Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Burn Notice, and Using Your Setting To Create Great Characters

Only 6 days until we move...that's a much better excuse for not keeping to my writing deadlines than watching endless episodes of Gossip Girls, Sarah. So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The reason I haven't been writing lately
Ah, Netflix. The things you do to deadlines...and sleep. The way I'm ripping through episodes of Burn Notice, you would think a doctor had ordered me to stay on the couch and not get up for two weeks. Ready or not, however, we're moving in a, six days.

While I wait for the next episode to load, I grab random armloads of stuff to pack and think about writing this blog post. It's called multi-tasking. :)

The posts from other Prosers mixed with an unhealthy dose of Michael Weston have led my mind to some interesting places this week.

First of all, Susan convinced me that I really, really, ought to hire somebody to pack everything for me, because I've got to self-publish a book or two RIGHT NOW. Sheena's method of picking books for her kindle would match my method EXACTLY if I'd gotten a kindle for Christmas. Which I didn't. But the main point is that every day I don't self-publish I'm losing a fortune.

Then Maryann wrote her post about setting. I felt an immediate desire to sit down to practice what she talked about, but first I had to finish watching Michael and Fiona blow something up. My life is so hectic, you know?

When Sabrina hinted that a Proser should write about characterization, I finally knew what I wanted to write about! All week long I've been pondering the magic of setting to build characters. I'm not ready to write a how-to guide yet, but I do have some random thoughts to share.

Characterization and Setting

Our character's reactions to their settings can show a lot about who they are and how they are feeling at the moment. All my books are packed (in exactly 15 boxes) so I can't search through them for good examples, so I turned to my own life instead.

The topic of setting interests me because, well, I'm moving. My husband, my four kids and I all have wildly different impressions of the house we're moving to.

Me: I think about our new house and I want to sing. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, won't you be mine?" We're going to live in a neighborhood! I'm going to have neighbors, and I'm going to have real grass, and there's only one small flower garden to worry about. I'm going to have an attached garage! And I'm cutting my time on the road by at least an hour a day, probably more. So, not only am I going to be SO HAPPY, I'm also doing my part to save the environment. It's a bonus!

My husband: I wonder how many different ways there are to drive to work from the new house?

Oldest daughter: That house is tiny. Everywhere you look there are other houses. We'll never have any privacy. It doesn't have a swimming pool or any woods, and there isn't even a place for the hammock. It's stupid.

Oldest son: The front of the house is boring. But I wouldn't even care if it was amazing. I just don't want to leave my friends!

Other two children: Look at all these toys! I haven't seen these in years. Packing is so cool.

It reminds me of that part of Ghostbusters when they are looking for a place for their new business:

Characterization and Burn Notice:

What the setting is, and how your character reacts to it are two completely different things. Sometimes your character's reaction can be misinterpreted by other characters, which gives you a fun opportunity to show the personality of more than one person at a time.

For example:

I have something of an obsession with characters like Michael Weston and Jason Bourne. My love of the Bourne trilogy was bothersome enough that my husband has developed a complete aversion to all things Matt Damon. I don't even watch Burn Notice when he's around because I think he would notice the resemblance and it probably wouldn't be good.

He thinks I like these characters because they are hot. (Well...) But as I've been thinking about characterization this week, I realized an important thing about myself. I like these characters because they fill a hole inside of me. They are powerful in places where I am weak. My stories are often stories about people like me who morph into people like them.

And that gave me this awesome idea for a book...but that's another story.


  1. Hooray! Thanks for writing about characters, and thanks for sharing the ideas. :)

    Your husband's reaction is my favorite. And I also love writing about characters who become strong, or who find out that their own strengths are just as powerful in their own way as any superhero.

    And you get extra bonus points for bringing in Ghostbusters as an example. One of my favorite all time movies.

  2. I love hearing about the perspectives of your family in moving to your new house. The two younger kids finding new toys made me laugh. Very cute.

    I've had a crush on Matt Damon since Good Will Hunting. I love his character Jason Bourne, awesome movies.

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Please write more about hot men. I love it when you write about hot men.

  4. Ooh, moving *shudder*. Sounds like it'll be a good thing when it's done, though.
    As for hot men... ah, drifted off there for a minute (thinking of dh - of course).
    I've just gotten into Burn Notice, too, and I love the Bourne series. And I agree with you, books where the character really grow and finally triumph are some of my favorites.

  5. Response to locations and situations. You nailed this topic. This is very important because this is something everyone does, even when we're not thinking about it. :)

  6. ((Hugs)) Moving blows. And having someone pack for you is *totally* worth it... until they steal all your linens, including the handmade quilt inherited from your husband great-great-grandmother and insured at $5 a pound. (Yes, that means it's worthless once lost.)

    After that experience, we compromised and packed everything ourselves except the kitchen, because I didn't own anything valuable in the kitchen and packing dishes is a PAIN.

    But what I would DEFINITELY do next time, if I were ever moving again, which I never ever will because moving sucks, is: I would hire someone to clean the house I was moving out of. If you can swing that, it will be worth it, I guarantee.

    But back to writing... great point about your reaction to setting. My husband's and my completely different opinions about the desert come to mind. He thinks it's beautiful; I think it's depressing. In fiction, there often is no setting without character, except in those cases where the setting becomes a character in its own right.

  7. Instead of paying to get my house clean, I'm lucky enough to have some friends coming over to help. And if writing more posts about hot men is the way to repay one of them for her help, I'll have to work on it. :)

    Thank you all for the kind words.


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