Good Guys/Bad Guys

We’ve all read it, the ‘Traditional Plot’ – Good Guy meets Good Girl, Bad Guy/Girl tries to intervene, Good Guy and Good Girl overcome all obstacles, defeat Bad Guy/Girl and live happily ever after. Right? This is the age old story, the epitome of good fiction (if written well, that is). However, what happens if/when Good Guy, the character you’ve been rooting for the entire story, reveals himself overall to become Bad Guy? And, to add insult to injury, the Bad Guy reveals himself to be the Good Guy? Can the writer still satisfy the readers’ expectations with such an abrupt change?

Writers around the world and throughout the centuries have been struggling with writing stories, telling tales, that both satisfy and surprise their readers. Some writers have used twisting plot shifts and surprise endings to their advantage – for example George R.R. Martin’s heroes are rarely the victors and his villains are frequently the triumphant, or Jacqueline Carey worlds are often harsh and bitter while managing to find small threads of joy and beauty; while other writers stumble over the intricacies needed to defy convention, chuck the traditional, and say “Woah, they won’t expect this!”

So how does an author walk this finely drawn line? Especially a relatively unknown author. Is it wise to defy tradition and say, “I’m going to create a story that defies every known convention I can pull out of my writer’s cap.”?

Many authors I know have chimed in on the matter. And the lot seems to be equally divided. In Camp #1, some writers disagree with defying convention, stating fairly obvious reasons, the old addage, of not rocking the boat. Tradition works, plain and simple. Readers dig Good Guys hooking up with Good Girls and Bad Guys being defeated in horrifyingly brilliant displays of vengeance/justice. Agents/publishers may not appreciate centuries of tradition being overthrown at the whim of a presumptuous would-be author, after all. In Camp #2, the rest believe that chucking tradition is exactly what is required of new and budding authors to shine out from the depths of the slush pile. Their belief? Editors/agents/publishers have seen and read the same ‘tried and true’ tale of Boy-Meets-Girl, almost-loses-Girl-to-Second-Boy, before-overcoming-and-living-happily-ever-after dog and pony show. By switching up the same-ol’, same-ol’, the blossoming writer may have the unique opportunity to grab an agent/publisher by the balls and make them stand up and take notice.

Of course, I have my own opinion on the matter. I’m a grab ’em by the balls and make ’em sing your name kind of person/writer! :big grin: But I’ll admit that I enjoy snuggling down with a good, traditional tale of Boy meets Girl, meets Second Boy, defeats Second Boy, and lives happily ever after. But I’m always thrilled by the story that grabs me, sucks me in, and then completely throws me off the trail by doing something totally unexpected! To me, it seems, those reads are rare jewels and are, often, the books I keep floating around instead of exchanging.

Naturally, everyone has their own opinion, and I welcome yours. Let me know what you like in a story, and what your thoughts are on today’s topic. Do you welcome the satisfaction of a tried-and-true tale of Good Guy/Bad Guy/Good Girl, or do you like it when the story throws you a reversal and makes you question the morality of each character?

Fatigue, Time and Motivation…3 Obstacles to Writing

Since becoming a writer, whenever I meet someone and they learn of this fact, the one question I always receive is “How do you find the time?” or “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Today, I’m going to tackle these three very important topics for writers.

(Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times and enjoy the ride!)
Fatigue – One of the key points of everyday life. Adults are simply tired – All. The. Time. Period. Between work, kids, housecleaning, paying bills, errands, and social life – there isn’t enough time to sleep, so there isn’t enough energy to go around. We all know that Family and Bills/Work are priorities that head up every adults life. Followed closely behind those are housecleaning and errands. And, if we’re lucky, we get to fit in a social life. (Most of us aren’t lucky.) With writing, being tired is a bad thing. Fatigue is bad mojo for the creative Muse to strike. When it comes to being tired and writing, you have to do what we do when we face all other things and we’re tired. We just do it.
Writing is like any other aspect of our work lives. If you’re writing for publication (or with the hopes of one day becoming published) then it has to be viewed as work. Fun and interesting work, but work nonetheless. The great thing about being a writer is that our work is fun and interesting. And, I’m willing to go out on a limb here, I’d guess that once you do sit down at your computer or with your notebook or typewriter and start the process of writing that you feel infused with energy and don’t want to stop, right? Come on, you know I’m right! Writing is stimulating; it gets the brain thinking, blood starts flowing, and (if we’re writing something we’re interested in and most of us are) then it gets the blood pounding. Plain and simple, it makes us feel good, so we want more. You know you’ll feel good once you start, so the trouble is actually starting. My advise here is simple. When I don’t feel like writing because I’m tired and run-down feeling I tell myself one thing: “I’m going to pick up the laptop for 15 minutes only, and I’m only going to edit.” I set an alarm, and here’s the thing I learned…I never only edit, and at the end of the 15 minutes, I always always reset the alarm for another hour.
Just like any form of work or exercise…Writers know we have to write to survive. The same with work and exercise, it’s something we have to PUSH ourselves to do. The good news is that once you do, unlike work and exercise usually, you’re going to end up happy, fulfilled, and just darned proud of yourselves so….Shush, grab the notebook, and push through it. You’ll be glad you did!!
Second subject that goes hand in hand with fatigue is TIME!!! (Dum dum DUUUUM!) I won’t list out again everything that eats away at our precious time. (If you need it, see paragraph #3) Time is an issue regular people have, so it makes sense that it is also an issue writers have…only we have one.more.thing. to squeeze into that darn day. There are two things you have to realize before I talk about “How to make time in your busy day”. Are you a lark or an owl?
Larks are morning people. This is not to say you enjoy getting up early to go about your day, but that you find you are more productive and get more achieved throughout your particular day when you do get up early. You’re also sharper and more focused during the day, have more energy, and are generally in a better mood.
Owls are night people. This may mean a mid-day person. Generally these are people who are sharper and more focused during the later parts of the day, are sluggish moving around in the earlier hours of the day (like it takes you three hours to wake up instead of a brisk hot shower and a bowl of cereal), and are short tempered when woken before, say, 11 a.m.
Once a person determines which kind of individual they are, it makes it easier to go into this next part. If you’re a lark, you should write in the morning; if you’re an owl, the evenings. This means when you sit down at whatever you use to write, you should try to schedule your day around these factors. I am (to my husband’s annoyance) a lark. (He’s an owl.) I’m required to be at work at 8:00 a.m. Monday-Friday; I live precisely 15 minutes from work if I hit a train that morning; My beauty regime takes me 45 minutes (shower, dress, makeup, breakfast…the whole nine yards). What time do I get up? 5:00 a.m. Why? Because I’m a lark; I’m more productive during the day. So that is when I schedule my writing time.
Second thing a person needs to do after discovering their individuality is time management!!! I can’t stress it enoough. You have a work schedule, right? So have a writing schedule! It makes sense. You have a time you have to start work (within x amount of time so you don’t get in trouble) and a certain time to get off work. Do the same with your writing. This is not saying you need to force yourself to write. If you sit down and can’t get started on anything new, then edit something old, do some research (real research, not just surfing the web or playing games…research includes, however, reading my blog *smile*), or reread and revise old material. Ten-to-one says that one of those items will kick-start the old silly noodle and you’ll end up writing something.
The key thing with this “scheduled writing time” is that people know this is work time, not optional. Ever notice how everyone calls you while you’re at work? They want to swing in for a chat when you have a date planned with your husband? Humans are genetically programmed to be a disruption, I think, and that’s why we all have this talent for zeroing in on a person’s scheduled whatever time. Friends and family should know when your time to write is and when they are not welcome. You have to be as blunt as that because, if you’re not, it will be taken as being ok if they think it’s important. (Like them needing to ask if you’re going to watch the Cubbies tomorrow night…you know, a conversation that can wait for another hour or so.) Be polite but be firm about your schedule….with others and with yourself.

All right, key thing…Motivation. Every writer has different motivating factors in their lives – personal fulfillment, money, fame, a combination of things. (I’m a fame/money person with a dash of personal fulfillment tossed in for flavor.) There is not cut and dry motivation for anyone in this world; humans are complicated, and so are their motivations. The important thing is realizing What motivates you. For me, motivation can be as simple as looking at the thin pocketbook (lack of money equals need to write more) or Google-ing myself online (I don’t come up that often that I feel I’m starting to get famous. The personal fulfillment dash? I’m not happy unless I’m working on something, period. So that takes care of that. Your mission (should you choose to except it) is to take a long hard look at your writing and ask, “How important is writing to me?” If you answer that it is toss Issue #1 and Issue #2 right out the window; they no longer matter. Your family is important and (unfortunately) work and bills are important, so you make time and spend energy you don’t have on those, don’t you? The same goes with motivation for writing…if it’s important, you will make the time and you will find the energy.
If you can’t, then you’re a dreamer, not a writer.
B.C. Brown
Fiction Novelist