Tag Archives: Character Development

What Writers Can Learn From Star Wars’ Mistakes

I just got done responding to another person who felt Rise of Skywalker was lacking because it pandered to fans too much. So, it seems a good time to step back and take a look at the general errors that have so much of the fan base annoyed. Not surprisingly, many of the errors are the same as ones I discussed in an old post on mistakes comic book writers are making. It could also be said to apply to Star Trek, as it’s writers have made nearly identical mistakes with “Discovery”.

Change With No Real Logic Behind It.

Even with canon or lore that may only be one book old, if you’re doing to turn it upside down, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Most readers want to see a logical progression of events and character development. The longer standing the canon, the more this is going to be true. Two examples from the Disney Star Wars movies are the change to the nature of the Force, and the character assassinations of Han and Luke.

In the case of there now being no light or dark side to the Force, Disney just decided to push Hollywood moral relativism on people with no real logic to it in the film. There was no great “enlightenment”, nor did the Force turn out to be sentient and simply shift it’s own ideals. We’re simply left with Yoda going from spending 2/3 of Empire Strikes Back lecturing Luke about the perils and pitfalls of the dark side, to his ghost talking to Luke about how idiotic the Jedi principles were. You know, the same principles that per lore defended and guided the Republic for a thousand years… Yeah, let’s just flush that.

Character Assassinations of Existing Characters:

Character assassination of existing characters is getting to be a widespread problem as newer writers take over franchises and want to spread some sort of message or just make their own mark. Captain America was turned into a Nazi to justify giving his role, title and shield to the Falcon. Thor lost his role and Hammer to Jane Foster, Tony Stark was replaced by a black teenage girl. In Disney’s Star Wars, Luke went from ultimate idealist who willingly risked all to redeem his father, to somebody who would kill his twin sister’s son with barely a second thought. Again, with no natural progression to sell it to fans. Han basically went from rogue with a good heart in the original canon to a complete bum in the newer movies. He had a great backstory as an Imperial officer who threw it all away and became an outlaw to rescue a freighter full of slaves, including Chewbacca. He volunteers to lead the ground team in Return of the Jedi, risking himself to help others and a greater cause, then Disney comes along and he abandons his family, friends and the new Republic.

Mark Hamill read the script to The Last Jedi and said “I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve done to this character BUT it’s my job as an actor to bring your vision to life”. Ironic that he can’t get roles beyond voice work due to a facial scar while primadonna actors fight with producers and directors every day.

The Mary Sue:

This ALWAYS seems to follow the trashing of old characters nowadays. Insecure writers seem to feel it’s necessary to build up their own characters. Dislike for Rey is one of the biggest gripes I hear from fan bashers. Well, she uses the force and a lightsaber with no training, and manages to beat Kylo Ren in a dual the first time she really holds a lightsaber. Luke and Anakin were Marty Stu for sure, but even they required training. Luke couldn’t defeat the Emperor, neither could Yoda. Rey can do it even after he drains the Force from her. 90% of fans don’t care that she’s a woman, or what her sexuality might be. They care that she’s poorly written and developed. Daisy Ridley’s acting is the only thing that saves the character.

Again, follow a logical progression of character and power level development. If there’s a sudden growth in power, have the character struggle to learn the control and self discipline that’s needed to harness the power.

Poorly Defined New Characters:

A cardinal sin among comic book authors. Never throw in a new character just because you need another woman, or a Muslim, you have a flashy new general concept, or whatever. Inclusiveness is great, BUT have some depth to the character beyond that label. Think about why they’re in the story, What role will they play in the conclusion? What connection do they have with the heroes and/or villains? What unique role do they fill on a team? What makes them unique personality wise and what other characters would that lead to them bonding with instead of others?

Weak characters make for a poor story. The audience won’t feel any real connection to them. Rose from Last Jedi is a good example here. She seemed to serve no real role other than as a tag along for Finn while planetside. Would anything have changed if she was never in the movie? Not much. She needed to be better developed.

Poorly Thought Out Plot Ideas and Twists:

Rise of Skywalker excelled here. Most of it due to not thinking out the hows of trying to make the movie appeal to the core fan base. Net result: Things feel fake and contrived. The Emperor is back! How? WHY did he hide his presence at all, esp after Luke’s reborn Jedi Order collapsed? Why the obsession with super weapons beyond creating terror? We know it’s the writers being fixated on MacGuffins but put some logic behind it at least. Even going back to the original trilogy, the whole Luke and Leia and Vader all being related felt pretty contrived until the prequels put things into a better historical perspective.

