Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dawdle and Dilly-dally

Found myself unable to choose between topics this morning.
Seems Gabriele's "plot bunnies" have escaped, infected my non-fiction processes, and now are fighting with each other for attention.

Possible topic # 1:
I get really, really cynical when I read of some aging celebrity announce that they are adopting a child from Ulan Bataar and plan to help orphans, or a press release trumpeting that an entertainer has taken up a Cause.
"Publicity ploy," I snort.
But I don't feel that way at all when I read of an author donating royalties to a charity or an agency putting up a critique at auction for a worthy cause. Instead I think "generous," or "smart."
I wonder if I am inconsistent, unfair and hypocritical here.
I'm all in favour of a marketing ploy that benefits both principal parties.
Thoughts then wander into viral marketing and an example I read of a writer flogging a vampire novel at a blood donor clinic.
Mind briefly toys with the idea of a possible dialogue between writer and dumb clinic organizer, a la Laurel and Hardy. Vampires lead to considering...

Possible topic # 2:
My recent aquistion, The Monstrous Middle Ages, comments on the concept of fluidity between man and beast, between the natural and supernatural world, a symbolic, ambiguous interaction identified by wolves and serpents and other creatures.
So I wondered, in simple terms, if one could claim our present delight in stories of dragons and weres and the un-dead could be construed as evidence of Neo-Medievalism...

Which leads, by my usual convolution, to # 3...
A mini rant about cliches. Which have a longer half-life than some selected radioisotopes.
We are told to make our characters individual, to give them petty prejudices, quirks, charming idiosyncracies, little hates. Good stuff.
And then, and then, I come across a novel with a character with prejudices, quirks and small reactions to things she smiles at, frowns over, had fits about and/or forgives.
They are cliches. Safe, politically correct cliches - knee-jerkers like toilet seats, toothpaste tubes, cigarette smoke, recycling.
I suppose the idea was to allow the reader to "relate." The Everyman concept. Something like the old Reader's Digest educational medical series about Joe and Jane. You might remember the one, with titles like " I Am Joe's Left Nut."
I don't "relate" to a statistics character, to a mediocre protagonist who reflects 39.7 percent of society's prejudices, quirks and hate-du-jours. Someone just like so-and-so up the street. Offends my suspension of disbelief.
There's nothing individual about a puppet.
For some reason this bugs me more than "flowing tresses," etc.
~rant ends~

So there. I've dithered long enough.
Any thoughts?


Ric said...

#1 - The "adoptions" annoy me because the children are never going to be normal - growing up in a celebrity home. If stars can bring awareness about an issue to the public eye, though, I don't have a problem with that.

#2 - If we don't have God to explain these things - and increasingly we don't - then a return to nature and Wiccan influences makes sense. (did like the Vampire at the blood bank)

#3 - with all the prejudices in the air right now, it's hard to make a protaginist 'likable' - quirks are okay to a point - but, if your hero has this thing where he absolutely hates cats/dogs/small children, your readers are going to be turned off, unable to identify,

I think most writers are deathly afraid of getting the death knell line - "I didn't find you main character sympathetic or believable"

The macho guy, big, handsome and verile who favors bright pink shirts.

you get the idea.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Um... I like pie.

Speaking of tangents. :-)

I would love to run into a vampire at a blood bank. That would be fun!

Cliches are hard to avoid because eventually everything becomes one. Sigh. Joe's left nut... snigger!

Bernita said...

Or maybe, Ric, it's just a rebellion against the confines created by the lingering effects of scientific rationalism.

But do they have to be so boxed and mass-produced, Sonia?

kmfrontain said...

Hee! Joe's left nut! I remember reading Joe's Ear in Reader's Digest. Missed the left nut article. Darn.

Clichés. Yes. Someday, some reviewer will say about a novel, "He Stephen Kinged that one." Or, "He overtoasted the plot with Rice-isms" Rice-isms: another word for vampires ;-). I think you're right, S.W. All things can become a cliché eventually.

MissWrite said...

I know what you mean on the publicity thing, Bernita. I have no problem at all with publicity concepts. That vampire at the blood bank thing would be so cool. I agree with the adoption thing though, that is not mutually helpful, or even non-harmful on a one-sided scale. I have no problem with promotions that aren't geared to be 'helpful' ie: donating royalties, promoting blood donorship... those are fantastic and very applaudable, but I don't mind seeing promos that simply promote the book (movie, whatever). However, the adoption thing involves another human life who is being used for self-promotion.

Oh I'm sure they could argue they are certainly helping that child. It would be true, and commendable if they really DO carry through and make it a 100% effort. One has to wonder if they really do care though, or just want the photo op. That would be sadder than sad.

I don't think those 'characteristic' cliches work either. That's not the point of making a character more human (which is important). Unfortunately, some authors, and even houses insist on playing it 'safe'.

