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Why I’m Forming My Own Thesaurus

thesaurus

Image via: snorgtees.com

Thesauruses are often one of writers’ best friends, especially in times of drafting and editing. You don’t want to be repetitive. You want the word that sounds just right, and sometimes a nice Thesaurus provides you with some nifty words that for some reason elude your mind.

As someone who still has a fondness for paperbacks, I own an Oxford Thesaurus. I also make use of my built-in one that came with my MacBook Air. I occasionally use dictionary.com.

But I recently took up the habit of making a list of most-needed/liked words and phrases. I’ll be reading an article and I’ll see a word that fits the image I have in my head. I underline the stuff I loved in other books/magazines/blogs…Some of them even served as unintentional writing prompts. Ah…the mysterious (and slightly crazy) mind of the writer…

And let’s face it, while there are many ways your character can walk/enter/move/run…etc., only one or two will describe his mood and speed perfectly without contrasting his personality or situation.

Using the right word also eliminates unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Don’t get me wrong. I might be the in the minority as a writer as I love those parts of speech. Still, some of them are redundant and if you can make your piece smoother, you go ahead and do it.

So there. I’m, with the help the stuff I’m reading and other Thesauruses at hand, forming my own. Because I know what I need. I know what my characters need.

And it makes the process much faster.

What are your go-to resources for the writing process? Have you thought about collecting your favorite vocabulary? 

To conclude, here’s a funny video from Friends on why we shouldn’t overuse anything, thesauruses.:)

P.S. I was also recommended Chambers Dictionary for Mac.

Turn-Offs in Novels: Jargon, Foreign Languages and Detailed Description of Very Minor Characters

I’ve fallen out of a novel I had eagerly bought. I picked it out the ways I always do. I went to one of my favorite bookstores (aka a big store with a decent, varied collection and offering comfy seating and quiet to explore), took 5-10 books whose premise (and genre) I was intrigued by and read a little. I chose the one that appealed to my current reading need: a fun, fast-paced, emotional romance novel. (While I’m also a huge fan of thrillers, I’m working on a romantic/comedy/drama  manuscript myself, it makes more sense to research the market – seeing what sells while getting the escapism I need.)

And it started fine enough. For the first 50/100 pages or so, it was unputdownable. I read it on the bus, on the escalators, before I went to bed… If I wasn’t working (or resting my eyes), I was reading it. Sure, there were some wordy descriptions, a few mentions in a foreign language and some jargon related to the characters’ work. It set the mood. It was sort of relevant. I didn’t mind.

Image via evalblog.com

Image via evalblog.com

But then the characters dropped their foreign language randomly in their sentences regularly. Some characters were from that foreign country so it made sense. Regrettably, it wasn’t one of the languages I sort of spoke. No, they went beyond your typical travel phrases or widely-known vocabulary. Then there was the jargon rain. It kept coming and coming.

Now, the book is aimed more at a female audience. The romantic storyline, a typical female character (I’ll get into the “typical” in my next post) and even the job (decoration-related) probably made the majority of female readers happy. But, you see, when it comes to interior design, I’m more like a  guy than a girl . I don’t have an extended furniture vocabulary . Sure, I love shopping and decorating myself, but I don’t want to know the name/root/history of every single thing. So the book slowed down further. I kept giving breaks and then coming back.

The third turn-off was the detailed description of the more minor characters- characters we run into once or twice as the reader. Yes, I could picture them all vividly, but it took me off from the plots and subplots. Now, there are some things the book did very well. The woven storylines, the setting and the dialogue were pretty good. But I started rolling my eyes way too often, and the initial love and enthusiasm disappeared.

The good news is, the book breaks some rules with novel-writing advice. It’s good news, because it proves you can follow your heart, write your novel your own way and get it published. The bad news is, this book isn’t a debut. So the writer had some leeway. First-timers don’t usually have this luxury.

Now, the point is this post isn’t to critique one particular book (hence the absence of the the title and the name of the author), but to spark a discussion about using other languages, jargon, and the amount of details insignificant characters deserve. Basically, this author hasn’t killed her darlings but has given birth to them over and over and over again.

