Where You Been, Man?

Calvin Writing

Okay, so, yeah, I haven’t posted in like … um … forever? I’ve had my hands full. I’ve been working on my latest novel, Story of Meabh, and I’m in the midst of applying to grad school to get my MFA in Creative Writing. Yeah, I know … go figure. What chances has a guy got who’s over 50, without connections, long-term unemployed and impoverished, college-educated, Caucasian, two steps left of Progressive, and about 99.9% male? (You have to allow that 0.1% as margin-for-error … and for the sugar I put in my coffee.)

I’m so anxious, I’m coming out of my skin. Oh, baby, daddy wants this. It’s time to take off the kid gloves and go professional. Time to get serious. Take the next step to getting better. I want to teach writing and talk writing and help other writers to improve. I want my books read, my scotch straight, and my refrigerator so full it may give birth.

I’m taking space. I’m taking time. So, hush now, and let me write.

I can’t afford the GRE (the waivers are only for current undergraduates through the financial aid office wherever they are attending), and I can’t afford programs that aren’t fully funded. Without fee waivers for the applications, I cannot apply. Without tuition waivers and a full fellowship for room & board and basic living expenses, this dream is another Quixotic gallop at a windmill. But this old knight has no choice. The dragon must be slain.

I’m competing with thousands for a handful of seats where winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel once sat. I’d be a fool if I was not intimidated.

But I can do this. Yes, I can. I know I can. I know I must.

I’m in the midst of writing the application essays. Of course, the two programs I’m applying to don’t ask for the same thing. One wants three essays, and the other wants one. Between a dictionary, a linguist, a Babble translator, the Rosetta Stone, and whatever I can dredge up on the web, I’m still trying to figure what goes into a Statement of Purpose and what the hell the difference is between a “Personal History” and an “Autobiographical Statement”. Seriously, they are two different things. Each has its own purpose, and yet some of the text may overlap.

Tell us all about yourself, give us a clear picture, tell us why you want this degree, why you want it here, and why we should let you go for it. Be different than anyone else applying, be terrific, and while you’re at it, don’t sound like a self-absorbed prick.

Okie-dokie.

And at the same time, I’m flailing to keep my head above the water and to ward the sharks away. Why does that hammerhead remind me of my father? Why does he keep pulling me under? Do we need a bigger boat? Hell, I’d settle for a dinghy. Who tied this anchor to my waist?

So that’s what I’m up to. Writing. Writing and applying. And paddling in the open waters.

BECOME AN APPRENTICE! Click FOLLOW on the right of your screen to stay tuned for exclusive updates on Marc Royston’s Novels and Appearances.

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Virtual Fantasy Con 2016: BLOG HOP HUNT – Author JONATHAN FESMIRE

Virtual Fantasy Con 2016

Greetings, Merry Tricksters. I am Marc Royston, author of Hecate’s Faun (available now at Amazon.com), The Story of Méabh (current project), and The Wizard Ignites (Volume I of A Wizard’s Life) (UPCOMING RELEASE from My Boy Publishing).

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For this stop of the Virtual Fantasy Con 2016 Blog Hop Hunt, I am your happy host. Welcome to my worlds of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Keep your shoes off the sofa. And remember: the demons bite.

If you would like to find out more about the Hunt, please click here – http://vfcscavengerhunt.weebly.com/

Somewhere on this page is a hidden number. Collect all the numbers from all the authors’ posts, and then add them up. Once you’ve added all the numbers, and if I am your last author, please head to the official website and click on the ENTER HERE page to find the entry form. Only entries will the correct number will qualify to win.

The author I’m pleased to be hosting for Virtual FantasyCon’s Blog Hop Hunt today is
Steampunk Author, Jonathan Fesmire.

Bio

Jonathan Fesmire is a steampunk author, blogger, and podcaster living in Orange County, California. He loves going to steampunk related events with his son, where they both dress in their Wild West garb and hang out at Disneyland.

Jonathan began his career as a fantasy writer, and has three related novels published. His first steampunk novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, is due out in November 2016.

