Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Today's writing course lesson is to do something I've been doing since the start, using a timer.  Given how early on it suggested having a minimum unit of time, it seems a bit redundant to talk about it again more than two weeks later.  Which leaves me at a bit of a loose end, given I don't have anything today that really grabs my attention.

Let's see what I can come up with using a random writing prompt online.  "Language Is a Virus", I like it already.  Lessee...."Describe ways in which your character does or doesn't show readiness."

For this exercise, I think I'll take a character I've had in my head for some time, Tell from Air Born.  Briefly, Tell (short for Estelle, which she hates) is a bit of a tomboy obsessed with flying machines and raised by her aunt on a remote farm, itself on one of a cluster of flying islands.  Finding that her parents, or at least one of them, is still alive she sets off on a quest to find them, accompanied by her childhood friend.  The story gets bigger from there of course, but the point here is the character.  

I haven't done a lot of character-building exercises, and honestly I really should.  It's better to know who you're dealing with so you can hear their voice as you're creating stories with them, something which always tells me I'm on the right track.  So delving into one aspect of who Tell is sounds like a great idea.  

So we start with figuring out what "readiness" is, and a dictionary definition is good enough.  According to Google, it's the state of being prepared or willing to do something, to take an action.  Seems simple enough, and indeed seems like something that'll crop up quite a bit since I want Air Born to be a lot more action oriented than a romance like Artificial Heart.  Tell will often instigate the action, or at least more quick to react than her companions much of the time.  By contrast, her childhood friend (who for some reason I decided to call Tank which I now hate, must fix that) is the one who puts the brakes on and provides the voice of what he at least sees as common sense.  Certainly the voice of not throwing yourself unarmed into the middle of a battle, an act which if properly motivated Tell wouldn't think twice about.

Tell of course is much inspired by a series of Miyazaki heroines, although I don't want her limited to that.  Yes, she's forthright.  She's also driven, the need to see her parent(s) again is a powerful motivation that underlies many of her actions, although she does feel a greater sense of responsibility to do the right thing as well.  But internally, except in cases where her internal sense of right shows her a definite path I want her to be a bit more indecisive at least on the inside.

So the good question here is, how does it manifest, her resolve to do something or move forward, particularly when confronted with a variety of choices or a moral dilemma?  Miyazaki, always my inspiration when dealing with this sort of character, would show that sort of thing visually.  A set look of determination, shoulders rising, even hair standing up a bit.  But this is prose, and you can't really sell it the same way.

I could, I suppose, describe how it feels for her when the time is right in those terms.  The feeling of hair standing up on her arms or back of the neck and so forth.  And in tense moments I can see that working.  But I only want to be inspired by Miyazaki not copy him.  So I need something else.

As a main character of a story I'm writing, I want to give Tell something of myself.  One aspect I think would work in her case is my habit of waffling, at least internally, over an action and then almost despite myself arbitrarily picking one and going with it.  But of course it isn't arbitrary, it's the result of a process that goes on below the surface of conscious thought.  In my own way, I think about things and then make a decision, but it's really the decision part I'm aware of and sometimes I have to figure out my own logic later.  

That's something I can see happening with Tell.  Not in the case of split-second decisions of course, those would be sheer instinct or experience.  But in cases like "where do we go" or "should we take this course of action or look for an alternative", I can see it.  In those cases she would hold herself back, perhaps becoming more passive and quiet during the deliberation process.  And then, once she comes to a decision and has decided on an action her demeanor would change.

That change, I suppose, is what the question is getting at in the first place.  So here's what I envision.

First of all would be posture.  Tell is on the smallish side, one of the shortest of the main group of characters.  This is especially noticeable when she's indecisive or unsure of herself.  But when she's made a decision that she believes in, her posture changes to a much stronger stance, almost appearing to be larger as a result.  She may even tend to lean forward a little.  Her tone of voice would also change, with more confidence behind her words. Slightly louder, more definite choice of words.  Instead of "I think we should" she would say "We will".  At times like this she is a natural leader, simply expecting that the others will accept her decisions and follow, and as they get to know her that will tend to be a correct assumption.

As to the raising hackles and such, I think I'd leave those as a sign of impatience or growing excitement, rather than resolution.  However, a sterner set to her features, a harder gaze, and the aforementioned change in posture would be a better indicator of readiness.  Her childhood friend (who still needs a better name than Tank, why did I come up with that nonsense?) would be sued to the whole process, having spent the better part of his life as her tagalong.  He'd have seen her go through the thinking, deciding and then readiness stages many times, so he'd be able to recognize it immediately.  

One of the opening scenes of the story would be a great place to showcase this series of changes.  Tell is confronted with a crisis, and in the midst of it is given a great shock.  She must then process it quickly before choosing a course of action, which the story requires she do decisively.  A moment's break in the action to display the shock, processing and then resolution and quick transformation into command mode would let the readers know what to expect from Tell in the future.

So I suppose that answers the question.  How Tell shows her readiness, and how she shows she isn't quite ready yet, plus a situation where she'll be shown working it out.  I would imagine scenes where she isn't presented with a clear direction or where no choice is a really good one.  Cases like those would essentially be the opposite, where she'd have a slumped posture, more neutral features and softer voice.  A much more subdued character would come forward until she manages to work though those issues. Childhood Friend, being a good guy who cares deeply for her (in a non-romantic fashion) would know that simply supporting Tell and waiting out her thought processes was the correct thing to do when that happens.

As a side note, I really have the urge to make the unnamed CF into this super good guy, who'd normally be a love interest but the two of them both know it wouldn't work and they don't push it.  The whole bromance thing I suppose, although Tell does get a romantic interest later and CF is Mr. Awesome Wingman.  Literally since Tell and the eventual object of her affections are both pilots.

Anyhow, that's one aspect covered.  It makes me kinda hungry to explore other characters that I'm planning to use in various stories.  Maybe another day.

2 time segments

1394 words

No comments: