Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Any of you remember that Brandon Sanderson guy, the man who completed Robert Jordan’s “wheel of Time” as well as being a award winning author in his own right(Also I reviewed his other book last Tuesday). You may also find it interesting that he’s been diving into writing short stories of late.

Which is what we’re talking about today, Brandon Sanderson’s “The Emperor’s Soul”


A book about magical Asians. 

Synopsis

“The Emperor’s Soul” primarily follows the story of  Shai, which is short for something entirely to long for me to care about typing out. The story starts with Shai having been caught and sent to prison for trying to steal ancient relics and replace them with forgeries. The gimmick being that these forgeries aren’t naturally reproduced but instead created with magical seals that rewrite the history of an object turning into something else.

It’s then revealed to Shai that she can be pardoned for her crimes if she can use the same magic that can recreate art to recreate the soul of the Emperor who had recently been attacked and nearly killed by assassins. The catch being that Shai only has 98 days to complete her task before the Emperor is presumed dead and her along with him.

If that seems complicated, it’s because it is. Don’t worry about it to much though Sanderson pulls you into the mess that he’s shoved his characters in rather gently.

Review

One of the things I’m beginning to note about Sanderson is that he’s one of the better character writers out there. His dialogue between his protagonists, his antagonist and the characters that sit in between is some of the best I’ve ever read. Which is incredibly important for this book considering Sanderson locks most of the major characters in the same room together for the majority of the Story.


Who need sweeping landscapes when you can have walls.

Shai and her mentor/antagonist go round and round trying to figure each other out and never truly coming to grips with the other while the other less effective antagonist try to manipulate Shai often to a comical effect as they underestimate Shai who is setting her own logical traps. The book only starts to come up short when it runs it’s action scenes which mess with pacing of the books and feel out of place watching what so far has been a game of chess turn into a game of street fighter.


Ryu to G7, King me!

However to Sanderson’s credit the he builds up to the action scene well and while it’s a major change in the style of the story it’s not something that hits you out of nowhere and is sparsed with some nice dialogues and internal monologues  to break up the action. On top of that Sanderson fills the world with a compelling magic system as well as effective world building which makes all of the story flow easily without pulling you out of the story everytime the concept of foraging a man’s soul comes up.

Bottom Line

The books is fast paced, short and a blast to read, and considering you buy this in E-book format which can be put on your phone or other mobile device you can finish the book in a day easily. In short this short book is good, go buy it.

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This week we’re reviewing a fantasy western about a butler turned god and a lawman turned noble. Also known as Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law.


Because cowboys and demi-gods didn’t have the same ring.

Synopsis

    The Alloy of law is an off shoot of Sanderson’s Mistborn series and is set about 300 years after Hero of Ages. The Alloy of Law tells the Story of Waxillium Ladrian, better know as Wax. Wax is what is referred to in-universe as Twin Born, meaning that through a combination of superpowers he inherited from his parents genes he can alter his weight and push most metal with his mind. Wax starts the story as a lawman searching for a serial killer and through a singularly unfortunate event turns in his badge and moves to the big city to take over the estate of his deceased relative whom left everything to Wax. The story then goes through his struggle to try and manage his new life as the head of a noble house as well as putting his life as a lawman behind him. Of course things don’t go as planned and Wax is forced into a new mystery that involves metal, women and magic.


Like this but with more magical acrobatics.

Review

Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I believe that Sanderson is one of the best character writers in the business today, and The Alloy of Law attests to that assertion, Sanderson fills his novella with a plethora of interesting characters. Wax being this weird combination of city born noble turned lawman leads to people in the rough calling him either refined or a dandy, while people in the city look at him as mysterious cowboy or an unsophisticated brute. His partner is a wise cracking reformed criminal who can speed up time and talk his way out of most situations, whilst the female lead is a nerd with a bit of kickass and dash genius thrown in for good measure. With The central antagonist being a immortal charismatic ex-lawman.

The only problem I had with the Characters, was with Wax, the protagonist. Wax spends most of the story swung between extremes of being noble and being lawman, which is one of the major conflicts in the books first act. The problem is that after every other chapter Wax seems to become a different person, after one chapter he becomes a metallurgist seemingly out of nowhere. Sanderson went big with multiple POVs in a novella, sometimes even multiple within a chapter. Unfortunately this left Wax feeling a little disjointed in a few scenes. The nice thing to note is that these scenes are short and don’t cause to much of a stumbling block for the reader.

Setting

For those of you new to Scadrial, the fictional land that the Mistborn series takes place in you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to read the rest of the books to understand whats what. Thanks to some spoilers that I won’t reveal happening in The Hero of Ages.

Scadrial now features a new wild western styled “roughs” as well as some lush green plains and a large skyscraper buildings in a city called Elendel. Sanderson does a good job introducing these new environments and over the course of whats is a very short book, makes the world feel very large.

Sanderson’s series has always featured unique fantasy environment and The Alloy of Law hold true to that, replacing kingdoms and empires with republics and industrialization making for a rather different kind of story then most fantasy reader’s are used to while keeping the feel that Mistborn fan’s enjoyed. The only problem that came up was that the setting seemed to be a step down, from the Scadrial of Original Mistborn Trilogy. Luthadel was just as much Character as Vin or the Lord Ruler, it was a living breathing organism playing the parts of both the antagonist and the protagonist. The same could be said for all of the locations of in Sanderson’s earlier books albeit a bit less prominently. Elendel and the roughs are great locations, but that’s all they are.

Though it might be fair to lay blame at the constrictions of the novella, a story of this size just doesn’t get to have the feeling of a large sweeping world and  be a world with great depth. Perhaps with future novels and novellas Sanderson will bring back that feeling of a deep, evolving magical world.


Not that kind of magic.

Plot

The plot is a hard thing to review without giving out to many spoilers, I can however safely say that the plot of this novella is engaging and fun to read, With the main plot being rather straight forward, the romantic subplot being welcome even if it’s not great and with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure. On top of that the main arc for the protagonist Wax is well thought out and excellently executed. Overall Sanderson has crafted and enjoyable story to follow. Also two guys fight on top of a train.


Like this, but with 20% more magic.

Accessibility

One thing that any offshoot needs to be able to handle is accessibility, not every one who reads The Alloy of law is going to have read MistBorn series. That being said, Sanderson dumps new readers right into his world, explaining things as they come to the readers attention. It was actually interesting to read after heaving read the previous series, it’s obvious that Sanderson is expecting new readers with this book and he helping pull them in as well as inform them. His exposition works well and never hurts the pacing or the dialogue. What I did notice is that this book makes several references to it’s predecessors, and while I can’t say for sure but, I’d imagine that it would seem out of place for these random things to keep popping up that would seem to have little relevance to the actual story. However for those who have read it’s nice to see that the worlds hasn’t forgotten the events of the last three hundred years entirely.

Bottom line

Sanderson has built an enjoyable novel with strong pacing , unique concepts, well thought out characters set in an expansive world with and an entertaining story that promises future installments. The downsides is that the novella has a packed a lot of history into it’self which will be alien to any new readers as well as having a main character who doesn’t truly feel solid instead bouncing between multiple personalities(Though I’m sure many will argue thats is the point of Wax’s character). Returning readers will be glad to see that world Sanderson left it not one that simply lived happily ever after, instead they be able to see the Scadrial is dynamic, ever changing, generating new stories and always having another secret.

With the paperback and the E-book squaring out at $8 USD, the story is well worth the price of admission and advise anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book to give it a try.

The last time I wrote a character focus it was about a villain you could respect, maybe even love. This time were going to focus on a much different kind of character, one who get’s slapped around by a dwarf, one who let’s his sword be stolen by a little girl, on who hides behind his mothers skirts. This weeks Character Focus presents none other than Joffrey Baratheon.


May the Others take him.

For those of you who don’t know, Joffery Baratheon is one of the major antagonist in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series,  for those of you who haven’t read the books I need to post some quite obvious spoiler warnings

spoilers Ahead

That ought to work, now down to business. Joff is signigficantly different then most  characters and even villains that you read about these days, mostly because he’s a intolerable twat. Most writer’s resources will tell you that your villains need to be deep and likable in one way or another, Joff however stands out as being as deep as dry lake bed and only being slightly well like more the AIDs and yet the character serves his purpose quite well and while I may never like Joff, I always have some sort of emotional response to his scenes, albeit it’s mostly hate, mixed with some disgust. So how do we emulate such response from our readers regarding our dastardly villains?

