Friday, June 19, 2015

Why Imperfect characters work?

Imperfection is actually the new perfection. Imperfect characters have an undefinable appeal. The bad boy next door with the two day stubble is endearingly sexy. So is the kick ass heroine who loves putting people in their place. Or the bratty child living in the neighbourhood.
Perfect characters come across as boring, make us feel insecure and small in front of them. Imperfect characters are more real. We identify with their imperfections, idiosyncrasies, shortcomings, emotional outbursts and mood swings.
Have you all noticed that our protagonists often lead imperfect lives? As the story unfolds, these imperfect characters leading imperfect lives try to resolve the conflict by tackling their own personal imperfections first.

Aristotle called it Hamartia: a character flaw. This character flaw can be a limitation, a problem, a phobia, or a deficiency present in a character who is otherwise quite normal. The character flaw may be a violent temper that may affect the character’s actions, abilities, or interactions with other characters. It can be a simple personality defect which only has effect on the character’s motives and social interaction and nothing else.

Flaws or imperfection add depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For eg the mayor with a penchant for gambling, the hero with claustrophobia, the heroine with an alcohol problem. One of the most famous example is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Character flaws can be slotted into three categories.

Minor Flaws make the characters memorable in readers’minds, these give the characters individuality, but other than that don’t affect the story in any way. They can be a scar, an accent, biting the lower lip, twirling the moustache, a girl constantly flinging her hair back. A protagonist can have several minor flaws, each having no effect on the plot.

Major Flaws are noticeable and important. They affect the individual physically, mentally, emotionally, morally or spiritually. Major flaws aren’t necessarily negative : they can be rigid religious beliefs or a strict adherence to a certain lifestyle. Major flaws like: greed, blindness, deafness, lust, often hamper and restrict the character in one way or the other. The major flaw is important for the character’s personal development and the story. Heroes and heroines must overcome their own major flaws either partially or completely, either temporarily or permanently, at some point in the story, very often by the climax, by sheer determination or skill to be able to solve the larger problem at hand. For a villain his major flaw is frequently the cause of his downfall. The protagonist’s major flaw defines the core problem, the entire journey to remedy this problem forms the firm backbone of the story, sometimes prodding the plot forward.

The last flaw is the Tragic Flaw, it’s the cause of the character’s downfall and eventual death. Tragic Flaw arises out of the character’s misplaced trust in another character, an excessive amount of curiousity that sucks him into problems, pride that plunges him into a world of loneliness. The fall that often arises out of the Tragic Flaw occurs at the beginning of a story.

Do you like Imperfect characters? What kind of character flaws do your characters have?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Avoiding predictability in our writing

I am currently reading one of my favourite thriller writer’s novel. Many people told me that it was boring. But as he is my favourite writer I wanted to read the book. To be honest, I am not finding it boring but I am finding it predictable in places. I have realized that when a writer has written so many books, all in the same genre, it’s easy to fall into the predictable zone.

Though I am not yet half way in the book, I am finding that in many places, the writer has used the crutches of serendipity and co-incidences to make his main character get out of tight spots. Many times while reading I have kind of guessed what the writer or rather the main character will do next.

I have noticed this aspect in another thriller writer. More often than not, I have been able to guess the identity of the murderer half way through the book.

When it comes to avoiding predictability, one writer I have to mention, though her books fell in the fantasy genre and not the thriller category, is J.K. Rowling. In each of the seven Potter books she had loads of new stuff to offer, new characters were introduced who brought their unique sub-plots into the story, there were new spells, new story lines criss-crossing Harry’s own storyline. Every book felt new and interesting and readers read them again and again.

Granted, that one can’t read a thriller again as once the suspense is out, the book has shed its intrigue element. But still, the writers can do a lot to avoid following the well-trodden path and plunging into potholes.

That’s one thing I am trying to avoid in my writing. I hope my readers are taken by surprise at every turn and definitely shouldn't be able to guess what I or my main character will do next.

