Personal Archetypes

According to Wikipedia, an archetype is defined as:

  1. A statement, or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated.
  2. The Platonic philosophical idea, referring to pure forms which embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing.
  3. In Jungian psychology, archetypes refer to a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
  4. Archetypes can refer to a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting or mythology. This usage of the term draws from both comparative anthropology and Jungian archetypal theory.

In literature, The Mentor is an archetype (Gandalf, Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumlbedore, Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and so forth). So is the Everyman (Arthur Dent, Bilbo Baggins, John Watson… basically every character Martin Freeman has ever played). You can find twelve examples of them here— or spend the next two weeks of your life lost in the digital labyrinth that is TV Tropes. But while some archetypes are universal, every writer has a couple of tropes that are their personal favorites.

So here are two (three?) of mine:

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_in_South_India.jpg
Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_in_South_India.jpg

The Pet Tiger

I began noticing these sorts of characters as a teenager. Izark/Izaac in From Far Away/Kanata Kara.  Vegeeta in Dragon Ball Z (to some degree). Sesshomaru in Inuyasha. Yes, I watched a lot of anime during that time of my life. Recently, I would refer to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Castiel from Supernatural as Pet Tigers, as is Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite... though he’s got the less common designation of being an anti-hero to start out with, rather than an outright villain.

The pet tiger is a person who is powerful– often insanely so, to the degree that they first appear as a small-scale villain. They’re big, they’re scary, they could snap you like a toothpick. But then they have one too many run-ins with the wrong person (TV Tropes refers to this person as a Morality Pet). They’re forced into prolonged exposure to that person, for some reason can’t kill them, and they start to appreciate them– as a friend, as a potential lover, as somebody to protect, it doesn’t matter. Somehow, usually completely by accident, they wind up tamed. They still growl, but they don’t bite nearly as often– unless somebody hurts the Tiger’s Morality Pet. At that point, there is no force on Hell or earth that can save you from their wrath.

In my writing, Pet Tigers tend to be associated with cats or dogs– predators that in their larger forms famously eat people, but which we keep as loving pets.

Yin_and_Yang.svgJara and Kya

If the name Kya is familiar, this is why. Once upon a time, my best friend and I started working on a story together. The two main characters were originally based on ourselves– and then stylized and exaggerated so many times so as to become something else entirely. My character’s name was Jara, hers was Kya.

The Kya is bright and bubbly, trusting and naiive– not because she’s stupid, but because she can afford to be. She’s nice to everyone and give them the benefit of the doubt, because if they betray that trust, she knows the Jara will royally mess them up. In comparison, the Jara is quiet, and usually only opens her mouth to be snide, snarky, or strategic. She naturally assumes the worst of others, and is ready with contingency plans for anything that could possibly go wrong. Usually violent ones. Often the Jara tries to experience joy vicariously through the Kya, usually by spoiling her rotten and letting her have her way, and tends to express anger on both of their behalf, so the Kya doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of such an outburst. They tend to be at least slightly codependent on one another, and stories tend to grind to a halt when they’re separated: the Jara is too practical to do anything adventure-worthy of her own volition (better to bunker down and fortify), and the Kya too whimsical and optimistic to stay alive very long without somebody to watch her back.

Will and Jem of The Infernal Devices are essentially poster children for the archetype. Supernatural‘s Sam and Dean sometimes reflect the Jara/Kya dynamic, but not nearly as much as do Flynn and Rapunzel from Tangled. Kyouya and Tamaki of Ouran High School Host Club also fit the mold to a degree.

I put a Jara/Kya pair in every work, even if they’re very minor characters. They’re easy enough to find: When I write them, the Jara of the pair always has ‘ara’ somewhere in her name. I like to think of it as a personal signature, not unlike the way Terry Pratchett always has Death make a cameo in the Discworld novels, even if he’s not part of the main plot line.

Admittedly, Pet Tigers and Jara/Kya pairs aren’t that far apart. A Jara could well be a Pet Tiger who’s had several years of practice. Generally Jara/Kya pairs have a longstanding history and tend to act as a unit rather than individually, while the Pet Tiger is more often seen grumbling alone in a corner until he’s needed.

Sensing a pattern here…?