Threat: somebody is going to die

Martin is well know as an author who loses little sleep from killing beloved characters, and when Joffery takes center stage that threat becomes overbearing, When ever he has scene the tension jumps dramatically simply because of the characters reputation. In the TV show Game of Thrones, Joff has Ned Stark beheaded even though his mother and all of his councilors had planned to spare him. In the Show this is done in the middle of a courtyard, but in the books it’s done in the middle of a temple so that everybody got the idea that this was to be a pardoning not an execution. Joff made short work of that and the started off on his own blody rain of death and brutality.

plotting: The best laid plans…

Outside of fits of violence the boy king can be counted on to make bad decisions,  which act as boon to enemies and torment to his family. In book series like A Song of  Ice and Fire which follows characters from every side of the central conflict, you have to juggle success and failure vary carefully, because for evert victory a pov character has counts as failure on another, let one person grow to strong and the book becomes one sided. Joffery helps balance out the successes of his compatriots who normally wouldn’t make such foolish mistakes, and forces them to work around Joffery’s madness.

Foils: Making Men out of monsters

For those of you who aren’t in the know, a dramatic foil(just foil for short) is when a pair of characters are paired together to make there traits stand out, often done in a simple fashion to make strong characters look stronger and make smart characters to look smarter. However a foil can be used for far more the exemplifying simple traits, it can be used to muffle them as well  take Joffery’s loyal hound Sandor Clegane, who spends most of his time drinking, killing, and the drinking some more. Yet in moments when he, Sansa are together, the reader has to pause and really think about whether or not Sandor is all that bad of guy. Joff has a similar affect on everybody around him, by the nature of being the most monstrously hated character in the room, everybody else looks like better person for it.

 
“I may have started a war that killed million and committed acts of genocide, but at least I never laid a hand on Sansa Stark”- Hitler

Joffery is going to go down as one of the most hated characters in the history of American fiction, he’s craven, crule, incompotent, he’s everything that writers are told to avoid, but leave it to writer like Martin to pull off such a character in such a splendid fashion, and let it be reminder to other writers out there that at the end of the day, write the characters you want to write, write the characters you need to write and don’t let any other writer tell you otherwise even if that writing leads to little incestful balls of hatred and abomination so evil that Dalek wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

This week’s feature story come from Mike Aguerro over at Night Mares of a writer, who asked me if I could feature a manuscript of his episode from work in progress series Icarus. The main reason I decided to feature mike is because he asked, and his asking meant I didn’t have to put down A Storm of Swords or get out of my sick bed and hunt down somebody else and read their work then get permission from them to post the work. What I’m trying to say is that I’m both sick and lazy and people who want to be featured should take advantage of my sick and lazy nature.

The secondary reason I featured Mike’s work is because I’ve not yet featured a screenplay on the site and I think screenplays can teach writers some very useful lesson that get drowned out in when try to write a novel or short story. The problem with novel writing is that it throws a lot of things at you and requires you to learn them all at once, you need to understand character Pov, setting, flow, dialogue and ect… . A screen play simplifies  at least two of those things, those being setting and pov and instead focuses you in on the dialogue of the characters to drive your story forwards. That doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but for us novel writers reading a manuscript let’s us focus on the dialogue and find out what works, what doesn’t and why.

So without further adieu I present you Icarus: Wayfaring Sherif

By Micheal Aguerro

___

If you enjoyed this bit of writing I urge you to jump over to Nightmare of a writer and give the rest of his works a read or listen to the podcast we share together, or if your truly bored you could read his actual blog posts.

As a side note to anyone who’s following and wondering why most post schedule is off…. again, I’ve been sick in bed for the past week and have just gotten to my computer as of today to write something. hopefully something resembling a post schedule will resume next Monday with another character focus.

Can’t seem to keep a schedule if my life were on the line this past couple of weeks, but without further adieu allow me to present the first chapter of The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare by Glenn Rosado. I picked Rosado’s work because of his ability to create an atmosphere that draws you in and then bring in characters that turn you on your head. Aspiring novelist and writers can pick up on how Rosado uses rising and falling suspension through his characters and setting to keep the readers interested. A note to writers, if you have the tension ramped up to eleven all the time then the audience will eventually grow accustomed to it, by switching it up you give the reader reason believe that when you do dial it up to eleven, that the impending doom you dropped down on your protagonist is truly impendingly doomful.

The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare

By: Glenn Rosado

The building was a shadow in the distance. Seth Blaze walked around the building where he was met by a rusty fence, he jumped, grabbed the steel frame at the top, taking care not to grab one of the metal wires sticking out with his arm as he went over, and splashed into a puddle.

He immediately noticed the back door had been left ajar. They couldn’t have found out, he said to himself. He always took extra care in making sure that he wasn’t followed.

