Return of the blog

December!  For those imaginary people who don’t know and are deeply concerned about the status of my NaNovel, I did hit the 50,000 mark on the 30th, although the book itself probably needs another 20-30K.  I’ll aim to have it finished for the end of the year, but I will now also have time to write other things, such as – this very blog!  I am excited.  Upcoming topics include how Steven Moffat went from being my hero to making me want to string the Eleventh Doctor up by his suspenders and feed him bowties until he learns that agonising sexism does not enchant me, and weird metaphors using hair colour to stand in for gender and why gender in general confuses the hell out of me if I think about it for more than 15 seconds.

However, first, what we obviously need is one more NaNoWriMo post to wrap-up my thoughts on the month.  As I’ve noted before, the most powerful bit of wisdom I got in terms of teaching myself to write again was the dual realisation that 1) if I gave myself permission to write terrible stuff instead of perfect prose, I could actually write much more and much faster than I thought, and that 2) it still did not suck.  But beyond that, there were some other fascinating moments.

I posted some time back about the internal conflict I faced when the only character in my novel that I felt able to kill off was, unrelatedly, also the only major gay character.  For whatever reason, QUILTBAG presence was also one of the major topics of discussion on the NaNoWriMo forums this year (I’m told they have trends like that every year), and at least one gay person spoke up to specifically state his absolute scorn for the Bury Your Gays page of TVTropes.  Not for the (in his view) obsolete trends of killing off gay characters, but for people who have the TVTropes obsession with cataloguing things and so automatically categorise every single death of a character who happens to be gay as ‘dead because gay’.  He said, basically, that he was less concerned with whether the character dies and more with whether they were any good while they were alive.

So I thought more about the physician (Lukas) and why I had been uncomfortable about killing him off, and the first scene he showed up in, and realised that the problem was not so much any of his character traits as his flatness – not so much a character as a device.  Once I started writing him in circumstances that got real reactions out of him, he became far more interesting – shy, sarcastic, intensely overworked but totally adores his job, that sort of thing.  And with a more 3D persona, I found the idea of killing him off much less uncomfortable.  (Conversely, the king has received much less pagetime than I expected and remains kind of flat – I’d feel weird about killing him off, because it would seem to me more like that was the only purpose he served, which I don’t really think any character deserves.)

However, spoilers, Lukas is still not going to get killed off, because I’ve also determined that I’m just not that into it.  There are far more interesting ways to show that the situation is serious or to make a permanent harmful impact on a character.  (Additional spoilers for the end of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series: with a couple of episodes left to go, the current villain catches the heroes in a trap and manages to kill off a bunch of secondaries.  He also gets his hands on Xander and gouges his eye out with his thumb.  Scariest gorram thing I had ever seen a villain do, and this is a series on which villains have successfully killed the heroine twice and Willow once flayed a guy with her mind.)

When a character gets killed off in a story I’m reading, the majority of the time I don’t really feel sorrow – I either feel cheated by the author, because they’ve invested time in a character and then abruptly cut off that storyline and made the character development irrelevant (George RR Martin, I scorn at you, and same to you, every Star Wars author involved in developing Anakin Solo’s storyline) or vaguely “Well, that’s unfortunate, but I still know the heroes will be okay” (this is what Brandon Sanderson usually gets from me).  The first author who comes to mind as evoking a real sorrowful reaction to the death of a character is JK Rowling.  If it makes sense to say so, I think when she killed someone off, she managed to do it in a way that brought their character arc to a real end (thus I don’t feel cheated) while still allowing that their life should have continued (thus their death still hits me emotionally).  How she does this – I am not sure.

And it is increasingly clear to me that Lukas’ character arc is not over by the end of the book, because I know there’s a sequel ready across the sea, when Eliane and Théo return home after this story ends, and both of them are rather important to him right now – I think he’ll be going too, at least temporarily.  My characters have thus far been stomped by collapsing houses*, blown up in alcohol fires, sliced by broken windows, shanked with a juggler’s knives, nearly drowned, savaged by an unkillable berserker, seared with magical radiation, and we’re not even into the part of the story where things really go bad.  It’s safe to say they’re really going to need the magical surgeon with them in the sequel if they want to keep the majority of their limbs.

Also, one of the last scenes I wrote before hitting 50K was a fantastically hybridised argument/flirtation/medical treatment between Lukas and Théo and I’m finding it hard to imagine that I could ever get tired of those two.  I guess I’ll see what happens once Lukas’ claim/excuse that Théo might be an assassin sent to topple the government becomes too improbable for them to not properly mack on each other.

*Connor and Haldis actually managed to burn down the same house twice in twenty-four hours, which is kind of impressive if you think about it.


3 comments on “Return of the blog

  1. Brin says:

    string the Eleventh Doctor up by his suspenders and feed him bowties

    Not necessarily as bad as it sounds, though I suppose you’d still get sick of it after a while.

    (I look forward to it.)

  2. anamardoll says:

    I like this post so much. :)

    However, I’m sorry I missed the NaNo discussion on the TV Trope. For me “Bury Your Gays” has always been a problematic way of solving the “Paired Off At The End” mandate that everyone has to have their true love at the end of the book/series/movie. Killing the gay characters seems like a cheap way to avoid having to show them in a committed gay relationship at the end (something that the censors are frequently opposed to), which is one of the reasons why I’ve always found the practice problematic.

  3. Will Wildman says:

    I think it’s still clearly problematic, but the (compelling) argument that the guy on the forum was advancing boils down to ‘If you do anything with a gay character specifically because he is gay, that is bad’ – that includes killing them off, but it also includes sparing them in a circumstance where you would have offed a straight guy.

    And, of course, the long-term solution is just to feature more QUILTBAG characters until it becomes completely normal all the time and they are no longer the Ambassador from Minoritania.

    (I can really easily see how irritating the patronising positive discrimination would get. In a tangential discussion about including QUILTBAG characters, someone very seriously asked if it wasn’t sexist of him if he included a gay character and not a lesbian character. I pointed out that this would be like saying it was racist to have a Vietnamese character and not an Egyptian character, which seemed to work for him, and was probably more effective than my first instinct: “You don’t get bonus points for a full house! This is a cast of people, not a hand of poker!” Apparently some people just gotta catch ’em all.)

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