Tag Archives: characters

Books vs Movies: The Complementary Battle

Many avid book readers claim that novels are far better than the movies created in their wake. I’ll admit, they’re right. 99.999% of the time.

I’ve found very few movies that did the books justice, let alone were better. Particularly any of the classics. Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses, Jane Eyre. (no, the Twilight series is not considered a classic, nor will it ever)

Mainly because they can’t capture the inner minds of the epic characters we see in our heads as we read them on the page. Or is it perhaps our imaginations are far more brilliant than what’s depicted on screen? Or merely different, and then our expectations are let down.

One of the biggest examples of this is the Harry Potter series. There is so much detail of the witchcraft and wizardry world that the movies will never be able to capture, although they’ve done a fine job of attempting it, thanks to the advancements of computers and green screens. If the movies were able to depict every scene in the books, then each movie would be eight hours long. Particularly the last one; it would have been thirty hours. And who in their right minds would be able to sit in a chair and watch a movie that long?

Well, book lovers of course. And if they are going to sit in a chair that long, they’d rather be reading.

A few movies have come close to matching the same feelings I get from the book. Timeline by Michael Crichton. Here’s the odd thing: there were a few changes in the back-story of that film from the book of which I rather liked. It was a simpler explanation, more believable, and more poetic at the end. That, and I’m a sucker for Gerard Butler.

One movie changed it’s colors almost entirely from the book, and a classic one at that. If you’ve ever read The Count of Monte Cristo, you’ll know the movie is almost completely different. The prison break scene seems to be the only matching event. The ending is completely different. And the movie leaves out an entire set of characters that are so vibrant and alive in the book. I never would have known that had I not read the book. I’ll admit, I saw the movie first. But redeeming factor here, it compelled me to read the novel. Of which I liked much more than the movie.

Nevertheless, I will always watch the movies. I go into the theater (or plop onto my couch) knowing that the book will always have an advantage over the screen depiction.

What about you? Are there any movies that you liked as much as the novel? Or even better? I’m curious to see if there are any out there.

Incomplete Characters and Bad License Photo

I recently had to renew my driver’s license, and even worse had to do it in person. Despite my attempts to renew online, Texas DPS system screwed up and I had to come in and fight the long line and seedy waiting area. Over two hours later, I had my new license paperwork, along with a horrible new photo to grace the plastic card.

It’s probably one of the worst photos I’ve ever taken. Not quite as bad as the photo of my eyebrow bashed in with a baseball bat, swollen and stitched to the nines. But pretty close. Clearly in the middle of a blink, the lovely/overworked/cynical/ humorous woman at the DPS counter wouldn’t let me take another one. So now for the next ten years, I must live with a mutant zombie grimacing on the front of my license.

I feel that way about incomplete characters in my manuscripts. Or at least, if I can’t see my characters in my head, they come off as incomplete and merely two-dimensional. So it’s like writing the rest of your manuscript (driving down the road) with a hideous license. Good Lord, let’s hope writers don’t have to apply for licenses just to be writers.  Talk about a country that loves regulations!

That’s why character sketches are so important to me now. Before, I didn’t really give them more than a page or two of thought. But then my wonderful critique partner showed me what she uses, and I searched for several others, and realized I was hardly scratching the surface. I wasn’t even scratching the polish coat.

Here is a list of several sites I found with great tools to help build characters:

http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting/character/creating-characters/23-character-questionnaire

http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106

http://www.fictionfactor.com/characters.html

You can also find several other helpful tools if you become a member of Greater Ft Worth Writers, where we have a whole bunch of downloads for our members on our website.

All of these have helped me get to know my next characters better, and amazingly found plotting even easier now that I could see them so clearly.

If only Texas DPS would let me retake my stupid drivers license photo. I’d feel even better about carrying around something that’s supposed to represent me, instead of a two-dimensional half-creature. Or maybe I can get them to have me look like Katherine Heigl or Reese Witherspoon.