Seth moved to the door, his green eyes reflected off the small-rectangular-glass window with the help of the flickering light overhead. He made sure not to make a noise, as if the loud splash wouldn’t have given him away already. If it had, whoever was inside, would have surely made themselves visible by now, he thought. He planted his back against the door while using his left arm to slowly open it, he peeked through, and as he made his way inside…

WACK.

Seth was met with a hand across his face that could have shattered a glass window clean, his eyes shut from the force, all he could see were puffy stars floating around, and somehow, amidst the ringing in his ears, hears a voice echo: “So you think you can just run away from everything?”

Rita Higgins, came into view once the room stopped spinning. Seth might have been pretty good at Kung-Fu, but Rita had always had a knack of showing him up ever since they were little. She stood there with her long blonde hair, hands on her hips and a look that should have burnt a hole through his skull. He could have sworn he saw her eyes turn from blue to red just for an instant. The truth was, Seth had always had a bit of a crush on her ever since they were younger. But it never materialized into anything mushy. Whenever he did something foolish, she would always be there to keep him in line, and for some odd reason that was the one trait that he admired from her more than anything else.

“You,” Seth started, rubbing his cheek back into feeling, “followed me here?”

“I decided to follow you from your apartment the other day,” she snapped back. “I thought I would surprise you when you showed up today, to the abandoned warehouse, in the middle of nowhere!” a bit of smoke poured out of her ears just then. The nightmares had been getting so vivid that it had been draining him mentally. He didn’t want her to see him in this state because he wouldn’t hear the end of it if she or Darius knew. So he tried his best to hide it by letting out a sarcastic laugh that only seemed to anger Rita even more. “You surprised me all right.”

“Where have you been?” she said with a look on her face that would melt an ice cream cone in the middle of winter. “Me and Darius have been worried sick. Every time we try visiting you, your uncle always says you’re not in. Why have you been dodging us lately?”

Seth had seen that look a hundred times before. One time when they were younger, six or seven maybe– when Father was around and there was no Empire–he had gone climbing the big oak tree that was planted in his front yard, alone. Attempting to beat her highest point. He put in a considerable amount of effort to find the right branches to latch onto, but he eventually beat it. The problem was that with all of his mind and energy focused on getting past her mark, he had not readily thought of a plan on how he was going to get down. It took him awhile to finally start climbing down, and as he got closer to the ground, one of the branches snapped and he went falling down, breaking his leg in the process. Father had arrived home from work when he found him with his back against the trunk of the old tree, holding his leg. When Rita came to see him later that day, she gave him a look he would not soon forget. A look that said: “That will teach you to go climbing without me.” That same look was being used on him as a weapon, like a child giving her parents the puppy face look to get what she wanted. Rita was trying to get what she wanted– an answer.

“I’ve been really busy, that’s all.” He said trying not to look her in the eye. She knew better though. “I can see that,” she said, looking around the abandoned warehouse. “So this is all the equipment from the school your dad used to train us in?”

“Yup,” he said, “he somehow got it all to this warehouse before… he vanished.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” she said. “You know you can come to us for anything.”

Seth made his way over to one of the heavy bags against the wall. “I wanted to be alone for a while.”

“We were close to your father as well, you know.”

“I know,” he said as he started to jab the bag. “Well, school is going to start back up in a week; you’re at least coming back for that right?” Seth did his best to hide a smile. “Of course,” he replied, “wouldn’t miss it for the world.” But that was a lie of course. Truth was he wasn’t looking forward to it at all. We’re all just going to be working the mines in a couple of years, he said to himself, biting his tongue, so why bother? But Seth knew that he couldn’t win, not against Rita, not when it dealt with issues such as this. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really bothering you?”

Seth stopped punching the bag all of a sudden and looked her in the eyes, “You would laugh at me if I told you.” She locked eyes with him for a moment, which indicated to Seth that she wasn’t much for playing games, and then said, “Try me.”

Seth stared at her for a minute before giving in, finally, spilling out the nightmare he’d been having every day, for the better part of a year, at the hour before dawn; and how it was always the same: ominous dark figures coming into his room to take him away to some dungeon in the middle of nowhere. He found himself somewhat relieved to have all of that weight off his shoulders, but Rita just stood there gazing at him for a second–then let out a hysterical laugh. “Shh,” he said, reminding her of the repercussions if someone were to find out that he had been using this building for his own personal gym. “We aren’t supposed to be here, remember?”