Attack Your Critical Fans:

All over the blogisphere, there’s advice about taking criticism graciously. Apparently this goes out the window when you’re a “famous” Hollywood writer or director. THEN when your fans object based on the items above, you can turn around and call them ignorant, narrow minded, bigoted, homophobic, etc… Both the Star Wars and Star Trek Discovery development teams made this mistake, and made the criticism they took 50 times worse than it had been. And of course having viewership fall off because of it.

Reality is you have to pick your battles on this kind of thing. You can’t spend all your time explaining your thinking to fans. You’ll also never make everyone happy no matter what you do. If you’re trying to turn a profit from your work though, the worst thing you can do is insult your customer and tell them to piss off.

Pushing Social Issues TOO Hard:

I’ll probably get some pushback on this idea. There’s a popular school of thought that fiction has to have some underlying social message to it. Pure entertainment is somehow a waste. I disagree there.

None the less, there’s a right way and a wrong way to push the social issues thing also. Most folks today only understand yelling and bludgeoning. Try a gentler sell with social themes. Let’s say we go back to introducing a lesbian character for example because you want to promote acceptance. You can pummel people over the head with her gender identity and make it the center piece of her character, OR you can create a character who is three dimensional, has real life struggles like everyone else, and also happens to be a lesbian.

Or let’s take something completely different. Say you want to spread religious ideas. You can either hammer people with a “you’re all going to hell” approach, or you can sell the upside of how it’s benefited you in your life.

If your story reads like a twitter flame war… Well, readers have Twitter for that already, right?

Want to know why almost everybody likes “Rogue One”? It didn’t do any of the things above. Good story, all the characters were well defined, as were their roles, no Mary Sues, etc… OK, it had the obligatory MacGuffin, but it still did everything right otherwise.

Magnun P.I. Revisited…

A while back, one of my Hawaii Pics was of the plaque that commemorated part of the Kahala resort being used as a location for the original Magnum P.I. TV show in the 80s.

In the comments section, we got to talking about the reboot of the show. I had mentioned that it just wasn’t grabbing me the way the original did. Jay Hernandez just wasn’t seeming to fill Tom Selleck’s shoes very well. The new Higgins is a woman, which doesn’t bother me. The character is a bit different than the original (other than gender) but is true to the spirit of the original character and show. Rick and T.C. are definitely true to the original characters.

Anyway… It finally hit me during last week’s show what the problem was for me. It’s that the show SHOULD be called the Higgins Show. Magnum looks like a putz every time bad guys jump him because Higgins is the former James Bond MI 6 ass kicker who turns every fight to a win. She’s also the only one of the group that has computer / hacking skills as well as M.I.6 contacts, SO all the breaks in the cases come from her. Everybody else on the “team” is pretty much a third wheel.

Don’t get me wrong… The Tom Selleck version of the show featured a new helpless, clueless damsel in distress every week, who Magnum rushed in to save. That was 80s TV though, for better or worse. Seeing a stronger female character is a nice switch.

HOWEVER… It’s been taken too far to the other extreme here. The title character is made to look like a buffoon constantly for the sake of upselling Higgins and the idea of a powerful female protagonist. In a season and a half, the last episode this Friday was the first one where Magnum even came close to shining.

Is the idea of a little balance really that hard for Hollywood SJW focused writers to figure out? I wouldn’t think so. Hawaii Five 0 is on the same network. They even do crossovers with a few supporting characters. H50 is pretty good about sharing the spotlight among a very diverse team also.

I’m all for letting Higgins shine. She’s proving to be a great character with more depth than the original. Dumbing down the ex SEAL and Marine Force Recon rest of the team is poisoning an otherwise good show however. It’s honestly making Higgins look Mary Sue.

Star Wars History and Story Ideas…

My mind tends to wander a mile a minute when I’m doing mindless labor like packing and painting. Now despite the fact I should be working on my Witchfire series and the other writing that I’ve mentioned in the past, I find my thoughts drifting towards a few Star Wars ideas I mentioned far ago.

