Character Driven Stories

Posted by texmexexpress on March 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

What I say may not be necessarily profound, insightful, or thought provoking, but I believe it bears to be addressed nonetheless. Oh, and it's my blog, so I can say what I want.

I've always been exceedingly influenced by stories whose characters dynamically drive the plot rather than a story shadowing its characters. See most "blockbuster" movies pushed by CGI—they are the suck. Developing a character can be a labor of love, but it also can drive your reader into boredom. Balance is the key that gives life to your story. How much detail is too much? I guess that all depends on your reader, and those pesky subjective editors we all love or loath. Whether you believe it or not, most authors can be just as pretentious as editors and publishers. Everyone has their own philosophy on the subject and at the end of the day they will stand by those principles until they are forced to change by their own critics. We're all hypocrites.

So, my thoughts on this subject is nothing more than that. It's just an opinion, and I'm sure over time it too will change. I've been in the entertainment business long enough to know that you can't please everyone—that's why I find it much easier to just piss em all off. My skin is callused from it.

While detailed description of a story can open up a colorful and physical world in the mind, it can also slow the prose, which may often bury your reader away from the plot. Characters are no different. We often hope to avoid that cringing disappointment during those first two chapters of a book when the main characters are normally introduced. I want to know what my characters look like in the those chapters, but I don't necessarily need to know every minute detail about their philosophical bent. That may lead to predictability, and a book being quickly shelved. I've been guilty of it in my stories. I look at it this way: Character development should breath like a fine wine. Let the aroma sift awhile before a little is gently poured into a glass and slowly enjoyed, because by the second glass that wine sipping has turned into a mouth gulping indulging frenzy of delightful euphoria.

Of course then you have to look at the other end of the spectrum. Less descriptive characteristics, traits, attitude, or personality can leave your character unadorned and less appealing. Ordinary writing creates ordinary characters, which leads to ordinary stories. Details are fine if they are appropriately positioned in the story without giving away everything. I believe readers should be given a little mystery, not just behind the story itself, but within the characters as well. While their personality or attitude can quickly change the tone of the scene, it's their intent that draws me further into the story. And hopefully, as the book or story progresses, I will be amusingly pleased in the end by how the characters have changed and matured.

I like to see the characters move the story as the plot gradually unfolds, rather than disclose the plot completely before the characters are fully developed. I'm a delayed gratification kind of guy. I know it's not for everyone, but it's what I like. Let me say that again, it's what I like. I'm not an expert in writing nor do I pretend to be, and I assure you most of your writer friends aren't either. If they were, they wouldn't have editors. We never stop learning as we go. That's what makes life exciting and pleasantly tolerable—well, that and not being dead. So let's not pretend that we always know what we are talking about. Whether we believe it or not, most of us readers and writers alike are book snobs. That's not such a bad thing either. Being particular is what makes our craft better.


Are Trendy Sub-Genres Losing Their Appeal?

Posted by texmexexpress on September 13, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Ah, I love a good dystopian novel, a sophisticated murder mystery, a science fiction noir story, maybe a disturbing psychotic thriller, and of course the ever-growing popular post-apocalyptic sub-genre that has everyone stirring with anticipated excitement, especially zombies. Walking Dead, you kick ass. But is it enough to just pick up the first book you see with an attractive cover so enticing that it somehow manages to lure you into a world of disappointment? All genres do this, but none more than today’s most talked about, read about, or even filmed about through Hollywood’s terribly scripted storylines—The Apocalypse. Hey, doesn’t everyone like a good disaster? The idocracy of Americans tune in seven nights a week to it with “reality tv.” Sorry, I’m not one of them, unless it’s Duck Dynasty. Hey, I can indulge in a little guilty pleasure too.

While television and film have had their fingerprint in the ever popular sub-genre, it’s books that got them there, and we as authors should be demanding better than what’s out there. But it starts with us. We are the creators and the imagination behind the scenes, and it should be no surprise that novels hold much more weight to them on paper than they do in film and tv. So what has happened? Are stories becoming watered down and regurgitated? It’s quite simple really.

