Cassandra Clare: ‘We need more gay relationships in young adult fiction’

Cassandra-Clare

(Photo by Rex/Moviestore)

Found this article very interesting, it raises a good point. Enjoy!


Cassandra Clare, the New York bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments series, has called for more representation of homosexual relationships in Young Adult fiction.

Clare told the teenage visitors to the Hay Festival that publishers turned her award-winning novels down because one of its main characters, Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood, was gay and embarked on a relationship with another young man, Magnus Bane.

“If publishers are throwing up roadblocks to wider representation of different parts of society, then we need to try harder to write books about them,” she said.

Answering a question from the audience, Clare explained that she knew it “would be a problem” to have a gay character in her novels, but that the character Alec developed his homosexuality as she wrote.

“Sometimes characters tell you things about themselves,” she said, “Alec was angry, and I realised he was in love with [his adopted brother] Jace”.

Clare’s books portray the ostracism some young homosexual people sometimes face. Alec is excluded by his people for being gay. After he made his relationship with Magnus public, he inspired other young Shadowhunters to open up about their sexuality.

Magnus and Alec’s relationship is popular with readers of The Mortal Instruments series. During her talk, Clare read from part of the forthcoming Bane Chronicles which detailed voicemail messages that had been left on Magnus’s phone after the end of his relationship with Alec.

Clare admitted that even she found it difficult to remember aspects of the unwieldy universe she had created for her novels, and that she had made a ‘Shadowhunter Codex’ full of “family trees and massive amounts of notes” that she now uses as a research tool.

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Via: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/Cassandra-Clare-we-need-more-gay-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction.html

Effective Ways To Make Your Characters More Memorable

Memorable-characters

Characterisation is, without doubt, one of the most important elements to master when writing a novel or short story.

You may have dreamed up a plot of unparalleled genius or a storyline so amazing you have your readers drooling. However, if you don’t have authentic and compelling characters driving the story, no one will ever reach the final page.

If a story is a sailboat, characters are the rudder that steers the whole ship.

Clever’s not enough to hold me – I want characters who are more than devices to be moved about for Effect” – Laura Anne Gilman

Characterisation is defined by what the characters think, say and do. It’s about the writer developing the personality of the people in the story to make the work interesting, compelling, and affecting.

One could go so far to say characterisation is even more important than plot. If your character is fascinating, whatever they do will take on gravitas.

The best characters are the ones that seem to take on a life on their own. For example, when the reader is always drawn back to the book because they can’t help wondering what the character is up to. It’s not as hard as you think to create a character as memorable as Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes.

Know Your Character

To allow the readers to engage with your characters, they need to become multi-faceted, living, breathing individuals. You have to know them as personally as you know yourself.

The best way to achieve this is by creating a complete character profile that you can always refer to. This way you can trace how a character might react to every situation and how they might feel about the things that happen to them.

Consider these major factors when formulating a character profile:

Develop A Thorough Backstory

For your character to function successfully as a reliable entity, they must possess a past that has shaped who they are when the reader meets them. You don’t have to reveal it all at once, or even reveal it at all. However, it’s important for putting the character’s actions into context. It’s also a very useful way of teasing out information throughout a story by allowing the reader to slowly learn more about the character.

The key influences on a backstory often include:

  • Where the character grew up
  • Family members
  • Past trauma
  • Religion
  • Socio-economic status
  • Job
  • School

The backstory will be a major influence on how the character moves through the story.

For example, if your character has a traumatic past, it will often result in an unresolved personal conflict when they are older. As outlined in his biography, Harry Potter’s experiences as a child directly affected him as an adult.

When he was a baby, Harry and his parents were attacked by Lord Voldemort. His parents were killed but Harry miraculously survived. When he was older, he continually came face to face with his nemesis. Over many years he began to learn more about why this happened and why other strange things were happening to him. This resulted in a growing motivation to pursue this knowledge, leading him into greater conflict, not only with Voldemort but other characters, include Professor Snape, the Malfoy’s and Slytherins.

For this reason, he reached out for allies. Since many of his allies didn’t survive, including Harry’s Godfather Sirius Black, Harry became angrier and more emotionally damaged. However, he was able to use the love his parents showed in protecting him as strength to overcome his obstacles.

Examine Your Character’s Personality

To some degree, the backstory shapes a character’s personality. However, the personality is also less concrete. Having a good grasp of your character’s personality will allow you to remain consistent throughout the novel and understand how events will have different impacts.

You might ask yourself whether your character is an introvert or an extrovert? Will they be funny, intelligent, kind, charismatic or cowardly? What part of their personality will you seek to emphasise in order to build a connection between them and the reader? Do they have hobbies that reveal more about their outlook?