So my story ideas circle around a character of mine from the game Star Wars: The Old Republic. I realize most of you won’t be familiar with the game, so a quick bit of background. It’s a game set in the Star Wars Universe, but about a thousand years before the movies.

Side Note: At the time the game was released in 2011, it’s content was at least more or less canon. Since Disney has taken over an turned things on it’s head, I have NO idea if that’s still true. Their pattern SEEMS to be if they license it, it’s canon. If not, or it’s before their time, it isn’t. Bioware still has license, soooo…

The technology level is about the same as the movies. Apparently technology can only advance so far when you’ve hit that level. The Empire and the Republic both exist side by side and in conflict with each other. The Empire has many more Sith dark side force users than the movie however.

There’s some background to that also. Sometime between the game and the movies, the Sith got into a massive internal struggle and they all but obliterated themselves. The strongest survivor (by far) was a Sith named Darth Bane who created the “Law of Two” which says there’s only ever two Sith Lords; a master and an apprentice. Bane deemed legions of Sith to be a threat to themselves even more than the universe. But at the time of the game, there are still several Sith, all jockeying for power within the Empire.

Enter my character; Adoxia:

As a quick note, the bone color looking things on her face are actually jewelry.

She’s a pureblood Sith. What’s that you ask? The Sith were originally a red skinned humanoid race that were strong with the dark side of the force. They were largely untrained though and quickly conquered by the first fallen Jedi. From the combined teachings of the Pureblood Sith, and the fallen Jedi, the Sith Order arose. The pureblood SIth were quickly becoming an endangered species at the time the game was set. Interbreeding with human SIth and steady warfare had greatly reduced their numbers.

Adoxia goes through all the standard Sith trials and then fights her way through all the traps and politics of the Empire to become a Sith Lord. She tires of all the bloodshed though and also realizes as her adventures progress that the humans on the dark council are going out of their way to feed the Purebloods to the wolves and solidify their own power. Not too hard a task either since the Purebloods were the elites of the Empire for centuries and have the hubris to show for it.

Adoxia defects to the Republic and tries to train as a Jedi. While extremely capable, she has has an extremely hard time going from the passionate philosophy of the Sith to the emotionally dead ideology of the Jedi. This was 2011, so the revamped ideas of the Jedi as suppressing all emotion and connections that the prequel movies put out was already in full force canon-wise. Yes that was a deliberate pun also.

Philosophical discussions with a few other players who were dissatisfied with that new canon, AND the mean spirited power gaming on the Empire side and the lackluster play on the Republic side led to me (or rather Adoxia) creating the Order of the Grey.

Yes, God help me *I* may be partially responsible for the wishy washy grey, morally ambiguous force users that Disney is now trying to push on us.

MY Order of the Grey was a spin on the existing Revanite philosophy in the game though, and more accurately based on a true interpretation of Buddhism’s teachings regarding emotion. The original Jedi concept, as I mentioned, was based loosely on Buddhist teachings. Proof Lucas didn’t actually write the original trilogy, but that’s another post.

So, the Order of the Grey taught that emotions were part of life and not to be blocked out. They were to be kept in check and balanced by reason and logic. Properly focused positive emotions were particularly good so long as they didn’t reach the level of unhealthy attachment. There’s also a right and wrong to the universe, and Order of the Grey members were encouraged to pursue morally correct action along the lines of the Jedi. There was enough of a Sith influence to allow for a bit more extreme options than a Jedi might like though. Jedi were always supposed to try to find peaceful options, and take prisoners alive for example. The Grey might just put down a mad dog attacker.

Long explanations aside; my story ideas (kinky and not) were for stories continuing Adoxia’s adventures. Perhaps in her time, perhaps in the time of the movies. One previous Star Wars book has already established that a hyperdrive malfunction can result in time travel…

Would Adoxia be good, would she be bad? Still undecided there. I can see all kinds of scenarios though.

Hypothetical for Authors… and Readers

This one is a simple question that was inspired by the trend of authors letting characters take over their blog for a post, or just interviews with characters. Also inspired by the way many of us authors have felt urged to change a story based on what we feel a character wants.

So, authors or readers… Let’s say YOU were the character and found out that your reality was indeed part of a book or series. Which would be worse for you? Finding out that the author was essentially “god” and had control of your entire reality, OR that they were effectively a cosmic level peeping tom that watched your every moment and then reported it to everyone who wanted to “watch”?