How do you feel about the use of them? How generous are you with these when it comes to your fiction? As for my musings on “typical“ female character, that’ll be in my next post, so please stay tuned. Until then, you can check out the problem with following advice in this post The Problem With Following Advice, and Writing Your Novel Your Way.

So Everybody Knows How to Write Compelling TV… Or Do They?

intelligence_tv_show

Intelligence starring Josh Holloway and Meghan Ory. Image via metslilled.blogspot.com.tr.

One of the gifts and curses of these blogging, social-media-savvy years is that everyone has got something to say about everything. It’s a gift, because it enables us to share our goals, dreams and writing with a lot more people than we could have imagined. As writers and bloggers, this is priceless.

However it also brings out the worst in some people. The more someone enjoys the anonymity of the Internet, the more likely they are to attack with no holds barred. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy or dislike any point of view is prone to name-calling and all sorts of criticism. And who gets some of the worst of these? Writers.

You should see some of the TV series’ boards on IMDB. The way some people “review” shows, you would think they were all trained pros who have been running the best, most intelligent shows you’ve watched.

Of course you can have an opinion. Of course you can argue. But why does politeness have to be sacrificed? And why is anyone against a certain opinion deemed stupid?

I don’t usually participate except when I see a completely civil board. But I do like to browse for research purposes (I run an entertainment blog) to see how people are reacting to certain shows, events, characters… etc. Anyhow, it is sometimes scary to see how passionately someone loves or hates a show.

Recently, I’ve developed a fondness for the sci-fi/action show Intelligence. It stars Josh Holloway (Sawyer of Lost) and Megan Ory (Red from Once Upon a Time). It’s fast, fun and full of action. It’s sometimes ridiculous, but never in an off-putting way. For me, that only increases the fun. I also love the one-liners numerous watchers seem to despise.

When a show’s concept revolves around a former kick-ass soldier with a computer chip in his brain that enables him to access pretty much anything electronic/online, you know you need a certain level of suspension of disbelief. I have no such problems when it comes to pure entertainment. (Yes,I liked Face/Off too. So what? We can’t always watch movies like The Hunt, which is excellent, but ultimately depressing.)

Now, back to Intelligence. Some claim it’s the worst show of this year. Some declare it the worst show ever. Of course this “accusation” pretty much goes to all the shows…Anyway, a few quite like it the way it is.

I don’t know why people can’t just relax, and let everyone have a good time with their tastes. There are so many shows I can’t stand, but I don’t waste my time crossing my fingers for their cancellation. 

Now, as for why everyone is a writer:

For every show, the number of people cursing the writers is astounding. Many of the writers are regarded as stupid.” A kindergarten kid could do a better job”. Seriously? Then why are all the studios still after great stories? After all, if anyone who claimed they could do better than a show’s writers actually wrote and sold something better, surely all producers would be done looking for the next big thing.

I get that taste varies. I respect that. I don’t shy away from pointing out something I don’t like in a film, book or show. But wishing some parts could be done better is different to claiming, boldly and confidently, that you could have created something much more superior. And even if you could come up with something better, it still doesn’t give you the right to personally insult the writer’s skills.

What do you think about all these aggressive, “closeted” writers? Should they or shouldn’t they chill a bit? How do you react to such aggression when it is thrown upon your way?

When You Can’t Write and It’s Not Writer’s Block

Image via webmd.com.

While writer’s block can be one frustrating ordeal, it’s not that hard to get rid of. I have some great suggestions on inspiration in this post: Finding Article Ideas & Writing About Them: 30 Inspiration Tips for Writers.

But if you are suffering from a physical condition that prevents you from writing, especially if it’s hand/arms-related, I recommend you head to Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger and read my post there. (Yeah, I’m quite psyched about being published there!:))

For more on writing inspiration, you can check out these posts:

To wait for inspiration? Or to chase it? That’s the question.

When Inspiration Is Chasing You, Get Caught! 