 

Obstructed Engine B

THE OBSTRUCTED ENGINE
© 2015 Jonathan Fesmire, All Rights Reserved

The first two weeks of January, 1876 filled Anna Lynn Boyd with trepidation she had not experienced since childhood. From age seventeen to twenty she had been a soiled dove out on the edge of the American frontier, yet even then she never felt so worried.

On January third she stood on the porch of The House of Amber Doves. That restful platform turned at a corner and faced two streets, Pacific and Soquel. Anna ended her life as a prostitute when she left just about three years ago, glad to be out from under the thumb of the madam, Margarita Fullerton. Funny enough, last August she had returned and bought the place outright, building and business. Most of the women now in Anna’s employ were happy to see her and relieved at Fullerton’s retirement.

Anna’s next big announcement came to a shock not only to the girls, but to many living in Santa Cruz. She had scheduled major renovations and remodeling for The House of Amber Doves. She paid for long-term hotel rooms for each of her twenty doves. The women couldn’t fathom how Anna could afford all this, but she said her uncle had passed away and left her his fortune. A lie, but she had secrets she felt far from ready to share.

By early December the construction was finished. The building, once two stories, now stood at three. Before, several girls often had to share the same room, but now each had a room of her own. The saloon on the first floor now boasted a stage, a long bar, a larger kitchen, and a winding staircase. Anna resided on the first floor, her room past the kitchen and down a hallway.

Most notably surprising to all the girls were the new steam generators attached to the outside of the building, something Fullerton had never bothered to pay for. Of course, such amenities were new, but many other businesses and even ordinary folks already had them generating electricity for refrigeration, lights, and other inventions from Morgan’s Mechanicals. No more lamps and candles for the girls. They now had Tesla bulbs to light their rooms. The kitchen could now stock enough food to serve some of the city’s best meals to its patrons. In short, the House of Amber Doves had joined the fast pace of the times.

If only the girls knew the major part Anna had played.

Cat

In the alley behind The House of Amber Doves, Anna looked over the steam generator attached to the wall. One of three that powered the saloon and brothel, it had stopped giving off its low hum and the thin white steam had trailed off.

The steel machine, a convex circle four feet in diameter, had a metal tube with thicker edges on top, where the steam escaped. Anna had brought up a screwdriver, pegging this generator the culprit when power went out on the second floor.

After removing four screws, she opened the panel on the upper right side and carefully set all pieces in the dirt at her feet.

Underneath was a Morse key, exactly the sort one used to send telegrams, but this one allowed her to send a password to the generator. Anna tapped it in and the large circular plate in the center swung open to the left.

Anna gasped. She didn’t generally like surprises, unless they were especially good. This fell into the bad category. How in the world had this, of all things, gotten down into this tubing? She had to breathe deeply several times to calm her pounding heart. She then grabbed the obstruction around the middle and pulled out the dead white cat. It gave off the musky smell of wet hair and cooking meat.

This full-sized adult feline must have climbed through the tube at the top, just about twenty minutes back, and died.

With the body gone, Anna flipped an internal switch. The generator design was such that, if anything blocked the tubing, the whole machine would shut off. She knew exactly how it worked, down to the slow flow of otherworldly aether that gave the steam more force and caused it to last longer. No one had figured out how the aether worked, causing the boiling water to last much longer, multiplying the escaping steam, but it did. Anna’s machines made the engines from just two years ago look ancient by comparison.

Within a few minutes, light would return to the second floor. She closed the circular hatch, heard the lock slip into place, and screwed on the first panel. Anna then knelt and patted the cat. The generator had not shut itself off immediately. The cat’s moist fur scarcely covered the blistered skin on its face. The mouth hung open, revealing its charred tongue. The engine had probably seared its lungs, killing the animal quickly though painfully.

Yet this death was recent, which made it promising. Just maybe, Anna could reverse it.

Cat

Back inside, the House of Amber Doves bustled with activity. Danielle, a robust dark-haired gal in her late twenties, rushed up to Anna at the bar, pulling along the young ranch hand. “Lights ‘r on, thank you!” she exclaimed. The gentleman smiled sheepishly as they hurried upstairs to Danielle’s room on the second floor.

Anna loved the new technology that she in secret had helped to bring about. Like all good advancements, it made life easier. For her it came down to efficiency, and that meant better use of energy and time.