On the surface, lack of free will would seem the absolute worst. Remember the movie “The Truman Show” though? Imagine being in the middle of that, knowing about it and not being able to do anything about it. Your good moments, your bad ones, maybe even graphic details of your sex life, all on display.

My Witchfire serial actually took this idea as a plot device; she’s in a reality that used to only be an erotica website to her and it was explained with the premise that imagination truly is partially a subconscious window into other worlds.

As a side note, thank you to the authors I’ve read who have done the takeover / interview idea before me. It inspired a pretty good Interview with Witchfire post. 🙂

A Few More Creations

So since I’m officially post whoring now…  Here’s a few more pictures of characters put together from the Champions character creator:

 

First…  An OLD character that was actually part of the inspiration for Witchfire.  Her name is Eldrictch, AKA Becky Carsen.  She’s a half elf mage and used to tend bar at Club Caprice in Champions Online.  It was a fun way to get to talk to other players without committing to major projects.

Eldritch

Her costume displays some of my dislike for the costume creator.  Pieces like her magical bracers were sized to fit male characters and never scaled down for women.  The belt and necklace are huge also.

 

Next up is a failed attempt at recreating Witchfire herself.  I much prefer the Morrigan statue that I have pictured in her story section.  It’s a near perfect representation.  This…  Well I thought people would find it interesting if nothing else:

Witchfire

 

Next, I actually did get a good representation of my tongue in cheek Dr Strange clone in the Witchfire stories.  I give you the infamous Dr Steven Weird:

Dr Weird Front

 

Last but hardly least, a special treat.  Jennifer Saunders, AKA Liberty Gold in the game.  She will actually be the star of the first non-erotica book I’m writing.  Probably with a hero name change though.

Liberty Gold

 

Character Inspiration

I decided to show once again that you can find inspiration for characters (or stories) almost anywhere.  I constantly run through things I’ve read and watched for ideas…  How can I put a unique twist on something and change it enough to make it original?

Often times, it just ends up being the general idea.  My most well received City of Heroes story was based on a cartoon where one character went undercover in the villain organization but only one other person knew and they got put into a coma by an attack from the villains.

One of my most quirky characters was actually a near complete borrowing of a cartoon character.  She was a video game character in Champions Online.  Meet C.S.I. Gadget:

Penny Flying

For those who didn’t guess…  She’s a tribute character based on Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny.  I made her origin vague enough so that neither I nor the game got in trouble for copyright violation.  The origin being that she was the neice of the city’s now retired most famous cyborg detective.  A natural genius, she covertly helped her uncle, and when she graduated school a few years early, she went on to college and got dual degrees in engineering and criminology, then became a CSI for the Department.  She carries several devices and a portable crime lab, and has a small army of robotic pets that help her fight crime.  And yes, as the picture indicates, she rides around on a small circular flying platform.

I got several compliments on her look, with people saying the look was perfect for an adult Penny.  Here’s her street clothes “costume”.  The shirt is supposed to be a Millennium City PD T-Shirt.  Being an older game, Champions Online didn’t allow for a super high level of detail.

Penny Off Duty

So, I hope that help you writers see that an open eye and a little imagination can find creative inspiration anywhere.

She had a virtual army of pets in the game and it was a joke among my friends that turning her loose, the bad guy would scream in terror as a sea of pets washed over them, LOL.  That was before the game nerfed the pet summoning powers though.  *grumble*

Fixing A Train Wreck, LOL

My last post seemed to confuse people, so I’m going to try this in a little more straight forward way without as much parable to distract or confuse.

The point of that now deleted post was that I often wonder if we as authors let the extreme elements of society have too much influence over our voices as authors.  The topic was inspired by a discussion with ComixFana over future plans for our respective stories.  That’s all that was going on there, LOL.

I see stories like the Star Wars prequels that were so heavily laden with political commentary, or about a half a dozen TV shows I could name that try to force certain social beliefs down our throats…  I wonder if that’s robbing the voice of authors that do want to write characters with more moderate views…  That they worry they have to tailor their characters to certain expectations or their writing won’t be accepted.  I know that’s certainly the case on Twitter.