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’s Writer Ethan: Finding Love, Inspiration & Getting Published

How to Jolt Back To Writing Non-Fiction From Fiction: 13 Tips

The Problem With Following Advice, and Writing Your Novel Your Way

novel writing

Image via bang2write.com

How good are you at following advice? For me, there is no single answer to this question. It depends on where the said advice comes from (reliability), and whether or not it can match my personality traits and some very rooted habits. Meaning I won’t (and can’t) fool myself into thinking I can take the “get up early” tip of some writers, because before 9 o’clock, I’m cranky, useless, sleepy and yes, unproductive. So instead of having a staring contest with the blank sheets or screen, I get up a little later and get the most out of my awake self.

For instance, I adore John Grisham’s legal thrillers and dramas, but the fact that he got up two hours before work (as in before he headed to the law firm) while working on his first novel makes me think he is an (awesome) alien.

I’m sure you can relate. Maybe not to my sleeping habits, but to how I analyze and decide to internalize or chuck tips from successful people. I can work with “be organized”, because that’s sane advice. I might not be able to keep the tidiest house, but I will clean up the mess before I start working.

Where’s this coming from? I’ve been reading about agents and publishing since I started working on my novel, and while some of the tips make me say “Of course!”, some make me scratch my head and get a bit pessimistic. The latest collection of tips that inspired this post can be read here.

(Some of the tips I couldn’t agree more with are about “dream” starts, verbose paragraphs, laundry lists… Please refer to this post for these to make sense )

The good news is, following some viable advice, combined with a good story and hard work, can get you published. Bad news is, it might kill diversity.

I’m working on a romantic/drama comedy which will probably appeal more to women than man on the basis of its genre. Let’s assume I get published (I haven’t started pitching yet,) and a reader picked it up. Here’s what he/she won’t see:

-       A main female character picking all her physical flaws and insecurities apart in several different places.

I read this sensible tip that says no one wants to read about physically perfect characters. They’re boring and/or hard to relate to. I agree.

But when I mentioned the “beauty” of my characters in this story, I referred to how other people perceived them. For instance one character is confident, playful, free-spirited and cute. She has no problem flirting with men, and this is observed by her friends. Maybe she has crooked teeth, or eyes that are too small for her face or she doesn’t like her nose much. Who cares? Her insecurities are irrelevant to her storyline, so I don’t mention them.

Or let’s take my leading male character. He’s described as handsome in a manly and outdoorsy way. He’s also smart, nice and extremely altruistic. So even before my female lead meets him, she is very intrigued. And because she finds his personality sexy too, she is drawn to him. While their chemistry dominates the scene, I don’t talk about if he is too tall or she’s too short or they’re going through a bad hair day. They might not be everybody’s type. They are certainly not perfect, whether physically or personally. No one is. But as far as their looks are concerned, they are perfect according to each other.

-       First person present tense narrative from this main female character.

I love romance and comedy, and I read a lot of fiction with a female leading character, told from her perspective and in present simple. I like this type of narrative. It’s fun, captivating and quite addictive. But the problem is, as I identify with this 20-something, physically-not-perfect but-can-be- quite-alluring-with-the-right-style character who has some problems at work and her romantic life, I keep wondering what the other characters are like. I get how the lead sees them, but I never get to see what they truly think. You can show and not tell as much as you want, but you are still showing one character’s point of view.

I wanted to study from published and well-received romance novels so I could get an idea of how to tell a romantic drama/comedy using past tense, and with an omniscient narrative. I failed to find such books…There are many thrillers and dramas like this, but romantic comedies? Not really. (If you can think of some, please recommend away!)

So I fumbled through my first novel. I tried to use what worked for me as a reader, and what didn’t. I left out what bored me. I tried to produce the type of story that I’d like to read.

I’m not saying it reinvents the wheel. It doesn’t. I’m not saying it’s not unpredictable, or as catchy as the first-person narratives I’m a big fan of.

But this is the story I wanted to tell. I’m open to critiques, rewrites and notes on it. But since there are numerous authors who have been doing this so well for so long, maybe I can find an agent that will take a shot with me, because it’s a bit different.

I realize that some of the advice I don’t apply might work against me. But for the sake of this story being its own (and mine), I have to reject certain tips, and cross fingers that I made the right call.

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As always, I welcome all your tips, experiences and opinions.