You may also consider what kind of attitudes and opinions your characters have about life that make them intriguing. For example Mark Renton in Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh, is a black-humoured heroin addict. His taste in anti-establishment music such as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and David Bowie, and his accompanying political views, set him apart as a dynamic, off-beat anti-hero.

Envision The Appearance Of Your Characters

If you yourself don’t have a clear sense of what your characters look like, then it’ll be near impossible for the reader to imagine them. You don’t have to list every specific detail. Allow the reader to use their own creativity.

However, it’s also vital to the overall impression of the character to know how they dress. Do they dress mostly according to their job? How do they display themselves in public, casual or fashionable. Is there something they wear that is of significant symbolic importance?

This will link into the character’s personality and provide the reader with greater insight into their mindset. The reader must be able to logically connect the various aspects of the character.

An example of clothing being a major signifier is the appearance of Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s novels. Reacher commonly wears very plain, practical clothes, often bought cheap so as to attract very little attention to himself. He uses clothes to downplay his size and strength. He wants to seem as ordinary as possible, so that when he gets into trouble he can completely surprise his opponents with his fighting ability.

Name Your Characters

Giving your character a unique or crazy name is a bit of a cheat to making them memorable. However, it’s still worth the thought. No one really gets excited by a character named John Smith. A name can also go some way towards shaping the general impression your character gives to the audience. For example, Inigo Montoya sounds flamboyant and heroic straight off the bat.

Consider this list of the fifty greatest literary character names as inspiration for your own characters. Furthermore, this in-depth character profile template will help you craft your characters more easily.

Write Your Character Into The Story

So now you know your characters, it’s time to integrate them into your story. As stated earlier, you can reveal your characters to the readers in three key ways:

Develop Interior Dialogue

Or more simply, thoughts. Literature has an advantage over film, in most cases, because it allows a writer to delve as deep as they like into the character’s head and directly relay their thoughts. Making use of internal dialogue is a quick way of giving the reader more information and understanding about a character.

Only the character and the audience knows what is going on in the character’s head. While you don’t want to over do it (show don’t tell!), it’s useful in circumstances where you want to show the opinions characters have of each other or the events that happen around them.

Inner dialogue is useful to contrast between what the character says out loud and what they are actually thinking.

Sherlock Holmes is famous for keeping a lot more within than he reveals to others. He holds his deductive reasoning in his head, leaving others puzzled as to how he’s joining the dots of the mystery at hand, until he is sure he has solved the problem. This is why he seems like such a genius when he reveals everything at the end of each story.

Create Authentic Dialogue

Dialogue is the most obvious way of displaying your character’s personality. Their delivery and vocabulary will reveal ample information to the reader, even through a simple conversation. How they converse with other characters is vital to their development and how the audience views them. Tone and inflection are everything.

In the dialogue of Arya Stark, it’s easy to identify her passion, petulance, and vulnerability, depending on where she is and who she is speaking to. In this excerpt she displays youthful innocence despite her otherwise feisty nature:

“I bet this is a brothel,” she whispered to Gendry.
“You don’t even know what a brothel is.”
“I do so,” she insisted. “It’s like an inn, with girls.”

– George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

Talking to guards at a gate she displays her volatile temper:

“I’m not a boy,” she spat at them. “I’m Arya Stark of Winterfell, and if you lay a hand on me my lord father will have both your heads on spikes. If you don’t believe me, fetch Jory Cassel or Vayon Poole from the Tower of the Hand.” She put her hands on her hips. “Now are you going to open the gate, or do you need a clout on the ear to help your hearing?”

– George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Dive Into The Action

Action is a simple and effective way of coercing your character to give away aspects of themselves. Someone slams a door, they’re angry. They runaway, they’re scared or embarrassed. They sigh, they’re disappointed or sad. All of these actions require no speech, yet they still demonstrate to the reader what the character is feeling and thinking.

Action is a great technique to use because it lets the reader play detective. Let them figure out why the character did what they did. This will give the reader satisfaction, when they find out they were right, or surprise, if they were wrong.

In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we learn that Sethe tried to murder all her children in the past. At first we we struggle to think why she would do this when she seems to love Denver so much. The other events and circumstances allow us to guess at her motivations before they are fully revealed to us. The conclusion provokes the realisation that she was actually trying to spare them a life of misery as slaves.

Don’t Make Them Boring!

Just because your characters seem life-like, it doesn’t mean they’re interesting. Unfortunately, real people can be boring sometimes.

