredity, environment, personality, and predisposition.
Hi, I'm Christy, the writing fanatic. I am a graphic designer, an avid reader, and musician. Oh, and did I mention that I love writing?