Queen of the Eight Banners update

Manchurian

So I wrote out a whole post on pondering competence in characters. There are a lot of things that bug me about how characters “need” to be mediocre or dragged down by their weaknesses in order to have successful plots, but the topic can be a hard one to justify with real life examples of how the people I know really are without crossing lines I don’t feel comfortable crossing in a public blog. So that’s all I’ll say about the topic.

I’m still thinking about it, though. That–and character quirks. I used to think character quirks and idiosyncrasies were gimmicks, but I’ve read two books recently that did these really, really well.  Apothecary’s Daughter and The Emperor’s Edge had unique and quirky characters that still managed to feel real instead of like someone’s slapdash D&D Character Sheet.

So, in the mean time, Queen of the Eight Banners is going more slowly than I was hoping. I had to completely restructure the story and I discovered that I don’t know the main character nearly well enough to tell her story. So I sketched her, using period paintings and photographs, trying to get her right in my head — personality, story, etc.

Looks like I’m not going to get the story in by deadline, but hopefully the story will be much better than it would’ve if I hadn’t realized all of the above…

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2 responses to “Queen of the Eight Banners update

  • elimatrix

    I’m still interested in hearing those thoughts–whether or not you were thinking of obsessively underpowered characters.

    • Laura

      Well, let’s see. There’s been a big debate around the blogosphere these past couple months about Mary Sue characters. One of the definitions being thrown about is that any character who is too competent is a Mary Sue, (setting aside the definitions where Mary Sue means self-insertion, etc.) Yet…the whole debate about competence in characters kind of puts my hackles up because in real life I know a whole slew of very competent, able, talented people. Yet if I were to turn these people into characters, I would get in trouble with those who believe it is wrong to make a character too competent. It feels like a celebration of mediocrity–or rather, we want an “everyman” where our “everyman” has to be dumbed down or cut down in order to be a character.

      It’s as if we are trying to make everyone average to make ourselves feel better. We don’t want to see anyone excel or take joy in working, learning, accomplishing. It rather reminds me of a SF short story I read in elementary school where everyone in the society was given “handicaps” of weights attached to their bodies or disorienting chiming bells in their head at regular intervals equal to their strengths or intelligence so that they would be just like everyone else: incapable. It makes me twitchy.

      Hmmm. Another way to put it. It’s almost as if people are more interested in character weaknesses than they are in character strengths–where their weaknesses must be more numerous than their strengths in order to be interesting.

      I guess I am more interested in the interplay between strengths and weaknesses. How strengths can become weaknesses when overused, how weaknesses can become strengths. But in order to have that interplay between the two, (something I find to be more realistic), characters have to be allowed to have multiple strengths and rich, personal histories as well as multiple weaknesses. No interplay can exist without strengths. And weaknesses should not be a one-to-one cancellation…like Superman’s kryptonite.

      I know you haven’t read it, but The Hunger Games–Katniss is only really good at two things: hunting and surviving through manipulating the system. Peeta is good at two things: being good-hearted and being artistic. Umm. Let’s see. Harry Potter: Harry is good at being heroic. Hermione is book-smart. Ron is occasionally brilliant but mostly a good friend.

      Is it because we want more iconic characters than we do round, realistic ones? I don’t know.

      So, for Ilha. She can ride without reins and shoot backwards accurately at full gallop. Common trained Jurchen/Manchu traits. But these are such potent strengths in today’s world that I feel if I were to let her be anything more, someone will turn up their nose and say, “Mary Sue!” It’s both ridiculous and unsettling.

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