We try, as writers, as purveyors of fictional stories, to make characters who can handle the challenges set before them. How a character responds is entirely up to the writer, and the limits of the world in which their characters are interacting.
For Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, guns are less important than magic and how Dresden uses it. Is Harry somebody who loves bending rules? Then by all means, using necromancy to resurrect a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton at the museum is reasonable. Conversely, Larry Correia’s Owen Pitt knows well how to use firearms, as opposed to magic. Thus, his using a heavily modified shotgun named “Abomination” is entirely in keeping with his personality and backstory.
This isn’t the only way we determine our characters’ personalities or their responses. It’s in how characters make decisions and pass along instructions. No genuinely real person is going to make perfect decisions all the time very time. Mary Sue and Gary Stu are impossibilities. A perfect person is one which readers cannot identify with. That lack of empathy is a serious hindrance to drawing the reader in and keeping their attention.
Those identifying flaws are also part of the conflict which keeps the storyline moving forward. As our character(s) sets about compensating for their flaws, defying the odds and surpassing the conflicts in which they are engaged we are drawn in to the story, cheering them on in their pursuit. This is where the Emperor Mong makes his appearance.
We’ve talked about the Emperor Mong here before. The Good Idea Fairy gets marching orders from the Emperor. That idea which sounded so perfect? It’s going to fail. Spectacularly. And don’t be surprised if Mong leaves you in dire straits, all on your lonesome. He’s a cunning one, Emperor Mong. His utterances need not be grandiose. Indeed, sometimes they are simple and understated. “Use the Hobart mixer to shred the pork shoulders.” Simple instruction from a supervisor, right? How could the Emperor possibly make a hash of this?
“Oh we don’t need to use the mixing shield.”
“Why would we use the dough hook? Grab the flat beater!”
“Let’s pour in a gallon of barbecue sauce before we’ve figured this all out and turn the mixer on to it’s highest speed.”
In a matter of less than 3 minutes, that nice neat commercial kitchen looks like a murder scene. You’ve blown a fuse, the mixer won’t turn on, and you’ve managed to bind up the beater of a commercial mixer with shredded pork. A janitor is standing on a ladder, wiping the ceiling clean with a mop. Cursed be the Emperor, through whom no goodness comes.
Now take a look at your story: how are you going to add some conflict? What flaws can you give a character that makes your readers empathize with them? What mistakes are they going to make because of those flaws? How will the purple smoke-and-incense wreathed Emperor Mong visit them? If they’re partially deaf, do they mishear the instructions given them by their employer and have to fight to overcome that? Memory less? A short temper? What lessons do they undergo and how are you going to demonstrate that the character has learned from the experiences?
Waldo Butters, first introduced in Jim Butcher’s Grave Peril, started out scared for his life. Shy, introverted, scared, eccentric, and terrified. By the conclusion of Skin Game, what has he become? A Knight of the Cross. One who challenged the fallen angel Anduriel and won. Waldo has made mistakes along the way, even within Skin Game. But he continues to try. And in the end proves his worthiness to be great. Think about the kids, teens and even adults who read Urban Fantasy. How many use these books as a form of escapism, because they understand the fear and pain of being a Waldo Butters? Your writing has the power to make a positive difference in the life of another. Oh sure, you’re doing it for other reasons, including getting paid. Exposure doesn’t pay the rent. Benjamins do. But as Marshall Mathers III declared so adroitly:
“Give every kid who got played that pumped-up feelin’
And shit to say back to the kids who played him
I ain’t here to save the fuckin’ children
But if one kid out of a hundred million
Who are goin’ through a struggle,
feels it and relates, that’s great!”
Have yourself a motivated day, and remember, Polka Will Never Die.
Getting ready to do NaNo and reading this gave me an idea of what I need to do with a story that is NOT ON THE DOCKET. Darn it!
Though I suppose it counts for the current project, too.
I need to have my characters make mistakes and have there be consequences to them. I generally don’t do that. They aren’t perfect and they aren’t always right but it’s never specific. “Well, Bubba was too trusting but he got over it before anything bad happened….”
I usually think in terms of big things and how I’m not good at those big mistakes and big consequences, but I realize I don’t put a lot of small ones in there either. So this has given me something to think about.
My main character in this year’s NaNoWriMo starts as a introverted loser and chronic screw-up, who has tried a lot of things and failed. Under a different kind of pressure, he puts it all together and becomes a hero.
Another great phrase from Emperor Mong: Don’t worry about changing all that, the Admins won’t notice!
All Hail the Great Emperor! My hero will have to trip, the next time he’s having it too easy in a fight.
Xen, let alone R’ad, doesn’t trip. I do remember the scene where Xen wants to sit lotus-style but can’t manage it and complains about rehab before opening a gate. No clue which book it’s in, though.
I suppose you could have meant that metaphorically. I hear authors do that.
“I have a cunning plan…”
“I have a cunning plan”. ….. What popped into my head was the scene from Fairy Tale Theater’s *Dancing Princesses*. This was the eldest daughter not the Emperor Mong who I believe I’ve met elsewhere.
Wow…I’m looking at my characters and I’m realizing just all the neurotic messes they are.
But, they are my neurotic messes and they don’t use their issues as an excuse for not trying to do better.
I don’t have an outline to start fresh, so I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.
Also, the novel I’m trying to finish is a matter of tediously and slowly figuring out how to elegantly and smoothly weave all the threads together. Not a thing that can be done at a rush, because I’ve never done anything quite like this before.
If all else fails, add a tentacle monster or shoggoth? /random thing that popped into my head
Mong must be Ming The Merciless’ younger brother.