I’m not shy about admitting that I’ve always had a thing for devotion that borders on the obsessive. Miss Pross is my favorite character from A Tale of Two Cities, as are Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings and Conseil from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… and Lindy is eternally tied with Maladonis Bin for my favorite character in Kindar’s Cure. These are the kind of characters I like to read about, and therefore they keep winding up my writing.

Do you have any personal tropes or archetypes you go out of your way to include– or ones that keep cropping up in your writing by accident? Tell us about them in the comments!

Writer Woes: An abundance of details

Sorry, needlessly complicated subplot. We're gonna have to let you go.
Sorry, needlessly complicated subplot. We’re gonna have to let you go. (creative commons, source: wikipedia)

This is the second part of my response to this blog post, asking about writing woes.

I write fantasy. And because it isn’t rooted in our world, that means I have spent a whole lot of time worldbuilding.

My current WIP deals with the interaction of three separate countries, as well as the influence of a fourth country that’s only mentioned in passing. Each of those countries has a dominant religion (or in Tarlam’s case, several dozen religions vying for dominance), creation myths, geography, technology, primary imports and exports, unique social structures, languages, taboos, dominant attitudes toward gender and sexuality, histories, virtues, vices, etc, etc, etc.

Each of the characters has their own backstory which shapes his or her attitudes and behaviors– and these actions have consequences. Some of those backstories overlap and influence other characters.

What’s frustrating is that many of these details will never see the light of day. I’ll know them, but they’re not relevant to the plot, so often they will sink beneath the surface, becoming little more than currents and subtexts. Sometimes one of the biggest writer woes is the struggle to know what to cut, especially when you really liked it.

Here’s an example from DREAMKEEPER:

Twenty years ago, one of the major characters helped send a ship full of refugees to a neutral country. While some of those refugees went into hiding, others banded together to form a resistance against the forces that drove them from their homes. The son of one of those resistance fighters grew up to become a spy, and planted himself as a footman in the same house as Aren, the protagonist. For years now, Aren’s been mistaking his attention for a crush, when in reality he’s been doing surveillance on her.

He’s still in her household, keeping watch– but in more than 100k words, he gets mentioned maybe twice. He doesn’t even have any lines. Because while he and the resistance are effective elsewhere, they don’t actually influence Aren’s story. And that means they got the ax.

Me, I like to think his story was interesting. But that’s what they’re talking about when they say to murder your darlings.

What about you? Have you had to cut any characters or subplots like these? Here’s a chance to share the darlings that might not get to see the light of day!

The thing about originality

I was just scrolling through my Reader on WordPress when I spotted this blog post, about a book called THE DREAM KEEPER, which involves a creature called a shifter.

In case you haven’t heard, my WIP is tentatively called DREAMKEEPER, and features a race of people called shifters. 

There was a time when this coincidence would have royally freaked me out. What if my idea really isn’t original after all? What if people confuse the two books? What if–

You get the picture. 

Image
I’m pretty sure that book doesn’t have one of these either… but that may have more to do with the fact that I can’t really draw.

These days, though, I just chuckle and take a closer look. Beyond the surface details, Mikey Brooks’ THE DREAM KEEPER has nothing to do with my story. One is a modern MG, the other is a NA that takes place in a pseudo-Edwardian war zone. They both spend a significant time dealing with dreams, but for completely different reasons, and with completely different rules attached. Though both may have some similar themes (like trusting your enemies), they’re entirely different interpretations on those themes.

I once took a writing class in college where three of us wrote stories to turn in on the same week, and completely independently we all came up with a story that revolved around a god masquerading as an elderly homeless man (okay, so in one story he was the patron deity of the homeless, but he still looked like one). But aside from sharing that detail (and a few other details that naturally accompany such subject matter) we all had overwhelmingly different stories. One was a reflection of Zen Buddhism, one was an epic adventure, one was more of a Hans Christian Andersen-style fairy tale.

And that’s the beauty of creativity.

 It’s said that there is no true originality– everything is just a rehash of something else. As Mark Twain said, “What a good thing Adam had–when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before.”

But just because a subject has been tackled before doesn’t make it off limits. Nobody has every tackled that subject quite the way you will. And the more you study the works of others, the more you can learn which ways a thing has already been done, and which directions they haven’t yet thought to twist it. 

Like a Virgin Blog Hop

935211_10152891404485246_2097919417_n
Considering I’d been driving nearly 20 hours when this photo was taken, I think it’s one of my better ones.

