Monday, October 17, 2011

Are you jealous Raven c.s. McCracken?

Raven c.s. McCracken

Author Raven c.s. McCracken is going to give us some pointers today about character jealousy and what role emotional scenes play in a good story.

Authentic emotion is vital to make a character believable.  How do you accomplish this?
Try to put yourself in the character’s shoes.  Try to become the character and trace the situation and react genuinely.  Use situations you’ve personally experienced as models, situations that you know had real emotional impact.  Let memories and experiences be the ink in your veins.  Let that heart’s blood flow.
Listen to strangers as they pass by in the street for pieces of dialogue, and in some cases, even record them. 
Duplicate emotional statements word for word and, as a writer, you can rest easy, satisfied in your heart that no criticism of your work will have validity, as it’s REAL.
What does an emotional theme like jealousy do for a story?
Motivators, such as jealousy, can be used to drive a character to act in ways that can create a vivid sequences of events.  History is filled with epic situations and characters, such as ‘Helen of Troy,’ that remind us that jealousy is a powerful motivator. Some try not to allow jealousy to affect how they behave, but it does, with characters acting out unconsciously through emotional transference….use it. 
Jealousy allows a writer to throw caution, and a character’s social courtesy, to the wind: all is fair in love or war.  One person bitching at another because of inattention—or infidelity—is a never-ending reality that can be massaged into a dramatic or comedic scene with a little effort.  Under these circumstances, characters can be made to behave like idiots, and it is easy to make their actions believable.    
In short, jealousy, while familiar to us all, is dealt with in so many vastly different ways that there is always a fresh twist awaiting, a version of that feeling that some of the readers have not yet allowed themselves to experience—the ‘watching the train wreck’ syndrome, something that seems to catch a lot of people’s interest.

How do your characters respond to or show emotion?
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Subtle glances, body language, expressions written on facial features that remain unspoken. Others let it drive them to criminal behaviors and irrational acts—stalking, abuse and worse.  I have some characters use jealousy, and depression, as a muse and create art from it.  Some you can have just sit and cry…or irritate their friends/lovers with depression and verbal and physical needs for validation.  This is my favorite, as it is the most realistic.  Body language, tone of voice, sometimes purple prose about the specific expressions and what it is reflecting…that’s how I convey it.

How do you know you have written an emotionally gripping scene?
When, as a writer, you have captured exactly the image you wish to convey. When you can read the scene out loud and it flow rolls along, eliciting the occasional bout of ‘goose bumps’ of appreciation, even after reading—and editing—it ten quadrillion times.
Why do you think jealousy is a popular theme in stories?
Because ALL of us have experienced the wretched heartrending emotion at one point or another.  All of us know how powerfully profound, even life-altering, jealousy can be, how much of an impact it can have on our lives if allowed to run amok.  This emotional peril is…fascinating, for it is mixed in the foundation of all our hopes and dreams, waiting like a sickness, to change us…

Thank you Raven for giving us a clear path to express emotions in our stories.  To find out more about Raven c.s. McCracken see the links below.

(Publisher note)
Raven c.s. McCracken is probably best known for creating one of the first multi-genre role-playing games in the early 1990s, THE WORLD OF SYNNIBARR, set on a hollowed out Mars 50,000 years into the future, which allowed players to combine sci fi and fantasy elements.  The game over the years has achieved something of a cult status and has been experiencing renewed interest.  He’s writing a series of novels, The Worldship Chronicles, based on that gaming world, the first few of which will be released in 2012. 
In 2011, he released  3 novellas: THE BRIDES (horror), MERLIN’S KNOT (sci fi/urban fantasy) and VELOCITY SYNDROME (apocalyptic sci fi) as well as his newest book, IT”S ALWAYS SPRING BREAK SOMEWHERE IN THE GALAXY (sci fi humor).  Just like with his gaming, it’s hard to pin him down when it comes to genres.  Besides the upcoming Synnibarr books, Raven has another 15 books planned for the coming year or two, covering the gamut of romantic comedy to horror to sci fi and back to fantasy again.
Raven currently lives and writes in Seattle with his pet corgi, Bannor.

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  1. Yes jealousy is a common theme and can be a key driver of conflict. A 'friendly' character in my current WIP is driven by jealousy to turn to evil, making him the antagonist in the sequel.

    However, I have to disagree with 'duplicating emotional statements word for word'. Body language remains consistent, but the words may not fit a specific genre (e.g. modern language or slang may not suit high fantasy) or may not fit the time period of the MS or may not fit a given character. Such snippets must be carefully matched to time and character or may need massaging for certain genres.

  2. Can you talk a little more about unconscious emotional transference? Great interview--jealousy is such a fantastic state for a character to entertain, as you've shown--the actions can emerge from it in so many different directions. Thanks for the great discussion.

  3. Great interview! I happen to think characters are the key to most great stories. You make an excellent observation that using emotion (like jealousy) is a great way to really make your characters sing (or laugh, or rage, or dance, or kill)! Thanks for sharing your insight. ツ