The chill air and northern wind convinced many of Anna’s customers to sit by the fire in the saloon’s expansive main room. Others migrated to the quieter back section behind the stage. On that raised, half-circle platform, Whiskey Zombie Collective performed a trail tune with guitar, fiddle, and banjo.

Anna knew her presence in the saloon added to the morale of the girls and that many of the men were happy to see her there. Some here had been her regular johns in years past, but no more, though some still propositioned her. It wouldn’t be the worst idea though, now and then, maybe better than trusting one man with her secrets.

Funny enough, at that moment Jonathan Johns moseyed in though the wide open doors. Anna pegged him for about nineteen, or four years younger than she. He put his thumbs in his suspenders and glanced around for a table. His sleeves were rolled up, his baggy trousers covering the necks of his walking boots. Though slender, he radiated a quiet strength with well-defined arms. It was the sort of look Morgan’s Automatons used for their many standard steelies.

Anna took a quick glance at the two automatons that stood beside the stairs. These guard models, Christmas gifts from Miles Morgan, she had named Lucky and Dixie. Though they’d made some guests uncomfortable for a few days, by New Year’s they had become fixtures of the saloon.

Her eyes immediately went back to Jonathan Johns, who many in town called Jojo. When Anna had ostensibly left Santa Cruz three years ago he hadn’t been around, but she’d noticed him immediately when she came back. He had a long, chiseled face and wild blond hair. She bit her lip and wondered if he could be wild in the bedroom as well.

Anna had never seen Jojo in the saloon before, just around town doing odd jobs. She had even noticed him working on a steam generator at the bank. He had to be bright, and Anna found that as attractive as his looks.

As he sat at the bar, Anna thought she might have a shot of whiskey to settle her nerves. Before she could turn, he addressed her.

“Howdy ma’am. What sorts of vittles you serve?”

“All sorts.” She passed him a menu from a shelf under the bar. He took it in his wiry hands. Anna turned around to catch her breath. She knew this was stupid. She never had such nerves around any of the men she’d taken to bed, nor now when she’d flirt to encourage more business.

Karla, a prostitute who did double duty as a barmaid, leaned toward Jojo, arms on the bar to press her breasts together, deepening her cleavage. “You’re new here, but I’ve seen you around town. Maybe I could interest you in some dessert after dinner.”

Anna watched through the mirror behind the bottles of scotch, ale, and whiskey. She had to force herself not to turn around and pull Karla away. If Jojo wanted to fuck one of the girls, who was she to get in the way of her own business, or of any of them making the money they relied on? Never very good at hiding her emotions, Anna noticed her worried look in the mirror.

Jojo turned over the menu and said, “Yeah, I might have some dessert. Chocolate cake looks mighty fine.”

Anna stifled a giggle.

“No,” Karla said, leaning closer, “you know what I’m talking about.”

Business or not, Anna acted on instinct and positioned herself next to Karla, so close that she pushed the dove aside an inch.

“You’re new here,” she said a little too loudly to Jojo. “Your first meal and dessert are on the house. I recommend the steak and potatoes for a hard worker like you. Rare. The steak I mean. Have the steak rare.”

Karla gave Anna a hard pat on the shoulder and asked another man if he needed a refill on his drink.

“Rare steak sounds outstanding,” said Jojo, “and cold beer. If you’ve got it.”

In fact, they had cold beer on tap, device and refrigeration courtesy of Morgan’s Mechanicals. Anna filled an oaken mug for him. The beer came from a shop a few blocks away, Front Street Brewery.

She set the mug in front of him, careful not to let any spill, then flashed him a smile and stepped into the kitchen through the batwing doors to the side of the bar. “Steak, rare, and taters for our special guest,” she called. Marjory Smullen, cook and daughter of the nearby stable owner, gave Anna a nod.

Marjory called out the meal from the back and Anna served Jojo his meal, a refill on the beer, and an especially large slice of chocolate cake. They hardly exchanged a word. The rest of the evening, shyness gripped her. Jojo seemed to lack a talkative streak. As she worked at the bar, she felt a growing awkwardness between them.