I’ll be entering the Like A Virgin Contest this July. One of the events is the official “Getting to Know You” blog hop, where we’re hoping to meet some other contestants, potential beta readers and critique partners. If you’re interested in becoming writing buds, let me know in the comments! Admission to the contest is still open, so if you’re interested (and you have a contest-virgin up your sleeve), come check out the contest and join in the blog hop!

  1. How do you remember your first kiss? I like to think of it as bold. So far my experience with romance had been reading and writing romantic fanfic… and as it turns out, it’s not entirely realistic. When Boxy moved in to kiss me (yes, my husband was also my first kiss), I did exactly what the heroines in all my favorite steamy fics did: I turned it into a full-on make-out session. Maybe it’s not conventional, but we both had a lot of fun.
  2. What was your first favorite love song? I’m guessing somewhere around 90% of songs are love songs in one way or another. My first favorite that I thought of as a love song, though, was Desert Rose by Sting. It’s not a love song to any one person– it’s more about the enchantment of being in love. I used to call the local radio station constantly begging them to play it, but the only times I ever heard it on the radio were completely by accident. How’s that for a metaphor?
  3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day? These days, I start by making a to-do list of all the stuff I need to get done by the time I get to bed, and my #nifty350 is always at the top of that list, and it’s the first thing I cross off. Sometimes I only get 350 words written, and sometimes I get really into it and write a couple thousand.
  4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer? Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She wrote her first book when she was thirteen, and it wasn’t about the sort of stuff I was used to– instead it was about pretty much everything my teenage self wanted to be. Atwater-Rhodes could do it, and she didn’t need a Hemmingway-esque alcohol problem alcohol or drugs or grad school (which includes alcohol and drugs with the cost of tuition) or even “life experience” to get there. She just had a story to tell, and she told it. So why couldn’t I?
  5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with? Excuse me while I peel myself off the floor, I’m laughing too hard. I’m actually torn between what I’d call my “first” book. DREAMKEEPER is the first story I started writing with any serious intentions… but even then, it was just a fanfiction at the time. So the original first chapter was about a poorly disguised fictionalized version of myself crawling through a secret door in my her closet door and coming out just outside of Rivendell, and then met an orc who remembered being an elf before the whole Silmarillion deal went down. I didn’t even get to chapter five before it wasn’t even recognizably associated with The Lord of the Rings anymore. At least two dozen redrafts, rewrites and re-imaginings later, only a few accidental details bear any resemblance to the original fanfic. Hell, even the tech level got nudged forward by a few hundred years. Someday I’d love to host a contest to see who can figure out which of my characters started out as which LotR characters. I think the truth might surprise you.
  6. For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting? The first book I finished writing (my other first), started with a name: Chicago. I had a very clear mental image of this character– blond, quick and scrawny, wearing oversized clothes and shingle tiles for bracers– and immediately I knew all Chicago’s friends and family would also be named for cities, and that this would be a post-apocalyptic story. What I didn’t know was Chicago’s gender. I ended up having to consult my little sister to decide whether Chicago was a masculine or feminine name. The rest fell into place from there.
  7. What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing? I don’t want a word– I want a laugh, or a squeal, or a gasp, or one of those tumblr-famous keyboard mashes. What I want more than anything is for my writing to leave somebody speechless.

 

The things you learn when researching!

The things you learn when researching!
English: Giant Haast's eagle attacking New Zea...
Giant Haast’s eagle attacking New Zealand moa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My current WIP involved shapeshifters, and Michelle brought up a good question: Why doesn’t a shapeshifter just pick up the protagonist and fly her off, Hobbit-style, to where he needs to go?

I considered it a simple issue of physics: in order to pick up and carry an adult human, you’d need enormous wings, and eventually you get big enough that muscles wouldn’t be able to move them.

For reference I used the albatross, which is enormous but can only carry very small loads, and the extinct Haast’s eagle, which was believed to eat moa birds and occasionally human children before its main food source was hunted to extinction by the Maori several hundred years ago. Though it was relatively huge (roughly 45 lbs), it looks like it didn’t carry off its pray so much as dive at it, maul it like a tiger, and then eat it where it had fallen.

Now, I was under the impression that the Haast’s eagle was the largest predatory bird.

Turns out I was wrong. Continue reading “The things you learn when researching!”