 

Recommended Posts on Fiction Writing

Challenges of Writing Your Novel (After Your First Draft) & Resources to Help You Survive and Thrive

Novel Writing Challenges Get Crazier: From 30 Days to 3 Days!

How to Jolt Back To Writing Non-Fiction From Fiction: 13 Tips

 

How to Save an Hour Every Day by Michael Heppell: Review

A Little on Heppell and His Style

Michael Heppell is quickly becoming one of my favorite non-fiction authors. I’ve also read and loved The Edge and How to Be Brilliant.

His language is fun, catchy and he doesn’t waste words. He knows you don’t have all the time in the world, and appreciates that.

Heppell’s books successfully refute any excuse you might have about improving any area of your life by providing real life examples both from his life, and lives of his clients (he’s a personal development expert that works with companies and individuals) and readers. He also gives examples from real life success stories of people we are familiar with. He renders it impossible to say it’s not in your hands. 

How To Save An Hour Every Day

 

Michael Heppell, how to save an hour everyday

Image via amazon.

How often do you wish every day had more hours? I know I have. Forget 25, I wouldn’t mind 250. But even though we can’t make days longer, we can feel like we have more time by making an hour available for an activity or task of our liking. We can achieve this by managing our time better.

How To Save an Hour Every Day was born out of Heppell’s own need for a good time management resource. However, what was available wasn’t simple, applicable and practical enough. So he delved into his own experiences, tips of his readers and clients, and hence created a book that is fun to read, and possible to apply – regardless of your marital status/lifestyle/job hours….etc.

We can see Heppell’s tips work when we look at his CV, popularity and number of bestsellers. But to get the best idea (and results), I strongly recommend the buying the book, reading it, keeping it as a reference and really applying stuff without trying to cheat.

The book covers:

-       Creating a strong enough why: This chapter explains why you won’t take action unless you feel obligated, and how you can feel obligated.

-       Overcoming procrastination  I don’t need to explain this one. :)

-       To Do or Not To Do, that’s the question: This section covers the problem with to-do lists, a very lucrative idea, priotizing and how to create not-to-do lists. I can’t stress the importance of the not-to-do lists enough.

-       Dealing with distractions: Freelancers and office employees might deal with different distractions, but both have a lot of them. Luckily, Heppell comes up with beneficial tips on how to take care of them.

-       Home: This part is about how to optimize the time we spend at home – and how we (should) spend it  with the people at home. This doesn’t just cover quality family time, but also booking holidays, managing your finances, technology, exercise and more. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite chapters, though I love the book as a whole.

-       Work: This is especially awesome for people with full-time jobs – complete with co-workers and bosses. It features tips on making meetings more efficient, optimizing your working hours and job description,  emails and more. Freelancers can of course apply most of the tips about delegation, meetings, people that take too much off your time…and more.

-       Advanced techniques:  There’re some more concentration-requiring techniques, including using your voice to command technology, increasing your reading speed and more.

-       Twenty-five extra ideas: These are the working ideas contributed by Heppell’s clients and readers. Take what applies, adapt and make them your own.

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I recommend How to Save An Hour Every Day to everyone who wishes they had more time on their hands, but feels frustrated and stuck about the how.

Procrastination and distractions are universal problems, though as freelancers we probably need to deal with them even more regularly as we are our own bosses, and we are the ones responsible for all our working and free time.

You might think you have heard it all before, though I’m pretty sure you didn’t think of all of what’s suggested here, or at least you haven’t tried all the tips that might work. After all, you still have problems or at least desire improvements in this area, right?

Whatever you need more time for, this book gives you ideas to enable you to lead a more fun, productive and satisfactory life. Oh, and you could probably finish the book in an hour, especially if you’re good at speed reading.:)

 

More Useful Posts on Productivity and Time Management

Procrastination: Friend or Foe?

9 Productive Things Writers Can Do When They Have a Cold

How to Use Our Email Accounts Productively to Avoid Procrastination

Productivity for Writers: Tips to Increase Your Productivity During Hot Weather

 

So I Wrote My First Short Story (That Wasn’t Required for an English Class)

And lived to tell the tale. You might find it weird that I had the need to write about it, but hey, first times can to be special.

