Tease Me, Please.

friends in college
friends in college

still in college
still in college

grad school--but some things never change
grad school--but some things never change

We fall into patterns. Habits. Roles. You’re the Helper, the Joker, the Troublemaker, the Listener, the Idiot, the Object of Desire–what more can you think of? Which role is yours? Take a wild guess at my role back in college.

Now, I’d like to break out of the Insecure Writer role I’ve cast myself into, but how do you do that without sounding like Smug Git Writer?

And then there are the roles for our characters. Are they rounded or flat? Cut with many facets or smooth and polished? Are your characters in the right role or are you trying to turn characters into something they aren’t? How can you tell?

What do you do to make sure your characters are true?

4 thoughts on “Tease Me, Please.

  1. Characters always seem to surprise you. Much like people – first impressions aren’t always correct. First draft they run wild – then you can look back and rewrite with a stronger sense of who they are, their motivation, their conflicts. Maybe there’s a place on the insecure/smug continuum that’s the right balance of having confidence in your work but with a willingness to still be surprised and stand corrected.

  2. I don’t really tell my characters what to do. They kind of run the show. I may set up situations, but they do what feels right to them. Every once in a while, I do some work on the characters… doing an interview with one or the other, or creating a detailed background, and that always adds a new dimension, not just to the character but the story.

    As for the insecure vs smug git writer…oh, hey… I think they’re the same thing, it’s just that the smug git has tacked on a mask of “I’m so good” to make up for the real insecurity inside.

    I think what we need to do is just simply have faith in ourselves and our writing. I know that’s easier said than done… but really, if it’s okay to just be us, for our stories to just be what they are, then do we need to be insecure? Do we need to be smug? I mean, we can’t be anything but what we are, right? So whether someone likes us/our novel or not, it is what it is, we are what we are. If we’re okay with that, it doesn’t really matter what others think. Right? In theory I think it works.

    I mean, worst comes to worst, we don’t get published. We’re still good people, even without achieving bestsellerhood.

  3. sesgaia

    The word that came to my mind also was “confident.” I like that word a lot- to me it says strong and centered without any self-righteousness or inflated ego. And I love what Rowena says here, though if someone has said to me twenty years ago “so what if you don’t get published?” I’d have been very upset. I guess my willingness to just be who I am and write what I write has come with time, and with realizing that ultimately, life’s too short to spend it on feeling inadequate by someone else’s standards.

  4. Hmm. The key word in this post would be “role,” right? as in persona? as in, y’know, mask?

    Maybe that makes it a little easier to figure out the insecure-vs.-confident-vs.-smug problem. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got different ways of behaving, say, when I’m in a fancy restaurant vs. in the living room with The Missus and The Dog vs. in a meeting at work vs. with my family vs…. vs…. vs…. There are times when it’s meet, right, and salutary (isn’t that a prayer or something?) to cuss, for instance, and times when to laugh out loud and others when it’s best to snicker and snort into your sleeve or to fight like crazy not to laugh at all.

    Sometimes insecurity makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t — in fact, has to be stomped on if it so much as shows its face. (My first query for Merry-Go-Round — just a year ago — tried so painfully hard to be amusing that looking back on it has practically embarrassed me into not querying anymore, period, even though it got better in subsequent versions. Insecurity wears many masks of its own.)

    Still trying to figure out the realistic-and-appropriately-roled characters thing. PLEASE let me know when you get the answer. 🙂

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