“Oops, sorry,” she said, cupping her hands over her mouth as if her laughs somehow had a mind of their own. “So is that the big problem, a nightmare?”

“See– I knew you would laugh,” Seth snapped while turning back to punish the bag, leaving little dents from his knuckles plastered all over the rubber, “and then you wonder why I’ve been in solitude for the last month.”

“Ok, I’m sorry I can see why that would be a problem. Now it all makes sense. Have you tried seeing someone about it?”

“And have them laugh at me like you just did? No, thanks.”

“Not if you see a–” she paused, “what do you call those doctors that put you to sleep?”

“A hypnotherapist?” he shot back. “Do you know how much they cost? You would have to work three shifts in the mines just to afford one session.”

“Well, then we could try and see if we can dig up any medical books that have some sort of instructions we could use. So we can find out the meaning of the dream and hopefully put an end to them.”

“Where are we going to find that?” he asked. “You know there haven’t been any libraries around since before the purge.”

She walked over to Seth and stopped in front of the bag, before saying, “Leave that part up to me.” Then she cocked her hand back and rocked the bag with a punch.
___

If you enjoyed this snipped of Rosado’s work then take a moment to read the rest of this chapter and the two other chapters that been posted on his blog also named Legacy of Blaze. don’t forget to stop by tomorrow as The Acrhetype releases a new series of articles called Character Focus  which will take a moment to look at characters from all over fiction and find out what makes them great, grand or grotesque. Starting with this years hit masked, back breaking villain.

One of the more interesting phenomenon of late that’s made it’s way to the internet is the fascination that some 14-25 year old men seem to have with a show that is meant for small children of the female variety that was produced to sell a line of toys. That’s right friends, this article is all about the magic of friendship so saddle up everypony.

For those of you whom may not have yet heard or are just possily new to the whole internet thing, My Little Pony: Friendship is magic is a cartoon show based of the old line of my little pony toys that have been around since 1982 but have only recently ben pulled into media spotlight via their new cartoon. Also let’s clear something up for those of you who want to rage quit from wordpress because this article is pony related, this is still a storytelling blog and this is still a storytelling article, we’er not going to dive into who is best pony or any other non-sense.


Okay maybe a little non-sense

I’m more interested in what has come together to make ponies so popular among the demographic that normally won’t touch something if it isn’t a dark and gritty rebut of their childhood. In fact I was so interested that in one of my more sleep deprived moments I watched a solid twenty episodes of the show and you know what, it’s not that bad, in fact as far as children’s shows go it was pretty good. In fact I think that there is a lot we can learn from MLP.

Animation

A shows animation is the first thing that a viewer see’s, and much like a person looking at the clothing you wear the viewers start making assumptions about the show from that first glance. For a lot of shows that can be a make or break moment for them, shows like adventure time a regular show have a very particular type of animation and you can tell just from looking at them what the show is going to be like. The same thing also applies to shows who seek a more adult audience who give there shows a much conservative appearance while shows like South Park went for childish look for a show that has a very immature nature.


alright a lot of non-sense

What does this say about MLP, well first off the animation is top notch, it’s bright, it’scartoony, it’scute, but what hooked me mostly is that it’s clean. It was obvious that the shows artist put real work and effort into creating the shows animation instead of treating it as just a 30 min commercial for little girls toys. What can you take away from this as an artist or a writer, MLP uses it’s animation to set the tone for the show, just looking at it is going to make you puke rainbows and leave you wanting more, as an artist you want your art to set the mood of the show or comic well before the characters utter their first words and writers need to be able to set the tone of their books in early descriptions and snippets of their world and make sure that this tone is conveyed in such a professional way.

Format

I think this might be the most interesting part of MLP, or at least the most nostalgic. MLP episodes are all self contained, there is no overarching narrative, there is no broad story line, there just a bunch of anthropomorphic ponies having a different moral adventure each week, and then reminding you exactly what that moral is at the end of each episode. It reminds me of all the old Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Ah! Real Monsters and every other single piece of nostalgia I can bring to you from your childhood. On a more recent note, the Disney show Phineas and Ferb also follows this format as well as do most TV sitcoms, whether it’s big bang theory or King of Queens. This format isn’t something that went away and is now coming back, we just haven’t seen it with this kind of face for a very long time.