And while I have created many blog posts, and a lot of longer fiction (several scripts and a novel), I hadn’t written a short story that wasn’t for a school project. Stories tend to come to me in longer forms and plots. That said, I’ve gotten into reading short stories and discovered some interesting gems.

As for this one, I had this scene in my mind for some time. I didn’t know whether it would be a part of a longer story, but I realized it stood perfectly well on its own. It’s a bit tragicomic, dark, honest and blunt. It’s also definitely not literary fiction, though I’m not sure where it’d fit in genre fiction. Do short (short) stories even have genres?

Anyway, the story is less than 1500 words, and therefore was appropriate for the Writer’s Digest’s now closed Short Short Story Contest.

For me, plots, characters and dialogue carry a lot of value. And I hope I was able to reflect this on this particular story. There is a clear beginning and end, a specific problem that turns out to be a tad ironic and a somewhat relatable character that did something very irrational.

I’m really fond of the story, and since contests are typically long shots, I’ll be researching for other contests and potential markets until the results come out.

Wish me luck.

May inspiration and luck be with you when it comes to your stories, and their publication:)

So have you written short stories?

Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction: What Do You Write?

 

A friend of mine posted this. It was just too relevant...Although I suspect the author here writes genre fiction:)

A friend of mine posted this. It was just too relevant…Although I suspect the author here writes genre fiction:)

I can unashamedly, in fact proudly, announce that I write genre fiction. I love reading it, and I sure as hell love creating it.

It shouldn’t shock anyone since I’m also a big fan of blogging. I prefer sincerity, fun and wild imaginations over…well… literary.

I’m not saying English classes in high school where we got to dissect every piece of story and poetry we came across in our so-thick-that-it-probably-hurt-our-posture-to-carry-them-around literary books didn’t fill me with some great knowledge and perspective. It did.

Some were really good, though I suspect the authors I enjoyed and/or was in awe of probably fell more into genre fiction than literary fiction (more on the distinction that’s not always so clear).

But years of obligatory analyses also prevented me from studying literature any further in college. A lot of my friends were surprised. I was one of the best English students in class: impulsively enthusiastic, hard-working and with  meaningful stuff to contribute. What they didn’t always recognize is that while I’m a fan of the language and storytelling, I just don’t like when authors care more about their words than story, character, pace and feeling.

Maybe it’s a higher calling. Maybe it’s a talent you are born with, or you can practice and learn as you try. I wouldn’t know. I simply don’t have it in me.

When you say literary fiction,  I instinctively think about authors who can describe a tree for 10 pages and be loved for it. This might be narrow-minded on my part, but here’s the problem: I love life. And life is finite. Any story that makes me regret every second I spend on it, and makes seconds feel like hours, is just not worth the pain.

That said, some people can successfully combine genre fiction with literary fiction. So if Jane Austen is one of those authors, maybe there’s hope for me to enjoy more literary fiction. I’m saying, if, because the lines are blurry, and her work is so much fun.

Genre Fiction vs. Literary Fiction

What prompted this post was a short story contest’s instructions. One of their few rules was that they didn’t accept genre fiction of any kind, and it got me wondering on how the hell one could/would write a story without a genre. Let’s blame it on my movie (almost all genres except too gory horror) and genre fiction  (particularly legal/crime thrillers and/or romantic comedies) reading addictions. Since I wasn’t sure I could define literary fiction accurately, I dug up. Here’s some useful and to-the-point stuff I found:

According to wikipedia: “Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that are claimed to hold literary merit.

Despite the fact that all genres have works that are well written, those works are generally not considered literary fiction. To be considered literary, a work usually must be “critically acclaimed” and “serious”. In practice, works of literary fiction often are “complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas”.

Brandi Reissenweber says: “A genre is a category of literature, such as mystery, suspense, science fiction or horror. Each genre has its own conventions. Romance, for example, focuses on romantic love between two people and often ends positively. Generally, genre fiction tends to place value on entertainment and, as a result, it tends to be more popular with mass audiences.