My failed point to the original post was that if you want your character to have more mainstream beliefs, you should go for it.  It’s OK to have a feminist that’s married with kids.  It’s how she defines herself, not a piece of paper that makes her a feminist.  If you want to keep her single and independent, or in something like a live in arrangement or common law marriage, that’s cool too.  Just have your own reasons for your character’s actions and personality.  Don’t let others take your voice.

Witchfire Biography Posted

I’ve read a few books and websites on writing (odd how most of said books are written by people who never had a best seller) that have the advice to make a biography for at least the protagonist.  It’s supposed to help you keep their motivations and history straight, etc…

This is something  that I’ve done since the mid 80s when I was creating my own comic book characters.  I’ve done numerous ones now, and I believe I’m pretty darn good at it too.

So, for those who want a look at how I put together a character, I give you:

Witchfire Character Bio

I’ll let you judge for yourself, hopefully keeping in mind also that this is a character for a story line that’s one part complete smut and one part superhero drama.

 

Witchfire’s next chapter should be done in a few days also.  I’ve had ALOT going on in the ‘real’ world that’s kept me from writing.  That on top of the writer’s block I mentioned in my last post.

A Witchy Realization or Two…

I’ve been mulling over a growing uneasiness with my Witchfire story line.  It has been an uneasiness strong enough to give me writer’s block.  Tonight, I think I finally figured out what it was.

Witchfire’s stories are set in a universe created as part of a superheroine peril site; DangerBabeCentral.com.  It’s fairly tame as superheroine exploitation sites go, but I still hated the way the characters were violated repeatedly, portrayed as air-headed at times, and just accepted getting violated as a hazard of being a superhero.

Witchfire was my attempt to drop a new character into that mess like another friend, Comixfana had done previously, and create a more tolerable yet hopefully still sexy version of that world.

Early on… Like 3 paragraphs into chapter 1, I realized she was coming off as the world’s bitchiest Mary Sue though.  So instead I dialed her down, tried to make her more human, and instead ended up with her being just another victim instead.

I also subconsciously fell into a pattern of projecting my own self doubts into her.  She was younger and couldn’t get anybody to listen to her, so the story arc got stuck in a repeating loop and I had to bring in another character to do what she SHOULD have done.

Those of you who don’t know Comixfana’s character are getting introduced to him this upcoming chapter.  Part of Sully’s lessons are going to be “you could have done this yourself if you didn’t let them make you doubt yourself”.

Moving forward, my answer will be bringing the She-Legion up to Witchfire’s level instead of “dumbing” her down to the level of DBC stories.  That will require upping the bad guys’ game a little too, but that will only make the stories more exciting going forward.

I hope this makes the stories more enjoyable for everyone, and will MAYBE set a better example for those reading the DBC fan fiction page.

 

As a side note, constructive comments on this or anything I write are ALWAYS welcome.  Anything where that might not be the case will have comments turned off.  You can disagree with me freely, just do so in a polite manner.  If you do that, I will NOT block you, drop you from my followed blogs list, etc…  Polite disagreement and discussion is how we learn and grow.  I am still capable of being friends with somebody and disagreeing with them on some things also.

Needless to say, positive feedback is also extremely welcome, LOL

My Take on Writing a Thinking Villain

I’ve been fairly vocal in my criticism of DC and Marvel comics lately, especially on Twitter.  I dislike the way that their movies and comic book stories only introduce yet another, darker overpowered villain with more special effects.  They seemingly don’t know how to write intelligent villains who can out-maneuver heroes.

Over a decade ago, I had a villain character in the game City of Heroes that could do just that.  On top of being strong, a highly skilled combatant, and able to turn invisible, he was a liar and manipulator par excellance.  I typically brought him in to keep heroes off balance via manipulation of public opinion and politicians.  I have to admit, at the time I thought he was a little Marty Stu with what i let him pull off.  I see the media  and government nowadays though and wonder if I went far enough, LOL

Aftermath: Major Arachnos Steps Up

Most of you won’t be familiar with the game or the characters, but that won’t be a problem.  All the other characters had bit parts in this story.  I also added a modest info dump at the top of the page for those who want more info.

I originally had this on my group’s website.  Major A was hated and begrudgingly respected.  When I posted it on the City of Heroes main forums, the story was very well received as the right way to write villains.  One reply called it a Master Class.  I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think I did a good job.