So what makes this format valuable? It’s simple really, or should I say it’s really simple, MLP doesn’t require complex character arcs or a drawn out narrative, Just fit your moral/joke/theme of the day into the episode and move on. It works well for folks who have lot’s of cool ideas and want to get as many of them in as possible , it also fits well with those of you who like to write by the seat of your pants each episode is it’s own little thought with little or no heed to what comes before or what comes next.


This sums up the show pretty well

What can we writers take away from this, well mostly that a series doesn’t need a long complex narrative, sometimes it can just be the six different books about how a boy and his dog find different treasures every week, or about the different planets a group of space marines visit. The point is that people can enjoy simple shorts as well as writers can enjoy writing them.

Theme

The main thing that separates MLP from other form of television that most 14-25 year olds watch is it’s constant theme of light hearted comedy and cute aesthetic design, which stands in opposition to every notion of dark and gritty that has been installed in us since Batman became a thing.

um, yes all day, yes all night, for the rest of my life.<br /><br />
{picture of batman riding through the sky on the back of a purple my little pony with a bat symbol on the rump and it’s amazing.}
Batman riding a pony, deal with it.

Simply put shows like MLP offer us a refuge from a reality where stories are getting darker and edgier everyday without any sign of stopping, between writers like Christopher Nolan, Steven Moffat and movies like Toy Story 3 and Up even kids shows and movies are pressing toward the gritty realism of everyday life. And maybe, just maybe there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to give up on a world where kids can build roller coasters in there back yard or one were the worst thing that can happen when two groups of people disagree is a really bug food fight. At the end of the day we all want to go back to those days where you knew that every episode Duke would win out over Cobra Commander and the worst thing we had to worry about was Tommy losing his screwdriver, really we all want to believe again in a world where friendship is magic.

The Archetype has come together with Nightmares of a writer to produce a podcast with a mutual friend of ours. We covered multiple games, time travel, history and superpowers. If these things interest you click here and give us a listen.

 

One of the things I’ve struggled with as novice writer is defining what makes my characters awesome, what makes them interesting what makes the reader say “I could read 1000 pages about this guy and his group of rebels.” When I started out I wrote high pace action scenes and fights scenes one after another thinking these were the things that made my lead interesting. It wasn’t until I let a friend of mine read over my manuscript and tell me my fight scenes sucked. More importantly  in my review I found they weren’t interesting, they didn’t add anything to the protagonist’s character outside of the fact that he could hit people, really, really hard.

The Hulk has more character depth

What I learned from the experience was that what I was writing not what made the character and the story interesting.  However my friend was able to help me point out what was interesting, a scene prior to a fight with the protagonist analyzing the area before the battle. Afterwords I went back through my manuscript cutting most  of the major fight scenes that had dotted the book and shuffled others off screen. It helped clean up the pacing, but more importantly it gave my lead some much needed characterization and gave me a chance write more interesting scenes.

Mat Nix covered much of the same sentiment in a interview for his hit TV show Burn Notice, whose lead character Micheal Weston stars as a “Burned”(read fired) spy trying to figure out why he was burned and get his job back. The show features high speed chases, fight scenes, explosions, gun battles and romance but what really makes the show interesting is Weston’s unique approach to creative problem solving. Over the course of several episodes Weston mails a pipe bomb to his old boss, uses power tools and turpentine to disable a car full of gangsters, and convinces several really nasty people to shoot several other really nasty people. Nix picked up on this and was able to write his characters in situations that allowed their creative problem solving to flourish.

so you’re telling me this is all because they stole your yogurt.

If your still trying to figure out where this means for you, It means that if you want your characters to be interesting, then you have to give them the opportunity to do interesting things and then write them doing them. For my lead it was planning out every move in a fight the night before the fight happened, for Weston it was cutting a hole in the ceiling of a office building to steal data from there computers. But these examples don’t just apply to novel and script witting. Games and movies require this kind of writing to keep the audience sticking around, to better show you what I mean I’ve added a couple of examples from different mediums in fiction.

Gaming

let’s start with gaming, with it’s unique experience that other forms of media can’t deliver on. Gaming has evolved from the simple days of pong and text based adventure games into a variety of massive interactive experiences with as many genres and styles as any other form of art. But gaming stands on the same rule as any other form of fiction, it has to be interesting, games like the Elder Scrolls series draw people into a massive worlds full of history and details that can keep their audience entertained for days. When the games are good their quest lines immerse you in the story by giving you the hands on opportunity to be the hero that you normally only get to read in books and watch in movies. When the quests are done bad they have you trek half way across their massive world to pick up a sword only to bring it back to where you started. In gaming the audience plays the lead and it’s up to the game designer to give the players something interesting to do that compliments the leads skill set and character. If you’re planning on creating a game that offers the player the ability to spit fire and eat lighting don’t waste his time by making him bake a pie.