Literary fiction, on the other hand, is a bit trickier to define. In general, it emphasizes meaning over entertainment. Literary fiction also aspires toward art. Of course, that abstract of “art” is where things get most tricky. What is art? In fiction it can be defined as interesting and deep manifestations of the elements of craft: dimensional characters, a pleasing arc of tension, evocative language and thematic purpose.”

And Leigh Galbreath writes:  “Genre fiction is built on structure. Literary fiction isn’t.”

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So while writing literary “insert genre fiction sub-category here” is possible, it is tough, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

If you have authors you love that combine the two without sacrificing fun and relatability, please suggest away in the comments. I’d love to discover them.

And what about you? Which one do you like reading? Which one do you like writing? Or do you read/write both?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Jolt Back To Writing Non-Fiction From Fiction: 13 Tips

Image via applecopywriting.com.

Image via applecopywriting.com.

 

Are you fiction writer? A non-fiction writer? Or both?

If you truly love writing, want to make a regular income from it (or you are already making a living writing) and/or can’t wait to share what you have learned and experienced with the rest of the writers out there, chances are, you are both into writing fiction and non-fiction.

Stephen King wrote a book on writing, simply called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Now, that’s the kind of writer I want to learn from. Not because I’m a horror fan, but because I admire his success, productivity and ability to write in diverse genres (Shawshank Redemption, for instance, is based on a story of his) and write in a variety of formats (novels, short stories, non-fiction books…)

Screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Go, Charlie’s Angels, Dark Shadows) runs a website where he shares his tips on screenwriting – one of my favorite go-to resources as an aspiring screenwriter.

Some novelists get to adapt their movies to screen themselves and writing magazines love publishing advice articles from published writers. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, anyone?

I love writing fiction and non-fiction, and wrote about why we needed to balance the two here before.

But sometimes, one takes priority over the other, usually because of deadlines and where your productivity is gravitating towards at that moment.

For the last couple of months, even though I did my best not to neglect my blogs, I’ve concentrated polishing my screenplay and a TV pilot for competitions. I read even more about formatting, selling, contests’ reliability. I found great resources on both writing and selling, and I’ll be sharing them here soon.

But it’s safe to say I was lost in a world of fictional characters and story lines, and reading up on how to make them come alive.

Of course my non-fiction ideas didn’t stop flowing. So I noted them down, and after having taken care of 3 competitions with the nearest deadlines, I’m ready to immerse in non-fiction once again.

Getting back to real life is fun, though your mind and writing might take a while to adjust. So below are a few tips to make the transition easier and quicker:

1)   Go through your old ideas. Having worked on different projects might have provided you new insights and angles. Use them. Brainstorm with your just-back-from-fiction mind. You might be surprised.

2)   Keep writing new ideas down. Also make a note of what you have learned about writing/selling fiction. There are a million stories there.

3)   Not getting hit by a new load of ideas? This post is bound to ignite some quality inspiration: Finding Article Ideas & Writing About Them: 30 Inspiration Tips for Writers.

4)   Check the websites/publications you follow, including the ones you have written for or wanted to write for. They might have gone through editorial changes. Their submission guidelines or how they work with freelance writers might have changed. Is this still a place you want to write for? Update your market list accordingly.

5)   If those websites are still up your alley, study the new articles. You need to know what they published recently. You don’t want to waste the editor’s time, or yours, by pitching an idea that was recently covered.

6)   Do a “markets” research. There are probably new writing markets you might want to catch up on. Make notes of the ones that interest you.

7)   Write. It’s like switching between rollerblades and your bike. Both are fun, both are you. They just work a bit differently.

8)   Promote your writing. Remind your readers you’re alive and well. Of course this works better if you’ve kept up a presence in the blogosphere during your fiction marathon.

9)   Read non-fiction: blogs, magazines, books, twitter feeds of the people that inspire you, entertain you and/or piss you off…new and old stuff. Read.

10)   Read some of those awesome e-books you kept for referencing, and some new resources you found. Some of my new favourites came from Sophie Lizard’s  Another 52 Free Resources for Freelance Bloggers post, for instance.

