Friday, March 23, 2012

The Witch's Brew- The Writer and the Pirate, Part Four of Four



Pirates can't write worth a damn.

But they're always giving advice and pushing that bottle of rum at you.

Don't do it.  Don't take even a sip.

Years at sea and most of them don't have a gold doubloon to their  name.  But they go on and on about buried treasure and stormy seas.  Slapping the tavern table and spilling the rum everywhere.  Eyes darting around the room looking for danger while whispering to you about bloody battles and captured damsels.  Dead men tell no tales and skeleton fingers pointing the way.

They push their witch's brew at you.

Strong female characters.  Strong male characters.  Fatal flaws.  Characters just like the ones you've seen on   television and movies.  Just like the ones you've read about in other books.  Actually, that's where they get them.

You're almost convinced.  Pirates know their writing, don't they?  They sound like they really know what they're talking about.  They have an eye-patch over one eye and the other is lit like a lantern you can follow with confidence to the shore of writing success.

Look closer, it's actually a skeleton holding that lantern.

Pirate writers, you see, are just skeletons.  There's no meat on their bones.  There's no meat on their character's bones.  They're not real.  They're simply pirated from the stories and scripts that someone else created.  That's why we call them pirates.

They don't do what real writers do.


It's why so many characters in so many books, TV shows and movies seem alike.  

They are.

Readers are desperate for truly original characters.  They don't want Fool's Gold from pirates.


Don't be a pirate writer.

But while it's just you and me here, tell me how close the characters you create are to those you've read about and watched on either TV or the movies.

Don't be nervous, it's just the two of us talking.  Are your characters really yours?  I don't mean to say you stole them.  I just want you to examine how original they really are.  Is their dialogue something you've already ready or heard?  Their mannerisms?


Think about it.




18 comments:

Gina Gao said...

This is a great post. I loved how you started off.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Anna Smith said...

When I do start writing properly, I'm gona base my characters on people I know. My friends don't know any writers so no-one will have used their unique lil habits and ways of thinking yet, I hope! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Lately, I think I've been doing some pretty original characters. I've been happy with them anyway. Absolutely right now so many characters are like twins that appear in books and movies these days.

BernardL said...

Heroic characters share similar traits as do villainous ones. I doubt that can be helped. After growing up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Ian Fleming, it would be nearly impossible not to create heroic characters with some similarities. Three factors that bring unique qualities to any writing are story, humor, and a hint of darkness in the heroic soul. I noticed while reading early pulp fiction, spy, and sword and sorcery novels, they were all nearly devoid of humor. If a writer can make a reader laugh out loud, that author has a fan.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They say there is nothing new under the sun, so yes, bits of my characters probably came from movies and shows.

Rick said...

Thanks, Gina! You have a good blog going over at your place.

Rick said...

There is a saying that "writers always win." That's because we write the endings, Anna!

Rick said...

The fact that you have a highly original mind helps, Charles!

Rick said...

That last idea of yours is a great one, Bernard. If they laugh, they're yours.

Rick said...

Oprah will forgive you, Alex.

Travis Cody said...

I guess some of my characters could be derivative. I do try to give them unique voices and perspective.

What is it they say about music? There are only so many notes...the composer who can find a way to arrange them that doesn't sound like everything else, well he's got himself a compelling tune.

Rick said...

Hello Travis! I like the music example- it perfectly expresses the conundrum.

David Cranmer said...

Very thoughtful post, Rick. Originality is sadly lacking these days.

Bonnee Crawford said...

I hope mine are as original as can be acceptable for my story. Of course characters will have traits and whatnot in common with characters from some place else, but the author's job is to take a character and customize it; make it their own character. Turn it into something different and new by changing this, that and the other, and adapting them to fit their own stories. The characters in my novel... one is based on a cooler version of myself, so she is definitely mine. The others could be referenced to other characters from some place else, but I've created them to be different from anything they're compared to. They're mine. I hope. Establishing their personalities and keeping them constant is something I've been particularly focused on whilst editing recently.

G. B. Miller (aka G) said...

I would like to think that my characters are original. I would also like to think that the only common trait that they have (at least the female character) is that they're strong and fiercely independent.

Rick said...

Thanks,David. By the way, your post over at your blog was the most poignant piece I've read in many years. It's kept me thinking for the last few days.

Rick said...

That's always the trick, isn't it, Bonnee. Making them alive and consistent to us first so that they'll eventually be able to be perceived that way by the reader.

Rick said...

Hi, G!

Strong and fiercely independent. I've noticed this trend over the years that kind and compassionate are sinking lower and lower on the Richter Writing Scale while strong and fiercely independent have been climbing over the dead bodies of fallen angels to achieve the pinnacle and plant the flag of acceptable character types.

Reading what I just wrote, I believe I'm now leading the charge for longer sentences!