When he finished, Jojo patted his belly with satisfaction, thanked Anna, and went back out the front door. He left a dollar on the counter, more than what the meal would have cost. A gentleman to boot. Anna’s lips formed a melancholy smile and she felt stupid for not asking Jojo more about himself. She wanted to know how he’d come to Santa Cruz and how he’d learned to fix so many things. She resolved herself to do just that the next time he came by.

Cat

As Anna swept the porch the next afternoon she had that white cat in mind. She had spent the morning with it, looking over its face. The scars had already faded some underneath its fur.

After that, when Anna had left her room, Hattie Kean was playing the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 on the piano up on stage. She considered requesting a more uplifting tune, but Hattie had her eyes closed and looked so mesmerized that Anna decided to let it go. The girl played well, but Santa Cruz had no demand for a concert pianist, so she sold sex instead and taught a few music students on the side. Joella, a tall blonde girl of Swedish ancestry, swept the porch and told Anna the wind had kicked up dust that morning. Anna offered to take over for a simple reason. She spotted Jojo across the street.

Though the dirt on the roads had become about as packed down as could be, it seemed every other day someone hit a hole with a wagon wheel. Jojo knelt over one now, having a look at the damage. Two crates, probably borrowed from the general store, held up the left back side of the wagon. The horse seemed calm enough, chewing on feed from its grazing muzzle.

Jojo had a pack of tools slung across his back. He dropped it beside him and took out a wide wrench.

“What’s taking so long?” Bill growled at Jojo. He and another ranch hand, Champ, stood watching Jojo work. Judging by the 98 crates in the back of the cart, the two had come into town from Rancho de Mierdino to make a delivery when their wagon hit a rock or pothole and needed fixing.

Champ stood a head shorter than Bill and both men wore dusty linsey-woolsey trousers and brown shirts with sweat stains under their armpits.

More than once, Anna had seen Bill use his height to intimidate others. In her days as a dove she had always avoided him when he’d visit the brothel.

“That’s all right, Bill,” Champ said. “We still have time to get back. Let Jojo do the job right.”

“It’s not broken, not really,” Jojo said. “It just got loose. I’ll get it fixed up in a few minutes. If I put it on now it’s liable to crack or collapse on your way out of town. You don’t want this out of alignment.”

“Don’t tell me what I want!” Bill roared. He lifted his boot and kicked Jojo with the flat of it, hard, knocking the younger man into the dirt.

Anna gasped. She knew all about Bill’s predilection for bullying, but she had never actually witnessed him attack anyone before. Maybe he’d been drinking. She had a mind to stamp out there and whack him silly with the broom handle.

“Hey, hey now!” Champ took hold of his partner’s arms and pushed Bill back a pace.

Bill pushed against Champ, knocking him back several paces. He stepped toward Jojo again.

The tinker got to his feet, grabbed Bill by the arms, forced him around, and punched him square in the kidney. He then swept a foot against Bill’s leg, making the larger man fall on his face.

As Bill struggled to breathe, Jojo knelt beside him. “I’m helping you with your wagon wheel, but I’m not your whipping boy.”

Anna felt a little scared of Jojo at the moment, though clearly he had to protect himself. Champ knelt at Bill’s other side as Jojo went back to work on the wheel.

“You all right there?” Champ asked. “Yeah, you’re fine. Take it easy, breathe slow.”

Though his breathing sounded forced, painful, Bill seem able to take in a little more air with each breath. Jojo tried to work calmly on the wheel, but even from this distance, Anna witnessed his shaking hands.

She caught her own breath but couldn’t look away. A minute later Bill stood and leaned with hands on knees taking labored breaths. Jojo finished reattaching the wheel to the cart.

“You’re all set to go,” Jojo said.

“Thank you kindly,” said Champ as he tried to help Bill get into his seat. The larger man jerked his arms back in a combination threat and refusal to let his partner assist, then climbed aboard with all the grace of an angry toddler. As the men rode off, Anna thought of going to Jojo, but he turned and went into the general store.

To read the rest of “The Obstructed Engine,” visit http://bit.ly/steamscribe.

Links

On Writing

I’ve been writing since I was around eleven or twelve. Reading and writing were an obsession, and I not only enjoyed countless novels, but also devoured books on the writing craft. Over the years I’ve written dozens of short stories, several novels, and in the last six years or so a ton of blog posts and articles.