Can’t Wait to Plot

So, I’ve only gone through the first round of revisions on my manuscript and have sent it out to my critique group. And I’m not stopping there.

I’ve already started plotting and creating the character sketches for the next book that’s twirling around in my head.

Some could call me a glutton for punishment, since I have at least 2 more rounds of revisions on this thing. But I’d rather get these ideas on paper than let them continue to torment me in my head. I’ve had this story idea for a little over a year, but didn’t have enough of a concrete plan to bash it out on paper.

But this time around, I’m paying more attention to the character development than before. Because in this particular story, their personalities are going to be a lot more center-stage. So for the first time in my life, I’m focusing on the characters first, and not the plot.

Even searching several screenshots of people online (Yahoo Images) to see if I can find anyone that closely resembles the image I have in my brain of my characters. I can’t draw for crap, so literally sketching them isn’t gonna work. I’m much more visual.

But I can sketch the rest of them on paper. Their goals, motivations, conflicts (GMC to any of you writers out there). What makes them tick, sing, cringe, and I can find all their buttons (and push them relentlessly!)

A writer friend of mine gave me what she uses for Character ‘Interviews,’ where she gets to know them more by playing the role of a therapist while her MC’s sit on a couch and dish out their lives and inner most thoughts. Creative!

If you peruse around on the web, you’ll find a whole bunch of different resources to help you create your characters. Character Development, character sketches, character questions… type in anything for ‘character’ and you’ll find umpteen-million.

The one I’ve used before I found here.

But clearly that’s not the only thing I’m going to use to know every inch and cranny of my characters for this iota of an idea. But you need to start somewhere.

Inspirational Settings

In a few short days, I’m heading to this lovely island with my family.

Guess which island? Nope- not in the Caribbean. It’s actually not even tropical.

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

As I look at these photos knowing I’ll be playing on the beach with my son and hubby, it reminds me of the exotic and far away settings a lot of books have. I’m a big historical romance reader, so a lot of settings are in mist-covered castles all over Europe, all built against picturesque lakes, lochs, or cliffs. Those kinds of fanciful stories are a great escape from the every day life of toddler tantrums, runny noses, laundry, dishes, and fretting over potty training.

Then I compare these incredible settings to the ones in the stories I write. I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. And they all take place in North Texas. Hardly exotic. And it brings up an interesting question in my mind. How can I love to read about unique settings and be thrown into fantasy worlds, but I write about normal people in every day settings? They could take place in a Normalville in any state. But perhaps its because I view contemporary hometowns (like mine) as my strength. Perhaps writing in far away islands or mountains is my weakness. I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

But they say to write what you know. And I know my state. I know my surroundings. And when I close my eyes and envision the setting my characters live in, I see Texas. And they always tell you to write what you see. Maybe that means I’m not very imaginative. And I’ll be the first to tell you that, if I truly am not as creative.

But then I widen my scope (literally, as I sit here and type this), and think of the vacations and exotic places I’ve been. And I’ve been to several. Heck, I’ve lived in several.

Maybe if I steal away a few precious, uninterrupted hours on my vacation I’ll try to write a short diddy in one of these locations: Curacao, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Belize, or Honduras. I mention Curacao first because its one of my favorite vacations I’ve ever taken. Pure white sands and the most awesome scuba diving ever. I could write a contemporary romance in that spot any day. But now I just have to imagine the characters and the jaw dropping storyline.

Any romance author or editor will always say setting is crucial; like another character intertwined in the storyline with its own personality and flavor. And I’ll admit, characters aren’t my forte. In the stories I’ve written I focus on the plot first and think secondly on characters. Which is why my local settings aren’t as creative. It’s like a tertiary character to which I hardly give any thought.

So that’s what the back of my mind will focus on while I’m bouncing around Hilton Head Island with my family. Widening my scope to more creative settings.

What about you? What settings capture you in your readings, and if you’re a writer, what places do you see in your mind?