Even if that pie is made with Mammoth meat

Movies

Script writing for movies follows a lot of the same rules that you’d find for scripts in television, the notable difference is time constraint and cash concerns, however one thing that is often overlooked is the fact the a Movie get’s one shot at getting it right. One bad episode isn’t likely to sink a popular TV series, but movies only get one shot and a box office flop often kills plans for future installments. That’s why we see most major budget movies playing it safe sticking to the same story arcs and formulas that produce movies that people will go and see instead of searching for new and interesting scripts. So if you plan on having your script actually being shown on the big screen it can’t afford to waste time on things that aren’t what make it great.

The Movie that stands most recently for having interesting character doing interesting things is Marvel Studious Avengers, Marvel knew going into that movie that each character had been developed in there previous movies, they had all gone through their major character arcs and came out as better people. All they had to do in finale of their nearly decade long project was to shove everybody together and give them a chance do the things we loved watching them do again, Hulk smashed, Tony shot his mouth off, Capt threw his shield, Thor shot lighting, Natasha reverse interrogated a god  and Hawkey… what exactly was Hawk-eye doing again?

Staring at Scarlet Johansson apparently

The Avenger’s while not having had a complicated or stellar narrative, with only Banner having a decent character arc and Loki making for a modest villain compared to his role in Thor, was a resounding success that relied almost entirely on their interesting scenes. The most prominent ideas being “let’s have Hulk punch something big” and “let’s have hulk punch a god, no wait two gods.”

Comics

Comics have a weird combination of episodic structure and narrative perspective, all while being set in a kid’s picture book style. What that means is that comics can get that tightly contained narrative that short stories and TV shows thrive on. While producing the epic imagery that movies tend to require with the dialogue and perspective that good novels live or die by. Comics tend to be the jack of all trades and masters of none in the world of fiction, and the authors usually play this up, offering an inside view of characters’ thoughts and illustrating interesting scenes to draw the reader in. One of the best comics to display comics’ unique perspective on fiction is Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Moore was able to make the characters in his stories interesting by combining narrative perspective with impressive visuals to produce memorable scenes. Scenes like Rorschach fighting off cops with matches and hairspray or the antagonist’s scheme which I will not spoil for those who have yet to read the comic.

This is laid in contrast with the new Before Watchmen limited series which is set as a prequel to Moore’s series. While not all of the comics are wholly bad, none of them stand up to Moore’s writing. One notable comic however is bad enough to get mentioned as the example of how you can go wrong, the issue introduces the new Silk Specter who is being trained to replace her mother as  the current Specter. What could have been a classic comic that could have shown the difficulties of trying to balance the life of a superhero with the life of a teenage girl who’s trying to find her own way in the world. The writers however forgo this and instead decides to follow how the new Specter as she is picked on by the popular girls at her school and how she falls in love with the school’s top jock. With only a few interesting visual scenes drawn and even less interesting perspectives used the comic really just ends up being a more of a teenage soap opera as opposed to superhero origin story.

You can read this or you can read about a sixteen year old girl who complains about her mom.

Regardless of what medium you use for your fiction, whether it’s games or comics, fantasy or sci-fi, romance or thriller, you need to let your characters shine, cut back on the unnecessary and pile on the interesting. Whether that means your audience is going to be reading about how a master assassin hunts down and murders all of his girlfriend’s prior love interests or if they get to watch your costumed superhero  punch reality, find out what makes your characters shine and then polish them till they’re gold.  Just don’t make us read about how Batman and Robin comically try to cook scrambled eggs without Alfred’s help when we could be reading about how Batman foiled the Jokers latest scheme to turn the moon into cheese.

Ever wake up in the morning and think, “Man I hate people.”  If so you’re well on your way to being a Jerk, if you’ve actually worked up the vitriol to actually tell people you hate then; and I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are a jerk. Other symptoms to watch for include but are not limited to:

Anger
Snark
Greed
Arrogance
Lack of patience
Aggressive or passive aggressive behavior
And a general disregard for the safety and feelings of others(not to be confused with apathy towards others though it may apply as well)

What’s that? My foot up your ass you say, well okay.

