Ghosts

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nope. Not those types (although, t'is season.)

Most writers have a certain frame-work within which they work. It's not a matter of choice. It's, I dunno, primal conditioning? It really is write what you know. Consciously or unconsciously, they'll explore certain themes over and over again.

Fer instance: the power of love. This could be explored in many ways, the love between not only lovers, but parent and child, siblings, friends, etc. Further, most writers have a certain cast of character types that they revisit.

Linda Howard is known for her Alpha heroes. They range from protective/nurturing to Jerkosaurus, but they're pretty much all Alphas. Jane Anne Krentz, a comfort read for many, does the brooding, dangerous alpha male paired with the smart, slightly unconventional, heroine. I haven't read Nora, but I've heard peeps say she has 3 hero types and 3 heroine types. It's part of a writer's voice. You can mute or exaggerate the characteristics of your hero/heroine types, up the emotion, downplay the humor, or add action, and explore different aspects of the themes. But there it is, for the most part, your range, your palette.

Considering there are only 3 primary colors to the color wheel, and everything after that is secondary (6), tertiary (12), never mind the infinite amounts of tints (+ white) and shades (+ black) this isn't as limited as it may first seem. This is probably where craft, skill, creativity, curiosity come in. Those are the tools that will help you blend and mix and expand your palette. Everyone can do the primary and secondary stuff; take a bit more to get the tertiary, shades and tints.

But... surprise! ... I'm way off topic; this wasn't the direction I wanted to go. Back to those ghosts. I've already made peace with the fact that I write certain types. But I didn't want to make peace with it. It was a bummer when I realized Character B in book 2, had certain similarities to Character A in book 1. Not exactly the same, mind you, they weren't inter-changeable, but they had a similar sense of humor (which was really an aspect of my own sense of humor).

::shrug:: Not to compare myself to the great Joss Whedon, but there were many times I thought a line of dialogue Fred was sprouting on ANGEL, could have been said by Willow on BUFFY. Even Storm in that Xmen movie sounded like Buffy a time or two (Except, Halle butchered the delivery). Hasn't seemed to hurt him any. Nor has similarities in characters/premise hurt any of the authors mentioned above. I stopped beating myself up about it.) It's all part and parcel of voice, and one of the ways to overcome it is with strong storytelling (which all the creators I've used in this example have mastered in spades.)

But.... *sigh*.... a bit off topic again. (Hey, Dee, does this remind you of some of the conversations we've had? ::snort:: lol). Oh, yes, ghosts. I've come across something pretty disturbing in my own writing. When I've left a piece of work unfinished for whatever reason, bits of it come back to 'haunt' me in later works. I'm not talking about exploring a theme (consciously or unconsciously) so you keep returning back to it by using different aspects each time. I mean *exact* wording/descriptions. It's only happened two times that I can remember, but each time it does, it freaks me out! I keep wondering what other 'hauntings' I haven't discovered?

Fer instance, in the projectile vomit scene (gawd, I luv that description. lol) posted below, the hero is in bed, very ill and I wrote this: "Callum jack-knifed up." Three words, no biggie, right? But the other recent sample I posted (the humorous hunters in the woods) is from a werewolf story I was writing/posting for fun over on eHarl, until I realize I had something pretty decent that was worth submitting. eHarl *owns* everything posted on their site, even the message-boards, so I stopped writing the story (which I was only doing on the side while I worked on the then wip). Anywho, when came across the fun scene in the woods, I also came across a later scene as I scanned through the document.

Let's start by saying the hero's name in that story is Cal. *g* I changed it to 'Sal' when I posted the short excerpt here, but it's Cal. Not Callum, but still.... d’oh! Then I come across this scene, where he's recovering from a fight with another shape-shifter: "Cal held her stare a bit longer. Was that disappointment she saw? Then his body jackknifed off the bed, before he was flung back. When his spine made contact with the rumpled sheets again, Cal closed his eyes and turned his head away from her." Kinda eerily similar in situation, word choice. *gulp*.

Previously I came across a description of another hero (in an unfinished ms), it involved the clothes he was wearing, how he wore them, how they fitted his body. Right down to the type of watch he wore. I used pretty much the *exact* same description for another hero later on (ms, finished). Down to the exact same watch. *gulp*

Gave me the heebie-jeebies and made me become hyper aware in trying to and make sure my characters were as unique/original as possible. But that's when I realized that “range” thing I was rambling on about above, and how *fighting* against it (not to be confused with expanding it) was actually fighting against your own voice in many, many, ways. Very self-defeating and a sure way to bring all writing to a stand still. ::coughcough::

Still, it creeped me out to have such a strong 'similarity' crop up again. So I'm working on another theory, if you don't finish manuscripts, bits and pieces come back to haunt you, by showing up in your current work. Like all ghosts, these want to be acknowledged and freed (ie, their story told).

So, no more unifinished mss for me. ::blink:: <--you didn't see that.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. All suspicions of 'hackerism' and ‘limited scope of talent’ have been unilaterally rejected.
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8 comments:

raine said...

...So, no more unifinished mss for me. ::blink:: <--you didn't see that.

The hell I didn't.

Jordan Summers said...

Actually, I think you may be onto something. I know when I write two books at once the same thing happens. I think the brain has trouble shifting.

Sasha White said...

Yeah, I've done it too. (aside from my favorite phrase about a certin twitch *blush*)

The scary thing I've encountered is, when I realize the character I'm working on now is to siliar to a past one, and I can't think of - or create - anything new. Does that mean I've told all the stories in my head?

Seriously, I get scared that I just don't have that many characters/stories inside me to sustain the career I want.

Jaye said...

Raine - What? I had something in my eye... ;-)

Jaye said...

Jordan - ditto. Mannerisms, and phrases transfer over. Even if they are completely different characters, different backgrounds, different times/countries, etc., in two separate stories, they're still *your* creation and it's still *you* acting as filter/interpreter.

Jaye said...

Sasha - if only it were just a little 'crutch' word ('just', 'then' 'cocked an eyebrow' all the characters 'grinning' or 'sighing' their dialogue. lol. With those, you know what they are and you do a search and find for them during edits. (Although it's a little more difficult is the crutch word/phrase changes with each ms.)

The duplication stuff that's happened to me is *literally* repeating myself, pretty much word for word and/or situation. Plus, I only find out if I go scounging around in the old/abandoned work for some reason. I shudder to think about stuff I haven't discovered. I really think it's just unfinished business bubbling to the top, and once it's done/written it won't happen.

As for your current wip, don't think about your past character. Just write your story and make this character as true and real to the work as you can. If you keep stopping to compare to the other character who shares similarities to this one, you're going to mess yourself up and be overwhelmed with doubts. Take it from me. Been there. Not pretty. And, again, I'll point out that many, many successful authors have identifiable character types/premises/themes, and it hasn't hurt their careers any. In fact, you could probably say it's a big part of their success. Their readers are probably looking for that 'repeat' familiarity/comfort. Just tell your story. :-)

Mrs. Joseph said...

From a psychoanalytic perspective it's just transference. Despite efforts to individualize the characters, it is inevitable that the patina of your unconscious would touch them, despite efforts to make each writing unique. I came upon your blog during my random sojourn through the "next blog" button and wanted to let you know that I visited.

Jaye said...

Thank you, Joseph, for leaving a comment. I tend to ramble, but you've nailed it much more succinctly. ;-)

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