Though I started off writing fantasy, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, and others, I’ve since fallen in love with the steampunk movement. I especially enjoy Wild West steampunk, which is why I’m focused on that sort of setting with my novel Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. I intend for it to be the start of a series.

Writing gives me something to focus on. It’s a truism that people enjoy doing things they’re good at, and after decades of practice, I can say I’m good at writing. Here’s another one. Writers are driven to write, whether they’re new to it or old hands. I let my characters drive my stories, and that’s a challenge, especially when I’m juggling heroes, villains, and dozens of side characters. That’s just one of the things I find exciting, especially when writing a novel.

* * *

Did you find the number? If you did, then click Jonathan Fesmire’s link – http://www.jonfesmire.com/#!blog/c1bqk to continue the Virtual FantasyCon’s Blog Hop Hunt.

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Author’s Profile: http://www.amazon.com/author/marcroyston

BECOME AN APPRENTICE! Click FOLLOW on the right of your screen to stay tuned for updates and for exclusive material on Marc Royston’s A Wizard’s Life, an epic adult fantasy soon to be released as a serialized novel.

 
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Virtual Fantasy Con – COMING SOON

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Virtual FantasyCon is an annual ONLINE Convention making its return in October 2016.

If you are a fan of Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror) this is THE event you must not miss. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, it’s educational, and best of all:

The Virtual Fantasy Con is FREE.

And you don’t even have to leave your house to attend! The location is your computer. You can “drop by” any day during the Convention (October 9 thru October 16, 2016).

Catch up on your favorite author (and maybe even chat) and discover new authors in genres such as epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, children’s fantasy, Young Adult fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror … to name just a few!

Booths are hosted by authors, bloggers, editors, artists, and publishers. And there will be a Cosplay booth (and contest), Blog Hop Hunt booth, booths for panel discussions, and a new booth this year: an Author Cache Sale booth.

NOTE: Each day of the convention, the Author Cache Sale booth will only offer the works of authors participating on that particular day of the Con–so be sure to check the Sale booth each day for new selections.

Special thanks to Carol March, Raven Williams, Denise Garrou, and the many others (myself included) who have worked behind the scenes to bring you the Virtual Fantasy Con for 2016.

Schedule

Sun, October 9th – Epic/Sword & Sorcery (Includes High Fantasy)

Mon, October 10th – Sci-Fi/Sci-Fantasy/Time-Travel

Tue, October 11th – Fairytale/Punk (Includes all versions of Punk)

Wed, October 12th – Paranormal/Urban

Thu, October 13th – Series/Short Stories (Includes all subgenres of Fantasy Series & Collections/Anthologies of Short Stories)

Fri, October 14th – Dystopian/Apocalyptic

Sat, October 15th – Dark/GrimDark/Horror

Sun, October 16th – Children/YA Fantasy
 

PERSONAL APPEARANCE – MARC ROYSTON

MARK YOUR CALENDAR and JOIN ME AT MY BOOTH on:

Sunday, October 9th (Epic); and
Saturday, October 15th (Horror).

To find out more about the event check out the following social media links:

  • Reader’s Corner
  • Virtual FantasyCon
  • Blog Hop Hunt
  • List of Participants
  • MARC ROYSTON’S REVIEW OF THE 2015 Virtual Fantasy Con

    Last year (2015) was the first year of the Virtual Fantasy Con. I was privileged to be one of the original authors to participate. I had no idea what to expect. The Virtual Fantasy Con was my first online convention. (And it remains the only online convention for speculative fiction that I know.) As I recall, there were a little over 200 participants, and we had several thousand guests who came through our booths each day. Discussions were always lively, and the crowd was WONDERFUL. I always enjoy talking with fellow fans of speculative fiction–and, of course, I always enjoy talking with fans of my work. It was an enthusiastic gathering who shared their love, their questions, and their news and opinions about the latest and ongoing projects of authors who are well-known and established and of authors who are emerging and of authors who are just beginning. Hosting a booth was good exposure for any author (at whatever level of their career), but it was more the joy shared among the community and the discussions I was a part of that made the Virtual Fantasy Con an enduring event. And here we are again. I’m back, so you know it must be good!