How do you all avoid predictability in your writing? What do you all do to keep the reader interest high? Have you read any book/s where you could guess what would happen next?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

IWSG Post – Writers should avoid making a nuisance of themselves

This month’s IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) post has been pecking my mind from quite some time. It was a case of to write about it or not. Finally, I decided to make it this month’s topic. 

IWSG is an online group that posts on the first Wednesday of every month. This awesome and inspiring group was started by Alex Cavanaugh – Author of Amazon bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm, CassaFire and Dragon of the Stars. Alex is better known as Ninja Captain in blogland. IWSG is a writers’ hangout where we talk of our writing worries, fears, doubts, insecurities and anxieties and help, support, advice and encourage each other. Check the IWSG website for awesome writing tips.

My co-hosts this month are M Pax, Tracy Jo, Patricia Lynne, Feather Stone and Randi Lee.

Today I am going to talk of how some writers make a nuisance of themselves. This is one of my biggest worries. I hope I don’t make a nuisance of myself. I have noticed that whenever I get a friend request from an unknown writer on FB, it’s just to further his or her cause. There is no interest whatsoever to get to know me as a person. The moment I accept the request, seeing that we have 10 maybe 15 common friends, I am immediately invited to like their Author Page or Book Page.

The same thing happens on Twitter. If I follow the writer who has started following me, I immediately get a Direct Message with links to their FB pages, free downloads of their books, requests to review their books on many sites, etc.

I sometimes feel that a few of us writers take this building a platform thing too seriously to the point of making a nuisance of ourselves. Imagine meeting a stranger on the road who wants to come home for tea. I am sure none of us would invite them. But if we were to meet a friend we would definitely invite them home or even drag them home for tea/coffee.

I look forward to hosting my blog buddies on my blog, doing their book reviews, tweeting about their book releases, but doing all this for a complete stranger doesn’t make much sense to me.

None of these writers are interested in getting to know other writers. They just want a large number of friends and followers. I just accepted a friend request yesterday from a author who has started tagging me in his statuses with atleast 100 other writers. I think it’s time for him to be unfriended because he is genuinely making a nuisance of himself. He will be the first one to last just 48 hours.

What do you think of such clingy writers who are hell bent on making a complete nuisance of themselves?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Guest Post with Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh

Today, I have a guest post with Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh. All of us know about Alex’s super human powers and the way he zips around hundreds of blogs everyday leaving comments and helping his fellow blog buddies in numerous ways. In this post the Amazon Bestselling Author of four books: CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm and the latest – Dragon of the Stars, will share tips on building characters in stories.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Characters

Most writers tend to generate a lot of ideas for stories. Something triggers a concept or a basic plot. Maybe a place or image inspires a setting. Multiple thoughts of where a story could go start running through our heads. What if this happened? What if that happened? What if we threw in this plot twist?

In the midst of all this, we can’t forget what is important – the characters.

Now, some stories are more plot driven while others are more character driven. In either case, the characters still need to be fully developed. They need to be real to the reader or it won’t matter what happens in the story. This applies to both heroes and villains. But how do we make them real? How do we make the reader identify and connect with the characters?

Here are some of the things I consider when developing a character:

What is his history? What happened to him before the story even begins? Most of this will never end up in the story, but it helps to know a character’s humble beginnings.

How has this shaped him? What kind of person is he now? Both nurturing and trauma can really affect a person.

What are his goals in life? What drives this character? This is often a big factor in the story.

Knowing his past, what are his strengths and weaknesses? Where has he learned to excel? What part of him still needs work? Everyone is good at something and everyone has issues.

How does this character change? What is his character arc? Real people change over time, for better or worse. Whatever happens in the story will definitely change the character. Plan for it. How does he change over the course of the story?

My stories tend to be character driven. I have an idea of what will happen and usually the ending comes to me first. Then I want to know – how did the character get to that point? What adjustments and decisions did he make during the course of the story? It’s fun to work backwards and see how far a character has come from his raw beginnings.

What do you do to bring your characters to life?

Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
Dancing Lemur Press, LLC
What Are the Kargrandes?

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.

Here is wishing Alex loads of luck from all of us.