11)   Keep reading fiction, but don’t make it the priority.

12)  Exercise. Seriously. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the wonderfully exciting worlds you have created, but we need to be healthy. And exercising gives you even more ideas.

13)  Eat healthily. Yes, you always need to do this, but if you have gone on a binge to make the deadlines, get a grip on your eating habits before your immune system decides to punish you. I’ll be posting about this too, so stay tuned.

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Welcome back to the lovely world of non-fiction! If there are any tips you’d to add, comment away…

 

HOMELAND’S BRODY: When A Character Suffers Way Too Much

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis image via metro.co.uk.

As writers, we’re frequently told that our characters need to suffer. They need conflicts, challenges and flaws. They need to risk losing everything, be in danger, maybe even actually lose everything…No one wants to read or watch someone who’s good at everything and has a perfect life. Right?

And that’s solid advice, until you go overboard. I think there comes a point when the writers take a character and make him go through hell (sometimes literally, as in the case of Supernatural) and back way too many times. Sure, it’s a fantasy show where everything is possible and not even death is final. But surely when you take a guy’s mother and have her killed by a demon, have him raised by a monster hunting-obsessed father and brother, have his girlfriend killed by a demon, kill him a couple of times, kill his brother a couple of times, have him live in hell for months, go through excruciatingly painful trials, separate from the girl he loves…

I’m sure he went through more. I just stopped watching. And this is probably the luckier brother…

We watch shows where we are invested in the characters. We root for them, feel for them or at least feel strongly about one way or the other. But sometimes that character becomes a tragic caricature. This is what I call tragedy for tragedy’s sake. It doesn’t feel natural, realistic or welcome.

Many TV shows lose viewers (or viewer’s passions if not entirely their loyalty) because of this. Yes, let’s keep the stakes high, but for goodness’ sake, let’s not go overboard.

So, I want to talk about Brody, Damian Lewis’s character from Homeland. For the first two seasons I was a true addict of the show. I would sit through 4-5 episodes in a row and still want more. Then I would watch them again with a friend or family member who didn’t watch it before just so I could go through that wonderful rollercoaster again and again.

However with the third season, the fast forward button became my best friend as they put Carrie (Claire Danes) through more hospitalizations and forced Brody to be a drug addict. You know where Supernatural has hell and death, Homeland has Carrie hospitalizations and unlucky Brody, and TVD has doppelgangers…

BRODY: TO HAVE HIM SUFFER OR TO HAVE HIM SUFFER A LOT MORE?

If you have never seen Homeland, you might think I’m overreacting. What’s a little drug addiction for a character in the grand scheme of drama, right?

Let me tell (or remind) you what Brody has been though. And then you tell me if he has had enough: (P.S. Major spoilers for Homeland)

-       Brody, as a young marine, left his wife and 2 young kids behind to go to war. He saw combat, and that’s in my book enough ground for trauma and PTSD to last a lifetime.

-       But Brody never had the chance to get home and suffer through his PTSD in peace (yes, I’m being sarcastic.) No. He was captured with his sniper friend/fellow soldier by the enemy. He was tortured in the worst possible ways for 3 years. At one point, they forced him to kill his friend (we later learned that they only made him think this.)

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Damian Lewis, Homeland season 1. Image via abcnews.go.com

-       Later, the terrorist leader took Brody, messed his brain by being kind to him and having him live in his house and tutor his young boy.

-       Brody, away from his family and country, taught English and football to this lovely boy who was blissfully unaware of his father’s crimes. Brody loved this boy like a son. And I guess he was even happy, up until the point where American VP and the head of CIA thought it was OK to bomb an entire school region and kill 83 kids in the name of killing the terrorist leader. He wasn’t there. Instead, his son died in front of Brody. Yeah, I know, like Brody wasn’t traumatized enough.

-       Then 8 years after he was first captured, he was saved by American soldiers. He got back home, where no one was smart enough to give him a psych evaluation. Instead, he was deemed a hero, and was immediately used by the VP for political agenda.

-       Brody tried to adjust to being back, feeling conflicted about becoming a “terrorist” to avenge those kids’ death by killing the VP and a group of other politicians and being a Marine.

