masqthephlsphr: (kilgharrah)
Spoiler warning: Skin Game (The Dresden Files)

A while back, I posted an angst about point of view and the pacing of information reveals in my novel. My novel is, at its core, a mystery. The answers to the mystery gradually unfold for the reader as the protagonists investigate and make discoveries. In the first draft, I set a major "reveal" towards the end of the novel. The challenge was setting the stage for that reveal without giving it away.

The novel uses rotating third person subjective points of view. This created a problem for my reveal, because there was more than one character whose point of view I wrote through who knew a lot more about what was going on than my putative protagonists. It seemed rather contrived to me that we could be in the head of a character who knows important information about the events unfolding around them, and they would fail to think about those events using the knowledge they had. It would be one thing if the novel's point of view was the omniscient narrator, dancing around from head to head. But this is the subjective third person, where the narrator just is the character.

In the second draft, I moved the big reveal to a few chapters in from the beginning, and took the point of view of characters who knew too much out of rotation until I was ready to reveal what they knew. Better to have them remain enigmatic then let the reader enter their heads and have them somehow just not think things that would give the mystery away.

As a result of my struggle with this, I now have a low tolerance for published authors who hide the "big twist" at the climax of their novels by having characters who are already aware of this twist conveniently not think of it.

This is something Dan Brown has done flagrantly in his past couple novels. In both Inferno and The Lost Symbol, he reveals facts about particular characters towards the end designed to change the reader's whole perception of the events of the novel. But he does this by taking us into their heads throughout the book and just not showing them thinking of things that are no doubt on their minds, like, "How am I going to pull blah-blah-blah off without giving myself away?" That would really be foremost in their minds, I would think. Sometimes, Brown has characters think of events in their lives that are later revealed to never to have happened. Were they rehearsing their fake backstories to help pull off the con?

It just seems to me a simple fact of psychology that, if the stakes are high, and you are a character deliberately withholding information from other characters, you would think about what you knew. Because people? Don't control their thoughts. We think what we think.

In retrospect, you can see the clues Brown scatters for you throughout his books that reveal the twist, which a twisty story should do, but you also see the cheating attempts at misdirection.

I'm not surprised by this sort of clumsiness from Brown, who knows oodles about history and archeology, but much less about writing. But it is also a reason I was less than fond of the latest Dresden Files novel, Skin Game. There's a "big twist" towards the end of the novel in which Harry is in dire straights and an unexpected alliance is revealed that comes as a surprise to the double-crossing head of the expedition Harry is on, and to the reader.

Hiding that information from the reader is even clumsier in Skin Game than it is in Dan Brown novels, because Butcher's readers spend the entire book in Harry Dresden’s head (indeed, it is written in the first person), and if anyone is an up-front guy, narrating his every thought and bit of reasoning (so much so it breaks up action sequences awkwardly), it's Harry Dresden.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about writing in the head of a character and not revealing highly relevant things s/he knows. Heck, if bestselling authors get away with it, why shouldn’t I?
masqthephlsphr: (alias will)
January talking meme, Jan 21. From [personal profile] cornerofmadness: what draws you to the urban fantasy type of story lines?

I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.

Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.

And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.

Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.

Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.

This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.

So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.
masqthephlsphr: (HP)
More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it's the hero. Not that I don't appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types--tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations.

But sometimes I think those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed "way more interesting" than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Those gray characters are like the icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect but who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

It's a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is in fandom discussions and have to "admit":

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

...and so on.

It's not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y'know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be'lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I'm not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren't flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.
masqthephlsphr: (sarah)
1. Leave a comment to this post.
2. I will give you a letter.
3. Post the names of five fictional characters whose names begin with that letter, and your thoughts on each. The characters can be from books, movies, or TV shows

Ganked from [personal profile] cornerofmadness who gave me the letter C. "C", as it turns out, is kinda hard. It's not a common letter for names. But here's mine:

Read more... )
masqthephlsphr: (a wizard named harry)
So I finally, finally finished the latest Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story. I think I am the last one on my flist to do so. Some folks gave it enthusiastic reviews, others were less than impressed. I have to admit to slogging through some tedium at times, which is part of the reason I took so long to finish it. The other part is, I only read non-interweb stuff for a short while before bed each night.

But see, there is a reason this book wasn't the Best!DresdenFilesNovel!Ever! It was a bridge story. And bridge stories are traditionally kind of mediocre. Thar be spoilers beyond here! )

Meme-age

Jan. 26th, 2011 06:28 am
masqthephlsphr: (Sisko)
Ganked from [personal profile] butterfly

List fifteen of your favorite characters from different fandoms, and ask people to spot patterns in your choices, and if they're so inclined, to draw conclusions about you based on the patterns they've spotted.

In no particular order (other than the order they occurred to me):

1 Connor (AtS)
2 Angel (AtS)
3 Faith (BtVS/AtS)
4 Be'lanna Torres (ST:Voyager)
5 Sisko (ST:DSN)
6 Data (ST: TNG)
7 Ensign Ro (ST: TNG)
8 K'Ehleyr (ST: TNG)
9 Harry (Harry Potter)
10 Susan Rodriguez (The Dresden Files)
11 Richie (Highlander)
12 Spock (ST:TOS)
13 Hurley (Lost)
14 John Connor (Terminator)
15 Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
16 Armand (Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles)

Changes

May. 12th, 2010 09:10 am
masqthephlsphr: (a wizard named harry)
I finally, finally finished the latest Dresden Files novel last night.

Spoilers for that last page, yeah )

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