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make your brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgebaaarr.” – John Green

You need to give your character a compelling desire or need, a goal that will reel the reader into their story. It might be a story of revenge or mystery, personal redemption or emotional catharsis.

It’s also a good idea to shroud them in some mystery, such that the other characters and the reader can’t quite decipher them. This will keep readers intrigued. For instance, Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne is surrounded by question marks. We know very little of his past or where he got the money to build the Nautilus.

A good character also has to be surprising and unpredictable at times. An effective way to achieve this is to give them some contrasting personality traits. For example, they might be funny but cruel, kind but violent. This just keeps the reader guessing and elevates the tension in the novel.

Danny Kelly in Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas patiently cares for the handicapped but possesses a violent streak that lands him in jail. Not an evil or dangerous character by any means, yet his violent trait develops from his personal demons regarding his sexuality, and the confusion and stigma that came with it.

Vulnerability is another perfect way to get the reader to interact with your characters and story. If a character is in pain or danger, it’s a human reflex to be drawn to them.

Morn Hyland in Stephen Donaldon’s The Gap Cycle is a character that suffers horribly at the start of the first novel. From that point on we are behind her all the way as she fights through the rest of the harrowing series, finding incredible strength to keep from breaking down completely while trying to care for a son that was born of rape.

It’s important to remember your character doesn’t necessarily have to be likeable, even if they are your main character, as long as the reader becomes attached to their narrative. Alex, the protagonist in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess commits vile acts, including rape and manslaughter, but we still want to follow him to see if he can be redeemed.

Find Your Characters In The People Around You

When you think of all the different and interesting people in your life, it doesn’t seem so hard to dream up memorable characters. Family members, friends, acquaintances, enemies. All shapes, sizes, ages. You can take parts of all of them to help create authentic characters, while also drawing on your own thoughts and emotions.

In summary, the most important thing to consider can be summed up by Ernest Hemingway’s famous words:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

The best way to do this is to make your character profile as detailed as possible, before you start your work. Happy writing!

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Via : https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/effective-ways-make-more-memorable-characters/

3 Essential Tips To Make Your Anti-Hero Effective

snape anti hero

“I’m often painted as the bad guy, and the artistic part of me wants to hand out the brush” – Criss Jami, Killosophy

Everyone loves a hero, like Hercules or Superman, who is pure of heart, fights for the good of everyone and always prevails. However, over time these types of characters can become mundane, their victories predictable and hollow. The audience knows the hero can never be defeated so they yearn for more to sink their teeth into. Enter the anti-hero.

The anti-hero is someone who is a protagonist but is lacking traditional heroic qualities. They will still have good intentions at heart for the most part but are afflicted by hamartia, a flaw in their character which dramatically complicates matters.

In some video games, a player can be asked to choose their character’s alignment; lawful good, true neutral, neutral evil, etc. An anti-hero would be classed as chaotic good, a person who will achieve their goals without regard for authority or law.

Because of the distinct character tics that anti-heroes possess they can be significantly more intriguing than a traditional hero who can do no wrong. This is because readers can connect with and relate to the anti-hero on a basic human level. They are how we often envision ourselves, and so they draw us in.

So how does one create an effective anti-hero and what are some examples? Here are 3 tactics to keep in mind when writing an anti-hero.

1. FLAWS

There are many different ways that the anti-hero can raise the ire of the audience.

  • They might be short of moral fibre, with their idea about the right way to do things decidedly different to everyone else’s. This is often the case with detective anti-heroes. The line between police and criminal blurs. An example here would be Inspector Rebus, in Ian Rankin’s novels, who is a borderline alcoholic and is forever being reprimanded for misconduct.
  • Self-doubt may paralyse them into constant failure. When the time comes to prove themselves or help those around them, they are unable to. A good example of this is Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series. Time and time again Ron miscasts spells or loses his nerve.
  • They may have a massive chip on their shoulder, frowning upon the world. This gives them a cantankerous attitude towards the people around them. Hester Shaw from Mortal Engines personifies this with her fierce and often violent temper.
  • Foolhardy anti-heroes bumble along with positive intent but their actions are often laughable. A classic example is Don Quixote who was following a near impossible vision.
  • An anti-hero is sometimes an actual criminal but one who wants to be a better person than they are. A personal favourite is Driver in Drive by James Sallis which was made into a masterful film of the same name.

2. NOBLE INTENTIONS

Be careful not to push the envelope too far. Instil your character with too many undesirable traits and you risk getting the reader offside or even worse, turning your anti-hero into an outright villain. If your character traipses around hurting people or behaving badly without reason then they are not an anti-hero and the audience will fail to empathise with them. Even if they are seen to be working on the side of evil, such as Severus Snape in Harry Potter, they must have hidden agendas for good and show enough glimpses of this to keep them balanced.