-       His wife was screwing his best friend while he was away.

-       He couldn’t have sex with his own wife, even when he didn’t know about the best friend.

-       His sulky teenage daughter was ready to rebel any moment, and his adaptable and nice son didn’t mind seeing the best friend as a second dad.

-       He was stalked and monitored by bipolar CIA agent Carrie, who failing to obtain legal reasons to tail and watch Brody, decided to learn his intentions by getting close to him.

-       There was intense chemistry there, and they did fall for each other. Yep, falling for a CIA agent who was sure he was a terrorist isn’t too complicated.

-       When he learned about Carrie’s initial intentions, he was pissed. And he almost blew up the VP and the politicians as planned, but Carrie stopped him by emotionally getting to his daughter. But the confession video was already obtained by others, and his terrorist/not-dead-sniper friend wanted to kill him for chickening out. Brody talked the terrorist leader into doing things his way. And he got to kill his friend for real this time.

-       He played for the Senate, and he got Carrie committed to hospital- the one person who was right about him all along, and the CIA learned about her condition. He screwed her over big time. Yeah, this guilt didn’t eventually get to him at all.

-       Carrie was eventually proven right after the confession video was found by the CIA and she was recruited again. She got Brody in by having him sort of almost attack her. Then she got very honest, very emotional and got Brody to confess everything. Great episode, awesome confession session which won Emmy for Outstanding Writing. Had never agreed more with an award before. Imagine the catalysis Brody went through. I mean it. It’s one of my favorite TV episodes of all time.

Damian Lewis, Homeland Season 2, Episode Q&A

Brody, Homeland Season 2, Episode Q&A. Image via digitalsky.com.

-       Of course he now became an asset for the CIA. Either he helped them, or he went to prison for life or worse. And his family would find out the vest…

-       So more lying, more internal conflicts, unresolved feelings for Carrie and stress made Brody run, and Carrie got to him again. She got Brody back in more ways than one.

-       The terrorist leader kidnapped Carrie and forced Brody to kill the VP. More lying to friends and family, of course. Brody killed the VP to save Carrie.

-       Unknown to Brody, Quinn (Rupert Friend) was hired to eliminate him once they caught the terrorist. Thankfully he saw sense and told the director to shove it.

-       After the leader was captured, Carrie and Brody discussed if they could ever be together. His past, her illness…but Brody believed they had a shot because, let’s face it, no one could be a better match for the other after everything they went through.

-       And despite a pissed off mentor, Carrie picked Brody over CIA. A second chance given at everything, Brody could finally have some peace, right? Nope. CIA was bombed. Everyone thought it was Brody. It wasn’t.

-       Carrie got him to the border. Great goodbye scene. Maybe they will find each other again after Carrie can prove his innocence?

Surely, Brody can’t go through more terrible ordeals during season 3. Surely, all the pressure, identity crisis, guilt, PTSD, love lost and found and more are enough…

Damian Lewis, Homeland

Brody, Homeland season 3. Image via nydailnews.com

But nope. Brody got shot and almost died. Gangsters who found him made him a drug addict. Somehow he was “saved” by the CIA. After suffering through going cold turkey and emotionally tortured by being kept away from his daughter (who happened to change her name, left school and became a motel maid – and this isn’t half of it!), he got sober.

Then Carrie convinced him to go on a covert mission for redemption (for the almost bombing way back in season 1). He got trained like a marine again.

Oh, he learned that his daughter tried to kill herself after she thought he bombed the CIA (and the confession video) and received a not-so-warm “welcome” from her. There’s the hope that maybe he can fix things with her and be with Carrie, right?

He’s on a dangerous mission. Carrie is pregnant, and he doesn’t know, and it might not be his.

I don’t want him to die after everything they put him through, but at this point, killing him will be the kindest thing they ever did to his character.

Have you had enough of Brody pain? Homeland season 3 isn’t over yet.

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Now, I made my characters go through some really awful, depressing and/or deadly situations. Just I didn’t do…this much.

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What do you think? Do you have a limit when it comes to a character’s suffering?

How much “hell” is too much for one character?

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