There are just too many post-apocalyptic novels out there being churned out by the thousands detailing the end of the world and hoping that readers haven't gotten tired of it yet—I'm one of them. Most are riding the wave of this never-ending cultural phenomenon, and it has proven to be quite successful for some. But no matter how the stories are told, we still end up anticipating the same plot twists and an ending that's…well, not so much of a surprise. It's not the story that drives us to read them, but rather the little things in between that capture our attention. If there is no purpose to the plot other than to entertain, which is absolutely fine sometimes, then it becomes all too common and unfulfilling.

World War Z , which was an excellent read, did enough to change our perspective about the common zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately authors have been riding the coattails of Max Brooks’ masterpiece, desperately trying to recreate his novel as their own. It’s become regurgitated drivel and washed-out entertainment. Great novels shouldn't be duplicated. That goes for Harry Potter knockoffs, watered-down Twilight clones, and the…ahem, occasional Fifty Shades of Grey Imitators. Oh, and in addition, if I see another vampire-sucking teenager gracing the cover of a paperback, I think I will slowly carve out my eye with a rusty steak knife. Enough with the soap opera with fangs already.

Though these genres are entertaining and attractive to a large demographic, let’s not patronize them for the sake of trend. We should approach them with a little originality, and while I know it can be difficult to create something different within a popular sub-genre, it can also be fun exploring new ways to excite readers. Just because the originators of such great novels became rich and famous doesn’t necessarily translate to the copycats to follow suite.


To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question

Posted by texmexexpress on September 6, 2013 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Wow, don't you just hate those obnoxious cheesy clichés. If I never see this ridiculous quote from another writer's blog, it will be too soon. Uh, never mind.


How writer's block can hinder your creative cognitive mojo. What is writer's block anyway? Is it really a condition caused by stress, or are we natural procrastinators? Sure, I get lazy now and then, or distracted by the next episode of "Breaking Bad," or "The Walking Dead." There's nothing wrong with taking a break every now and then, but there's nothing worse than staring at a blank screen for hours on end, hoping something witty will suddenly ooze from the folds of your brain. There's nothing to be ashamed of, everyone experiences it, even Pulitzer Prize feature writers. Face it, we're imperfect beings, and our brain is a weave of mysterious circuitry.


There's no right or wrong way to alleviate writer's block. It's not an exact science, and creative writing is an art form in itself. So when words don't seem to flow on the screen, don't beat yourself up. Writing matures from feelings and emotions, and those can change in the blink of an eye. Do you always feel smitten around your better half when things aren't so hunky-dory? Of course not, so why should writing be any different? Much like love, writing has to mature, renew, and be massaged daily if it's to sustain.


Because everyone's body functions a little differently, there's no set of defining rules that encourages creative thinking. Mine often contradict themselves. For example, I find lack of sleep a detriment to my writing sometimes, but other times I can write through the night if I'm emotionally submersed into a scene. I feel almost oblivious to the world around me when I'm completely transformed into my stories, and the only thing tearing me away from the screen is the biological annoyance of my bladder begging to be relieved. Whenever I go on a high protein diet for a few weeks, I find that I have a consistent urge to write, and feel less engaged to the ever daily disruptions. However, when I eat less protein and more fruits and vegetables, I can sew a much more creative stitch into my writing.


The only time my drive to write suffers is when I become emotionally drained by life's distractions, and I forget my true intentions for writing in the first place. I write what I know and how I feel in the moment, but like I said before - emotions can change in an instant, and so can the will to write them. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable, and it deserves time and patience to grow.


While a good diet, especially one that includes lean protein, may or may not play a role in the healthy cognitive exercise of the brain's cerebral cortex, nothing will encourage better writing than feeding your brain with a good read. So take a break from the keyboard and curl up with a nice book for the evening. You may find that it’s the forgotten novel sitting by your bedside that's the key to refuel your creative awareness. It's helped me many times, and I don't feel guilty one bit if I leave my writing for a week. For if it's the lack of wit that I express in person, then it's my patience that allows the words on paper to articulate it for me.