    I believe we are closer to 400 participants this year (2016). And, we have expanded genres and included more publishers and artists. We’re bigger than before and expecting bigger crowds. Word of mouth has spread, and will continue to spread each year. The convention can only grow. But I’m sure we’ll always have that special intimacy where fans and readers can connect with authors, artists, and publishers directly–and discover new treasure.

    If you are any kind of fan of Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Horror, the Virtual Fantasy Con is an event that you cannot miss.

    AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON:

    Hecate's Faun Kindle Cover

    CLICK TO BUY:

  • Hecate’s Faun
  • (FREE WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED)

    Follow me on Twitter: @MARCROYSTON

    Follow me on Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/AuthorMarcRoyston

    Author’s Profile: http://www.amazon.com/author/marcroyston

    BECOME AN APPRENTICE! Click FOLLOW on the right of your screen to stay tuned for updates and for exclusive material on Marc Royston’s A Wizard’s Life, an epic adult fantasy soon to be released as a serialized novel.

     
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    The Handicapable Character

    disabled-characters
     

    What is the principal occupation of a fiction writer? What is the one thing that he or she must do above all else in order to write a successful story? Task Numero Uno? Do or die?

    That’s easy! Everyone knows the answer. Readers know it. Writers know it.

    An author must … TORTURE THE PROTAGONIST.

    And, yes, writers agonize about making life miserable for the characters we create. After all, our characters are our children. We suffer at their birth. We nurse them from infancy. We watch them toddle and grow. We cry when they are sick, and we cheer when they succeed. We teach them to walk and talk. And they teach us so much more in return. We know them more intimately than any reader ever could. And so, our every wish is for their happiness. We want them to win.

    But … it is the author’s duty to be merciless. Without obstacles, there is no plot. Without challenge, a character cannot grow.

    A novel may be described as a series of tensions compounding toward critical mass. The story is a crisis rising from first page to last. And the conclusion is the resolution most necessary to character, plot, and theme. It is the release of the pressure that the author has built.

    Story develops through conflict. Character is revealed through adversity. Putting obstacles in front of the character is an absolute requirement of fiction. Whether the ending is happy or sad or bittersweet, the character cannot achieve or fail to achieve their goal without traversing a gauntlet.

    These are tenets of the craft of authorship. Without conflict, a novel will not stand.

    CONFLICT

    External conflict is endemic to creating plot–i.e., the protagonist needs to take action in the “real” world for a story to take place. That action cannot come easily. Success must be impeded.

    External conflict is provided by antagonists–which can take the form of an individual (an antagonist–i.e., an adversary), a group, an environment, or even a god. For there to be a story, there must be a source of external conflict. For every hero, there is a villain. For every mountain climber, there is a mountain to be climbed.

    However, a well-rounded story requires that the protagonist experience internal conflict(s) in addition to the external conflict(s).

    Internal conflict takes place inside the mind of the character, rather than in the “real” world of the story. Internal conflict occurs both as the character receives and reacts to ongoing external stimulus and as the character continues to ruminate over and reacts to events of the past. Internal conflict leads to decision, and decision leads to action.

    Internal conflict is an element of transitioning between scenes as well as slowing down the pacing within an ongoing scene. Moreover, internal conflict reveals the rationale for a character’s actions. This makes internal conflict a vital tool to the author for making the story believable. As important as that function of internal conflict is, internal conflict also humanizes the character. Not only does internal conflict give the character depth, but it also makes the character more identifiable to the reader. We empathize with characters with whom we identify. And if we empathize, we root for them. We care about them.

    But not every conflict should be a major calamity. In fact, balance requires that we ramp up the tension over time. If we do not, then the story peaks too early and the conclusion ends up dragging. That adds up to an unsatisfactory experience for the reader. Complications are meant to enhance the central conflict and are usually best employed by not superseding the central conflict by overpowering it with a different conflict but rather by making the central conflict even more extreme. In the parlance of the craft, we call this “raising the stakes”.

    character-twitch

    CHARACTER FLAWS

    Character flaws are a spice we can add to the personalities of our characters in order to give the characters verisimilitude and to make them more intriguing. They can also be employed to create conflict. Often, character flaws come with a stigma attached–usually dependent upon the degree of the severity of the flaw. Flaws can be minor, major, or even tragic (fatal).