The Jerk is an interesting and old character easily older then Shakespeare whom has several prominent Jerks in his works . The Jerk has survived through the generations as other characters and tropes faded into the ages, the question is, Why? Why do we love these people in media when every time you meet one in real life you have to  hold your self back from pushing them into oncoming traffic. Though truth be told there are plenty of discussions and pseudo philosophical debates as to why people like watching these characters, so instead let’s look at how to make our fictional Jerks awesome.

Skills

In most fiction you’ll find the Jerk with a group of friends/peers/cohorts, and the first question that come to mind is why do they put up with the abuse that’s leveled at them from the Jerk. One  reason why people continue to stick around the Jerk is that he’s good at what he does, so good in fact that people are willing to or have to put up with the jerk to get things done. The most recent case of this is that come to mind House from the show… well you know. House is a jerk to everyone withing ten feet of him but the patients put up with because he can save their lives, his peers put up with him because he can see things that they miss and his boss puts up with him because of the unparalleled level of success he has. People deal with House because he’s skilled if not the most skilled at what he does, and readers and watchers can admire a jerk for his prowess even if they wouldn’t want to stand next to him on any given day of the week.

It’s never lupus

Humor

Humor is one of the best ways to endear a Jerk to his audience, shows like Big Bang Theory rely on the comedic affect of their Jerk to make him interesting. Sheldon Cooper may be just as brilliant as House but his brilliance has no ties to his group of friends outside of how much it annoys them, in fact most of the time the group tries to stay as far away from Sheldon as possible. No Sheldon’s a great character and great Jerk because of his lack of understanding or concern for human emotions. These lead to situations that while you wouldn’t personally want to be apart of, you can still take a moment to laugh at them. Just remember to have reason to keep your jerk in contact with the rest of the characters in your fiction, you don’t want your audience asking themselves why this guy is hanging around, or why the rest of the guys are hanging around him. Big Bang Theory tethers Sheldon and Leonard together by making them roommates, while Leonard could leave Sheldon he’d have to give up his home to do so, similar plot devices can be used to make your fiction more reasonable. The end goal here is to make your Jerk entertaining, whether that means wacky hi-jinks ensue or that he seems to be the only sane man left in the group, either you make the audience laugh with him or laugh at him.

morals

Most people like Jerks that turn out to be decent human beings, at least for a moment or so. The major point of making your Jerk secretly nice or at least not as jerkish, is that it adds character depth, it shows us and possibly the other characters in your fiction that there’s more here then what meets the eye. Brandon Sanderson does this particularly well with two notable major characters in his Mist Born series, the first is a thief that has the magic ability to manipulate peoples emotions, the Jerk uses his magic not only to steal things but also to manipulate his friends, colleges, servants and passersby to do as he wishes or collect things he’s to lazy to get himself. Being a manipulative Jerk is a core part of his personality, but it’s reveal in later parts of the series that he doesn’t just manipulate people to get what he wants, he manipulates people to calm them down in a tense situation, or to relax away a friends fear before they get on stage to talk, Sanderson shows his Jerk going out of his way to discretely make peoples live better. And while you don’t get to hear his thoughts on why he does this, you get to hear the thoughts of the other lead characters which act a surrogate for the audience allowing them to feel similar emotions towards the Jerk, Making an annoying individual into a much more likable character.

Interests

The most important thing about you Jerk is that he has to be interesting, much like any character in any piece of fiction, one of the worst sin your jerk can commit is being boring. A Jerk has an interesting position because he already sits outside of how people act in there day to day lives, he says and does things with no fear of social backlash.Not only that the Jerk can say and do the things that the rest of your characters can’t or won’t, he can point out the holes in your heroes plans and call your damsel in distress out on her love triangle non-sense and generally lampshape much of the drama that’s going on. Particularly savvy Jerks can see the what looks like a standard plot point and act to avoid it, or manipulate it for his own benefit, though if he’s not skilled he’s the one who can say “I told you so.” Your Jerk is most likely going to be an amalgam of the things stated much like any character worth his font, and it goes without saying that all the things you do make interesting, unique and believable character also applies to your Jerk, your jerk doesn’t have to be skilled jerk, he doesn’t have to be a funny jerk, he doesn’t have to be a jerk with a heart of gold, but he can’t just be a jerk jerk. Because at that point the character isn’t only boring, he’s also annoying and most folks already have enough annoying people they want to punch in the face in their day to day, don’t add your jerk to that list.

imageI’ve had enough of your disingenuiness assertions