Friday, July 29, 2011

Winnie the Pooh

Yesterday, I took a vacation day to go to a picnic with my daughter’s preschool class. Since I had the day off, I thought it would be fun to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie that afternoon. The kids were still napping mid-afternoon, so the four of us went to the 6:40 showing.

My wife and I hadn’t tried taking the kids to the movies before. Elora’s three and a half, so I wasn’t concerned about her age. William, however, is only 21 months old, and he doesn’t like to sit still for long periods of time unless he’s doing something.

With the expectation that I would only see ten minutes of the movie, we bought lots of candy and a fair amount of popcorn, along with a “small” fruit drink that was large enough for three people. We put Elora in a booster they had at the theatre while William had his own we brought from home. Then we passed out the candy, and the previews started soon afterward.

Each time the green preview screen popped up (the one indicating the preview is for all audiences, etc.), William would say, “Uh-oh.” Perhaps he thought the film was broken.

Surprisingly, the kids did well throughout the movie. William wanted out of his seat toward the end, so I let him stand in the row (we sat in the first raised row, so he could watch the movie through the railing). Since we almost had the theatre to ourselves, I didn’t mind too much while they explored the place during the credits.

I liked the movie. It seemed to be similar in theme to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh from 1977. The kids really enjoyed it, too. I even heard Elora laughing at times (she especially liked it when Pooh’s tummy growled). If you’ve got little ones, I recommend this one; it’s entertaining and also the right length.

Next up for the family – Captain America. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Balancing Plot with Characters

I’ve found that it’s much better to let characters be themselves rather than forcing them to adhere to a specific plot.

I try to allow characters to act within the parameters of their character. One difficulty I found in my work-in-progress novel is that my protagonist does not plan or carefully consider his actions before moving forward. As I write, I am thinking through things carefully (to a degree), so at times, I set him upon a certain path and think carefully of something he could do. Except he won’t. Not unless I alter his character to be more considerate.

This brings up a dilemma – either to constantly change characters in order to satisfy a plot or to alter the plot to satisfy the characters. I think it can be much more difficult to change characters partway through a story. If a character seems stale, I will change him or her, but in doing so, I will rewrite any scenes where the character did not adhere to his or her new personality. This works okay with minor characters, but to do so with a major character could mean considerably more rewrites (or at least a close examination of the existing story).

Suppose I have the following plot idea in chapter twelve: Bill opens a door and goes inside a room. There he meets a swordsman, and he quickly kills the swordsman. Before I get to this point, I’ve really established Bill’s character in mind (and on the previous pages), and he’s a myopic coward. If I plow forward with the plot I’ve outlined, Bill breaks character (unless Bill’s method of killing doesn’t require good eyesight or bravery). If Bill stays in character, he probably dies, and that would be a horrific end to my novel, so it’s time for a plot change.

Wait, you say, isn’t a plot change a lot of work as well? Yes, it could be. So it’s up to you to identify the greater priority – keeping the character or plot the same (or possibly changing both). I prefer to keep the characters as they are as much as possible. Plot is interesting, but I have a fondness for great characters.

If you want to have character-driven stories, establish the characters you want, and let them be who they are. Form the plot around them as necessary. Be cautious about when you want characters to do something against their natures; there should be some logic behind why such a thing would occur. Don’t have a character go against his or her nature simply to fill a checkbox on the plot outline; readers will pick up on this and grimace because you took the easy way out.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Knights in July

My wife asked me before the holiday break if I was planning on going to the Kentucky Ren Faire this year. It had slipped my mind, and I hadn’t realized it was nearly at an end. An hour or so later, my father-in-law and I had plans in place to go on Saturday.

This year, we took my daughter along as well, dressed as a peasant girl (though dressed a bit better than a medieval peasant). My wife abandoned her normal outfit due to her pregnancy and went with a gypsy look (also a great outfit). My father-in-law and I dressed as normal – long-sleeve, wool gambesons and pants covered by mail shirts, surcoats, pauldrons, grieves, gauntlets, swords, shields and capes. Along with mail caps and helmets. What else would we wear in temperatures above 90 degrees? When people asked if we were warm, we’d say, “It was much worse in Jerusalem.” (Crusader jokes don’t get old.)

I apparently learned nothing from the history of the crusades because I failed to remain hydrated. Toward the end of the day, I was barely moving and couldn’t even accompany my wife and daughter in wandering the various shops. Instead, I planted myself on a park bench in the shade and tried not to die.

It was a fun experience up to a point, and then it became an experience in fatigue. At some point, I will likely translate this into an armored character trying to survive in hot weather. My hope is that a reader will say, “I really felt the pain and struggles of that guy.” To which I could answer, “That’s because I was that guy.”