    Flaws can be minor and ancillary to the story or they can become integral to the plot and/or theme.

    Examples of character flaws from film, television, and/or literature include (but are in no way limited to):

    Minor: Shyness (Amelle, Amelle; Carrie, Carrie; Lucy, While You Were Sleeping), Overly Competitive (Monica Geller, Friends); Germaphobia (Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory); Unkempt/Slovenly/Poor Self-Image (Severus Snape, Harry Potter; Columbo, Columbo; Eeyore, Winnie The Pooh), Histrionic (Elaine Benes, Seinfeld)

    Major: Miserliness (Ebenzer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol), Paranoia (The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass), Borderline Personality Disorder (Dr. Gregory House, House)

    Tragic: Jealousy (Othello, Othello; Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull), Pride (Oedipus, Oedipus Rex), Excessive Curiosity (Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein; Dr. Faustus, Faustus)

    disabled-character

    CHARACTER HANDICAPS

    Character handicaps are disabilities, inherent physical or psychological extremes that present functional challenges. Like character flaws, character handicaps can be ancillary to the story or they can be a driving element to the plot and/or theme.

    Character handicaps can vary by degree and can be roughly divided into Physical Challenges, Mental Challenges, Physical & Mental Challenges, and Supernatural Challenges. Frequently, how the character deals with their handicap and how their handicap affects their lives is a major element in character arc. However, this is not necessarily the case.

    Our population includes individuals with a diverse range of disabilities. It is fully possible to include a disabled person in the cast of characters without the disability being or having to be a major element of the story. In the interest of inclusive (and realistic) fiction, we as authors should think on occasion not only to diversify our cast of characters to include characters of different ethnic backgrounds and of different faiths and genders and sexual orientations (without any of these characteristics being a major issue in the story) but to widen our perspectives and include disabled persons.

    Breaking down barriers and ending prejudice is facilitated through the arts. As authors of fiction, we can facilitate social evolution in two fashions.

    First, we can write works with main and/or major characters who belong to groups who are prejudiced against and are otherwise ostracized or not typically included in depictions of our society. By showing such individuals as people with real hearts and real minds coping with the challenges of their condition, we build public awareness and promote acceptance.

    Second, we can simply write works that include main and/or major and/or minor characters who are prejudiced against and are otherwise ostracized or not typically included in depictions of our society … and show such individuals being accepted without any issue at all. By showing acceptance, we build acceptance.

    In deference to Disabled Persons we shall avoid the charged term “Handicap” and instead refer to Disabilities or Challenges.

    Examples of Character Disabilities from Film, Television, and Literature include (but are in no way limited to):

    PHYSICAL CHALLENGES

    Blind: Zatoichi (The Tale of Zatoichi), Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Frank Slade (Scent of A Woman), Geordi LaForge (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Marie-Laure (All the Light We Cannot See), Ashford Egan (Russian Dolls)

    Missing One or More Appendages: Fang Kang (The One Armed Swordsman), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Long John Silver (Treasure Island), Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)

    Paraplegic: Professor X (X-Men), Lt. Dan (Forest Gump), Jake Sully (Avatar), Joe Swanson (Family Guy), Dr. Strangelove (Dr. Strangelove), Timmy (South Park), Maxwell “Max” Kane (The Mighty)

    Cerebral Palsy/ALS/Paralysis: Christy Brown (My Left Foot), Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald (Million Dollar Baby), Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Lou Gehrig (The Pride of The Yankees)

    Disfigured: Roy L. “Rocky” Dennis (Mask), Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein), Enrique Claudin (The Phantom of the Opera), John Merrick (The Elephant Man), Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Igor (Frankenstein), Cyrano de Bergerac (Cyrano)

    Deaf: Sarah Norman (Children of a Lesser God), Helen Keller (The Miracle Worker), Garth (The Talismans of Shannara), Catherine Cormery (The First Man), Linda Snopes Kohl (The Mansion), El Sordo (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Sarah and Francis Barber (To Kill A Mockingbird), John Singer (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), Daniel Peck (Searching for Caleb)