Bernita said...

I think the word they probably used was "testicle," Karen, but I had a crude fit.

Thank you, Tami, think you've nailed what bothers me and said it better.
I have no problem with - and often applaud - honest,up-front publicity techniques.
What I don't like is the sense of a dishonest motive.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I think publicity hounds are always going to be around. As they say in the industry, no press is bad press as long as they spell your name right!

" I Am Joe's Left Nut." *snort*

Bernita said...

And as a tangent to that, Bonnie, I wonder if writers get more publicity for their books by doing something newsworthy, ie. weird, immoral or illegal in their real lives apart from their personna as "author.".

MissWrite said...

You know, that's a really good point, Bernita.

Maybe not so much that the public is more apt to be drawn to someone getting 'bad' pub. (arrests and such) but those authors (and the like) are more likely to GET the press in the first place.

Bernita said...

It's an idle thought that surfaces every once in a while, Tami, when I read stuff about pre-pub platforms.
The writer who sails across the Atlantic in a bicyle-driven bathtub, sends a daily diary to the newspapers and then writes a book about it.
I wonder about post-pub platforms and how they might be created, utilized, with a "oh, by the way..."

M.E Ellis said...

I think maybe the reason you might think I'm generous or smart (if you're referring to me that is!), and not doing it for a marketing ploy, is you've got to know me a little from my blog and know I'd find that very idea disgusting.

At least I'd hope so!

Hubby and me don't have much, but the spare we do have we give to charity shops and have some donations that go directly out of the bank to Cancer research, Breast cancer and Guide Dogs for the blind. It's just something we do. If the small change we have can help someone else, rather than me wasting it on say, a new bag (wtf?) that I don't need, well...

We probably seem odd to some people, yet our kids think nothing of it, accept it as the norm. That's five more human beings who will grow up doing the same as us. That's got to be good.

I have some excellent news on what Eldest is doing when school finishes, btw. I'm so excited for her. She's enrolled in college to become a Social/Youth worker. Like me, she's a compassionate soul, and wants to be an 'on hands' helper for young kids who run into trouble, and work with less fortunate kids in trying to get them out of abusive homes. I'm so proud of that girl, Bernita.


Bernita said...

As a matter of fact, though I kept it general, I was thinking of you, Michelle, and I knew it came purely from your generous and compassionate heart.

We trained our kids likewise, for the same reasons.

So you should be,and I think she gets her compassion - and her courage - from you.

December Quinn said...

#1--That kind of thing always makes me think of Joan Crawford. And I think we forgive writers more because they're not so in the public eye. Their pictures aren't aplashed all over the place, you know, so you figure if they're doing something like that it's genuinely to help, not to get another movie deal.

#2--I've thought that for a while. It makes me happy. Yay medievalism!

#3--I don't actually know yet if I write likeable caracters, so I can't comment. :-)

Carla said...

I have to ask and no-one else has - is 'dwadle' a typo or is it one of those lost words from your dictionary of obscure slang?

Bernita said...

I don't care if they are likeable, December, I just don't want them to be totally superficial.

A little of both, Carla.
I meant to write "dawdle" but instead wrote "dwadle" which was, and probably still is, a local variant where I was born, one that grammarians describe as a "vulgarism."
I fixed it. Thank you.

ali said...

#3 - I have to disagree with Ric. I just finished reading something with a protag who hated small children, and he was brilliant.

I was actually thinking about writing something on a similar topic, mainly because I keep reading about these characters with identical 'faults'. The one that was really starting to annoy me was keeping grudges...all these characters that would get a grudge stuffed and mounted, or dance on its grave, or whatever.

Dave said...

Reading "Joe's Left Nut" reminded me of the movie FIGHT CLUB, especially when Ed Norton is bicycling around the rainy old house. He describes all sorts of essays like that - I am Joe's Spleen. I am Joe's vermiform appendix, etc...

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ha! Dave, that's exactly what I thought of when I first read this (only he used "Jack" in the movie).

My favorite is this one: I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Can you not tell I've watched Fight Club a few hundred times? :-)

Bernita said...

Some comedian - whose name escapes me - once said "A man who hates children and small dogs can't be all bad"...
I suspect it's another example of careless character development, Ali.

I Am Joe's Spleen - exactly,Dave. Think there was one by that title.

Like that line, Sonya!

Robyn said...

I remember giving blood and seeing an actor in a Bela Lugosi-type Dracula costume wandering around chatting with donors. One lady had fainted when stuck with the needle; when she came to the vampire was hovering over her. Yes, she fainted again.

Bernita said...

Oh. Dear.
After she had gotten up the nerve to come, likely.

M.E Ellis said...

LMAO @ Robyn.

Hubby gave blood today--I must tell him that story.


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Carla said...

"Vulgarism", indeed. I thought it had a charm all its own.