Coffee, Action Figures, and Love

Yes, my David Lynch coffee and my Captain Jack Harkness action figure

The other day one of my students (remember, my students are all adults) said (with affection) that I was a child inside. This was because I said I was going to the midnight release of the last Harry Potter film.

Since I don’t have any friends who will stay up that late, I’m going on my own–as I’ve done four other times. I went to the midnight release of the last book too.

A few weeks ago I agreed to pay extra money every month so that I could get Starz and see the new Torchwood on Starz.

Oh. And I keep an action figure (usually of Captain Jack Harkness) to take pictures of in different places when I’m out. And these pictures often involve cups of coffee. My son, so far, thinks this is a normal thing to do.

Sometimes I get flak acting this way at my age.

Isn’t Harry Potter for children?
You keep an action figure in your purse? Why? (And “why” is asked in a way that means the speaker isn’t interested in understanding the answer, they just want you to know they think you’re doing something you shouldn’t.)

I also spend an inordinate amount of time making stuff up and not cleaning the apartment.

But you’re not published?

Well, I want to create characters other people love as much as I love Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter, Agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry S. Truman. Or Harley Wescott and Lilith Bascombe in The Truth about Unicorns.

I love people who dress up as characters and wait in lines for days. People will say, “Don’t they have anything better to do?” To which I’m tempted ask, “And what better thing are you doing with your life exactly?” What is better if the alternative is staying cool and bored?

Of everything that might be wrong with my writing (odd sentence structure,let’s say, or incoherent plot perhaps), the one thing I really want are characters that stay with people. Characters you’d want to hear from again. Characters people would wait in line for or even want to carry around in a purse.

Not there yet.

What characters would you wait in line for a chance to meet again?

13 thoughts on “Coffee, Action Figures, and Love

  1. Great post. Hmmmm, fav characters…..I will have to think on that to get all the references correct and get back to you. And I’m with you, characters make or break a novel for me as a reader, so, therefore, are exponentially important to me as a (wannabe) writer. And, I also staunchly object to becoming a ‘grown up’. Blah to that. How boring!

  2. chicklit1028

    I love this post. There are books that the public loves because they’re beautifully written or intricately plotted, but that leave me cold because there are no characters in them. They’re just flat. On the other hand, I’ll forgive a lot about writing and plot if I’m enthralled with a character.

    I have a Dalek and a wee Tenth Doctor on my desk. The Dalek has been taken to LA and carried with me around town, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to meet one.

    1. I’d never want to meet a Dalek, but I’ve got 3 Daleks on my desk. One got to go to Disney World.

      But yes, I’ll forgive a lot if I love the character. With any luck I’ll write characters others can love.

  3. Is that Truth About Unicorns book the one you told me about recently — I think you said you’d emailed with the author? It looks good!

    Characters, yes. It’s tough for me to come up with really striking characters. Striking situations? Sure. I can do that. I can observe (settings and people). And I can write. But characters that people would want to dress up as? I’m so, so far away from that.

    This morning, something I read in Google reader sent me to this blog post by an agent. All sorts of alarm bells started jangling when I read that… because I don’t know how NOT to bore a reader. I mean, I know what interests me. And I hope my writing turns out to be something which wouldn’t bore me, otherwise what’s the point? But to have complete confidence that it will engage the attention of good readers who don’t know me, who maybe wish local bookstores would have a dress-up publication-day party for something I’ve written…

    …wow. That’s a leap.

    (It does occur to me that most of my favorite fictional characters are really not all that striking — probably not, anyhow, because who knows? Somebody like Yossarian in Catch-22, for example. Alan Arkin was a great choice to play him in the movie, but Alan Arkin, or rather Yossarian himself, isn’t someone to stir the blood in the sense of HP or Hermione, Captain Jack, et al. Emilio Sanchez, OTOH, is a recent favorite who DOES stand out. Nobody would know who I was dressed up as, probably (unless I could work out some sort of crazy Halloween prosthetics for my hands). But I can imagine dressing up as him, and being satisfied with the private joke/allusion.)

    1. JES, yes, the author of The Truth about Unicorns and I have exchanged a few emails. Oh, I was SO EXCITED! Her other book is also good, The Confetti Man. Love them both.

      Well, most characters people want to dress up as are usually in fantasy and sci-fi. I didn’t mean having characters could make a costume for. I meant that if you wrote a sequel for the characters or just went to give a talk about your characters and story, would people stand in line? Considering that many great writers end up at book signings with no one, I don’t mean long lines are necessary or even possible, but as an idea, as a theory, would it be possible? And I couldn’t dress up as Lilth Bascombe from “Unicorns.” There is nothing remarkable about the way she dresses or anything.

      If you aren’t bored by your story, then there are other readers who won’t be bored. Some people need lots of explosions in their movies. Other don’t want any explosions in their movies. Same with books. Plenty of tension, interest, different kinds of books. Fake action (action stuck in just to meet some action quota) doesn’t create fans either.

      Funny you mention Catch-22. I’m reading a Vanity Fair about the publication of that novel. Emilio Sanchez–awesome! But people might think you’re trying to be Edward Scissorshands.

  4. Edward Scissorshands, ha, right. I’d have to retain at least a mustache and goatee to minimize confusion. Also, it would help to don a cranky but funny demeanor, and leave the soulful sad eyes at home. Er, figuratively speaking of course.

    (I just saw a Seinfeld rerun a few nights ago — the episode in which Jerry’s and Kramer’s Italian barbers looooooove Edward Scissorhands, and sit around on the sofa, weeping, whenever it comes on TV. :))

    Still not sure about someone so strongly identifying with a character of mine… On the other hand, it would be sort of cool if someone held a “come as your favorite book” costume party, and some guest selected mine. No idea what they’d wear — what I’d wear, for that matter — but I think I’d pay money to see a photo!

    1. This reminds me of a NaNoWriMo Thank-God-It’s-Over Party (the annual TGIO). One year they had a come-as-a-character-in-your-NaNoWriMo-book theme. And I actually had a dress picked out and everything. Unfortunately I put the dress on before dinner and had an incident with some butter. Butter, it turns out, stains. And since I didn’t have another dress that even came close to seeming like my character…well, it was a thought.

  5. Where did you get that Captain Jack action figure?!?!?!? I must have one.

    The two things I strive for when writing are creating memorable characters and a compelling story. Neither of which are easy feats. But one can hope and strive and dream.

    1. Oh, I got Captain Jack at a place here in Austin called Dragon’s Lair. I don’t think you can order their action figures on line though.

      Keep striving and dreaming. (I just wish i’d been the one to dream up the Captain!)

  6. Okay, back to give a proper reply 🙂
    Probably my all time favourite character is from Paullina Simons’ The Girl in Times Square. I love, love, love that book and still think about Lily to this day, some five years on.
    My other fav is Sergei Ivanov from Dan Millman’s The Journey of Socrates. I am still inspired by the courage and tenacity found within this book and this outstanding character.
    One of my biggest hopes would be that one day, somehow, somewhere, someone will love one of my characters to the same degree that I love these two 🙂

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