    Overweight/Obese: Precious (Precious), Sir John Falstaff (Henry IV), Kasper Gutman (The Maltese Falcon), Joan Foster (Lady Oracle), Dorothy (Two Girls, Fat and Thin), (Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York), Dolores Price (She’s Come Undone)

    Underweight/Anorexic/Bulimic: Billy Halleck (Thinner), Nick Charles (The Thin Man), Nina (Black Swan), Daisy (Girl Interrupted), Casey Powell (The Best Little Girl in the World)

    Gigantism: Fezzik (The Princess Bride), Prof. Gerald Deemer (Tarantula), Iron Giant (The Iron Giant), Hulk (The Incredible Hulk)

    Dwarfism: Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones), Willow Ufgood (Willow), Scott Carey (The Incredible Shrinking Man)

    Addictions/Substance Abuse: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Paul Atreides (Dune), Ben Sanderson (Leaving Las Vegas), Jules Cobb (Cougar Town), Raoul Duke (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Arthur (Arthur), Blair (Wake Up, Sir), Claudia Steiner (In The Drink)

    MENTAL CHALLENGES

    Insane/Delusional/Multiple Personality Disorder: Chief Bromden (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest), Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs), The Mad Hatter (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), Sybil (Sybil)

    Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder: Captain Ahab (Moby Dick), Batman (Batman), Adrian Monk (Monk)

    PHYSICAL/MENTAL CHALLENGES

    Autism/Asperger/Down Syndrome: Forest Gump (Forest Gump), Lenny (Of Mice and Men), Charlie Gordon (Flowers for Algernon), Raymond “Ray” Babbitt (Rain Man), Becky (Glee), Corky (Life Goes On)

    SUPERNATURAL CHALLENGES

    Invisible: Dr. Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man), Harvey (Harvey), Sam Wheat (Ghost)

    Lives Backwards through Time: Merlin (The Once and Future King)

    Dead: Olivia “Liv” Moore (I, Zombie), Count Dracula (Dracula), Dr. Christopher Nielsen (What Dreams May Come), Spawn (Spawn), Deadman (Deadman)

    Immortality: Deep Ones (The Shadow Over Innsmouth), Werewolf (The Wolf Man), Vampires (Dracula), Gods (Myth), Spirits (Myth), Dorian Gray (Picture of Dorian Gray), the Wandering Jew (Myth), Lazarus Long (Methusaleh’s Children)

    SOCIAL CHALLENGES*

    Discrimination (Bigotry): X-Men (X-Men), John Prentice (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), Aibeleen (The Help), Kabuo Miyamoto (Snow Falling on Cedars), Shmuel (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice), Archie Bunker (All In The Family), Estrella (Incantation)

    *Social Challenges manifest depending upon the group in which the character is at present. Obviously, skin pigmentation is neither a genetic defect or the result of accident or injury (unless we consider albinism or skin bleaching). A social challenge is exhibited in the form of prejudice through verbal and/or physical harassment, stereotyping, refusal of service, and/or exclusion from membership or participation. The challenges of bigotry do not typically manifest between individuals of the same ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. (However, this is not always the case, as bigotry may instill self-doubt and feelings of inferiority as well as a justified sense of persecution which may be expressed within and between members of the group that is prejudiced against.) Any character is susceptible to experiencing a social “handicap” when they encounter an individual who belongs to a different race, class, gender, or creed than the character in question. The conditional nature of social handicaps make them unique when compared to physical, mental, or supernatural handicaps — which are experienced whether the individual is alone or in company. Although social handicaps are real, pernicious and pervasive, they require a specific set of circumstances in order to manifest. Bigotry is also unique in that the harm goes both to the victim and to the perpetrator. Ignorance punishes itself.

    CONCLUSION

    For your next project, when you are planning on how to make your protagonist miserable or when you are doing your character sketches and wondering how to make your characters more interesting and unique, consider not only Character Flaws to add into your mix but Character Disabilities as well.

    And if you are writing speculative fiction (like me), you might consider looking at some of your supernatural elements as disabilities or as social challenges and see how it colors your tale and how it adds flavor and depth. And, of course, how it makes your character’s goal that much more difficult to achieve.

    One last word (or many): I have not attempted to be exhaustive. Comments are encouraged, as well as offerings of additional example(s) and questions for consideration.
     

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