Tag Archive: books

The Hardest Part

I’m a writer. If my past posts haven’t already drilled the hell out of that point, then it’s time to drive it home yet again. As a writer, that means I write, obviously. Now I try to start doing work with a  plot outline and all that, characters sketched out and everything so that there’s nothing to lose track of, so that the story will keep a good, consistent plot line and won’t lose track of itself. I don’t know about other writers, but usually I start out with a plot outline in my head, or at least a theme or other sort of event that can trigger a story. If not that, then usually I start out with an image of a character or multiple characters that will generally turn into an important bit of the  story. On occasion I am lucky enough to start out with both of these, and that’s just awesome. Probably because I never seem to have much trouble with those two, I have been cursed with the problem of the third.

I start with a good image of the character and an understanding of the character’s mentality, opinions, past, life, all that good stuff; what do I not start out with? A name. Nothing. This character is completely nameless person, and so are all the other characters, more often than not. I try to do what I can to dig up a name that fits the character in personality and appearance, their perfect name, but usually that doesn’t work out. And when I find a perfect character match, if they end up reminding me too much of another character from other stories, they instantly get scrapped. Sure, it might be unintentionally done that they are so similar, but I can’t accidentally borrow someone else’s character.

Unfortunately, even that isn’t the case for my current main character. He’s a guy who starts out as an underdog in an abusive home where his family treats him like garbage. Insert stereotypical twist that he is not the biological son and a terrible accident that overcomes his village, typical of fantasy, and you have him out on his own, growing to become a hero. A man who is blunt and generous, simple yet true, brave and noble, faithful, pretty much everything that you’d want to be. Sounds like a Mary Sue, but he’s growing into this man and even after his growth he isn’t perfect. His name? No idea. None at all. So in my lack of knowledge, I put it to you: do you have any names that I should use for him? Any name that is conjured up by these descriptions?

For the other ten or so characters that he encounters after leaving home, a group known as the Freedom Fighters, I shall struggle to come up with more fitting names though I have already found apt names for a few and will admit to borrowing something of the character of Locksley from Sir Walter Scott, though he is not such a noble and heroic, virtuous man as portrayed in the past. Fitting to the character, he is a master archer. Am I the only writer who agonizes over names like this? When I read I don’t pay so much attention to them as I do when I write, I’ve noticed, but writing it seems so essential; probably because while writing I can twist and turn the narrative to my fitting to some degree while with reading, it is not yours to interpret usually.

How many characters are too many?

I don’t have much to say, and judging from the lack of activity on my blog, I haven’t had too much to say for a few days. Part of this is because I was out of town, but that’s not important now. Now that I’m back, hopefully I’ll be able to crank out and do some more writing than before, especially blogging; creative writing is going pretty well. At least what I’m currently working on; I have another plot idea that is boiling in the back of my head, an epic, or at least so I believe. And that gives rise to my question: how many characters are too many?

I’m undecided; the tale is for the most part something of a stereotypical fantasy epic and a lot of the characters are there as help to further the story and make it more believable. All of them have interesting back stories that I could,  if I wanted to, probably turn into their own short story at least, even if that is quite a large bit of writing to undertake. The fact that this epic is supposed to be a single book really makes me believe that character-wise, I should limit myself to a maximum amount. In a series I’ve been working on, you can introduce a handful of new people each book and still keep it fresh, without overwhelming people. In a single book, I fear that the mass of characters will just be overwhelming. But many of these characters I see will not fit into the series, unfortunately, and I’d rather not have homeless characters in the streets of my imagination. I’m trying to come up with an idea for what to do here but I find myself at a loss.

Any ideas? Anything will work, even if I’ve already said it; split off into multiple short stories, cut it off, use them elsewhere, whatever. What are your suggestions?

Or if you take an issue with my opinion on slowly introducing characters throughout a series, tell me your own. I will admit that minimum and maximum character amount has always been my weakest point in terms of storytelling.

“In Cold Blood”

This weekend I read Truman Capote’s nonfiction crime novel which tells the story of the murder of four  members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. For those of you who haven’t  read it, it is very well written, but don’t come out expecting a happy ending. It is no spoiler to say that the murderers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, are executed at the end; this is revealed on the back flap. This book is one of those far more about the journey than the destination. At the conclusion of the novel, you would think that there would be some sense of closure in reading about the deaths of the two murderers, but it doesn’t; it just leaves you with a feeling of loss, knowing that two more people have perished, even if they were two men who have murdered four innocents.

It is intriguing the way that the book progresses, something I’ve seen before. One begins to read and learns of Perry and Dick and their actions with nothing but disgust. Then, after the murders have been committed, Capote focuses on their story as well. Throughout the second section of the book, you feel, slowly, a degree of empathy for Perry due to his terrible upbringing and how he was forced to go through life. Dick remains a stone-like object who does not seem very personable, presumably because he never takes on the temporary role of third-person narrator. One of the only times that any empathy can be found for the character is when someone calls the police to confess to the crime; though never revealed with certainty, it is implied that this is Dick, who wishes to gain the reward money to repay his family. Adding on to the empathy one feels for Perry, the words frequently used to describe him make him appear child-like because of his small, deformed legs. Though I have yet to find a picture of him to see just how accurate these descriptions are, the pitiful way Capote describes him certainly do find a way of gaining empathy from the reader, in this case, me. Extra empathy must be given to Perry, especially during the trial; the mentions of the squirrel that he manages to tame in his jail cell  make him appear just that much more human and more touching as a person and character.

Dick Hickock, however, is not entirely an emotionless character. Towards the end of the book, in the final section, he becomes a much more empathetic character as the focus shifts more towards him than Perry. It also is revealed that in spite of Dick’s cold exterior, making him seem to be the obvious killer of the pair, it was Perry who killed all four members of the Clutter family; earlier when this had been claimed, it was hinted to  be something of a lie, put forward by a desperate Dick to try and cover himself and lessen his own punishment. This revelation makes one feel a certain degree of empathy for the character and begin to realize that perhaps he has been incorrectly personified with Perry as the third-person narrator. In this section, Dick also states the dislike for Perry that has developed among the other prisoners on Death Row, in the Corner, as it is called. Appeals and the like manage to push the date of their execution back for several years. When they are finally forced to go through with their execution, one goes to the gallows almost hoping to feel good about the death of these prisoners, who have killed four innocents without emotion. When they are killed, no good feeling comes in return; someone simply realizes how tragic it is that two more have perished, even if it is, perhaps, rightful. More empathy is put with the residents of Holcomb who primarily did not advocate the death penalty and instead wish for the prisoners to be given life imprisonment and pray for them. The ending pages, which tell the tale of Alvin Dewey and his last encounter with the friend of Nancy Clutter, on of those murdered, are certainly strange and touching, with timeless and beautiful prose.

Overall, the book was good and well-written, definitely a classic, however it is not the book for people used to happy-endings like those of the Harry Potter series or other fantasy novels or fiction that are so common to this time. It envelopes someone in the world of Holcomb and the many places that Dick and Perry flee too, making someone realize that criminals are still people and they still can be empathized with; just because they have committed terrible crimes, such as murder, it does not make it impossible to feel for them, to suffer with them through their troubles. I would certainly recommend it to someone interested in a good read.

Now, though, it probably is time to move on; luckily this isn’t a school essay, huh? Much too random and unorganized. Glad that that’s what a blog is for, pretty much! Hopefully this isn’t too hard or  irritating to read, but for those of you who have gotten so far, any idea just what Perry looks like in real life? His legs more specifically; the novel conjured up an image in my head that I have not been able to confirm or deny as true.