There are many characters who tread a fine line between hero and villain. A very complicated anti-hero is Sula Peace in Sula by Toni Morrison. She is seen as the personification of evil by her hometown when she returns after a long absence. Her apparent disregard for social conventions have the town seething but little do they realise she is actually bringing the town together and improving their lives.

Another quintessential case is Bruce Robertson in Filth by Irvine Welsh. He is an alcoholic, drug addicted, violent, manipulative, masochistic, narcissistic man. A truly vile character that has the saving graces of being a law enforcement officer. He is slightly redeemed by the motivation he has for his family and there is sympathy to be found in his plight.  This brings us to the next consideration.

3. REDEEMING FEATURES

As much as the audience might be frustrated by the anti-hero they must also be delighted, charmed, or moved for the character to be a successful literary feature. Similarly to flaws, there are multiple avenues to explore in order to get the audience behind the heroes back.

  • An easy way to redeem your character is to give them a great sense of humour, be it dry wit, scathingly clever sarcasm, or more outlandish comedy. If the character can make the reader laugh they can’t be all bad. Arthur and Ford from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy qualify here.
  • The anti-hero can be decidedly charming and reassuring such as Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby who is living the American dream despite lying about everything.
  • They can be dashingly handsome and attractively dark. Think Don Draper in Mad Men.
  • They can even be quite brave to make up for other weaknesses. Bilbo in The Hobbit is greedy and his will is unable to withstand the ring causing him to retreat from Gandalf’s confidence but he is the most courageous of the party.

Put ‘simply’ the anti-hero is incredibly conflicted and complicated. Some of their actions would ordinarily mark them as evil but at heart they are always good. It is a difficult and nuanced task to create the perfect anti-hero. Push too far one way and you are left with a more one dimensional character which the audience will find either too pure and thus boring or too vile and thus inaccessible.

Further Reading

Here is a list of all the texts mentioned above (with a bonus extra) to provide plenty of valuable insight into anti-heroes.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams
  • The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sula (1973) by Toni Morrison
  • Inspector Rebus novels (1987-2013) by Ian Rankin
  • Mortal Engines (2001) by Phillip Reeve
  • Harry Potter series (1997- 2007) by J. K. Rowling
  • The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1612) by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • Drive (2005) by James Sallis
  • Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Hobbit (1937) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Filth (1998) by Irvine Welsh

Via: https://writersedit.com/3-essential-tips-make-anti-hero-effective/

Tips for Writing Round Characters

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I’ve never had a character come to me fully formed and ready to go. They come to me like ghosts and I have to make them real by getting to know them over time. Creating (good) characters is hard work, but when you take the time and effort to make them ’round’ it’s always worth it.

So what is a ’round’ character? E.M Forster wrote in Aspects of the Novel, that:

“The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat… It has an incalculability of life about it – life within the pages of a book.”

Someone once told me that if you can imagine the character existing outside of the novel, if they have lives that reach beyond their role in the book’s plot, they’re round. It’s all about putting life back in those ghostly figures that first appear.

But it’s not always so easy to create a round character. One approach is to let the characters reveal themselves to you, to really sit down and get to know them.

Ask questions.

Write out a set of questions for your character and conduct a kind of interview. This gets your brain thinking about all sorts of random details that you can use for background info to help round out your character. If you’re not sure what to ask, check out this list of possible questions.

HINT: This works even better if you don’t know the questions beforehand. Have a friend do the asking – it’ll keep you on your toes!

Have a chat.

Imagine physically meeting your character for the first time (maybe in a cafe, or at the library – it depends on the character). How does the conversation begin? How do they respond to you? This is great for picking up body language and visualisations about the character.

HINT: It’s not recommended to tell people who aren’t writers that you’ve been ‘talking with your characters’. They just don’t get it. Believe me.

Fill out a job application.

This idea comes from an article on The Write Practice. It’s a great way to work out the facts about a character. Don’t forget the important yet sometimes over looked details like age, date of birth, and previous work history.

HINT: As the article says, don’t hesitate to add more parts to the job application and really scrutinise your character.

Write a letter.

Not many people write letters anymore, so this is a great way to learn more about your character’s motivations, their past, their friends, and so on. It’s a good exercise for creating tone and voice as well as vocabulary.

HINT: Don’t post it!

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Happy writing 🙂

Via: http://writersedit.com/resources-for-writers/4-tips-writing-round-characters/