Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Word Gremlin Talks of Revenge Robots

Word Gremlin: I like this place you have here. Smells of tasty book dust.

Ink: Um… tasty?

Word Gremlin: The blog is good, too. Though all those electrons give the words a sort of burnt taste, like overdone microwave dinners.

Ink: You eat words?

Word Gremlin: I eat the good words and spit out bad ones. Don't worry, you probably won't know the difference. Editing is a lost art.

Ink: Sort of an ugly little fellow, aren't you?

Word Gremlin: Flattery gets you nowhere.

Ink: You're not eating my books. I need those words.

Word Gremlin: Key to fame and fortune, eh? You have some old short stories on file. They're bad. Trust me, you can spare them. I won't even mention the poetry.

Ink: Go haunt some other store.

Word Gremlin: I like it here. Ambiance. And you named the place after me. Inklings. That's me, an inkling. But you can call me Word Gremlin.

Ink: I can squash you with my boot.

Word Gremlin: I can eat your head.

Ink: It's not made of words.

Word Gremlin: Ha! Shows what you know. Trust me, I looked inside. Mostly words.

Ink: Go away. I wanted to work on something.

Word Gremlin: Probably something bad.

Ink: I read a good reminder post by Nathan Bransford about character motivation in fiction. I liked the stuff on the benefit of complexity in motivation, and wanted to elaborate on that.

Word Gremlin: Ooh, yes! You do that and I'll make me some Revenge Robots.

Ink: Pardon?

Word Gremlin: I love me some Revenge Robots.

Ink: What the hell is a Revenge Robot?

Word Gremlin: You know, writers want to write real people… and I just eat up some of those good words that create complexity. Who needs all that? Having characters with too many motivations is confusing for you dumb humans. Simplify, I say. One motivation! That's all that's needed. One motivation provides propulsion. Mmmm… propulsion. That one's tasty.

Ink: I do like that word…

Word Gremlin: You like it too much, frankly. My Revenge Robots will cure you of that habit, though. They will strike you down with their well-developed sense of vengeance.

Ink: So a Revenge Robot is a character with only one motivation…

Word Gremlin: Yup. Popular in action movies. "You killed my woman. I will now spend my entire life seeking vengeance and will not stop even to eat a sandwich."

Ink: That's terrible. You create propulsion but lose all humanity. Characters become like those celebrity cardboard cutouts you see in the mall advertising ugly and expensive things. Propulsion alone isn't worth that.

Word Gremlin: See, I said you use that word too much. But you humans are easily confused. Revenge. You can handle that. Revenge and other stuff? Nope. So I eat it up. Gastro-intestinal editing. I give back good words, though, like "Kill!" and "Villain!" and "Your mother!" Words like "subtlety"? "Nuance"? Very distracting. You don't need 'em and they taste so fine…

Ink: What are you eating, anyway?

Word Gremlin: A Danielle Steele. Tastes like bad sex.

Ink: Hey, someone would have bought that.

Word Gremlin: There's lots more where it came from. I hear they're replicating themselves exponentially. In 48 hours your store will collapse under the weight of poorly bound paperbacks. Just trying to help.

Ink: I should squash you with my boot.

Word Gremlin: Eat your head. Weigh the odds, homo sapwit.

Ink: I'm gonna hit you with a book.

Word Gremlin: I eat books.

Ink: A picture book.

Word Gremlin: You're cruel.

Ink: I don't care. I'm interested in trying to write complex characters, people who have a variety of motivations that shift and change from moment to moment according to the pressures placed upon them. Because it is human experience that shapes motivation, and if the events of the story are relevant to the characters it will affect and change them. It will affect not only who they are but how they approach the world. It will affect not only the motivations that drive their life but those that shape their immediate moments.

Word Gremlin: You forgot to use "propulsion".

Ink: Squash. You. Like. A. Bug.

Word Gremlin: I'm supposed to be scared of a man who uses the word "onomatopoeia" in general conversation? No one should use a word like "onomatopoeia" in general conversation.

Ink: Go away. I have some writing to do.

Word Gremlin: I'm glad you've decided to write the latest Revenge Robot thriller. Stupid humans everywhere will be happy.

12 comments:

Ms Kitty said...

Love it!

Ms Kitty said...

Hey, where did the rest of that post go?

Ink said...

Beware the Word Gremlin...

Ms Kitty said...

On motivation, that can be the sticky part.I did an essay on over-kill not long ago.

What came back to me was the phrase: Reader Roadkill.(Thanks to Taire)

(Get your grubby claws OFF that phrase! You bug!)

Getting the character motivated without reader roadkill or revenge robots, takes a certain amount of restraint on the writer's part.

Being on 'the Best revenge is living well' side of the spectrum, I have to ask myself this question as a reader and a writer.

How much of a push does it take to get a plot point?

It depends on the character. I have a book on Character Archetypes that I like because each character has a set of motivations.

In my Gothic, my heroine loves her home, anything that threatens her security motivates her to action.

My hero is a 'lost soul' deeply depressed and stressed. However, he's motivated to protect her, because she saved his life.

If I set them up as say a Mystic and a Gladiator - we have motives and conflicts built in to the archetypes. She's 'airy fairy' while he's cynical and thrill-seeking.

Knowing these traits gives me many ways to nudge them where I want them to go. I don't have to hit either of them over the head with a club. I don't need to 'make' them race down Rt 11 on the wrong side of the road at 110mph in the fog.

He does it because she's in danger and he's nuts enough to try it.

That's my way of doing things today. Using the character's wants and fears to motivate them from the inside out.

QuiteLight said...

Ahahahaa! Sorry, I'm sitting here at my desk, giggling like an idiot, picturing Word Gremlins in suits directing Revenge Robots to infiltrate ever smaller movie studios, cleverly disguised with hats & scarves to pass for human. (They already hold all the larger studios. Next they take the Indies!)

Bookworm1605 said...

Yep, I think avoiding robots of any kind is the trick to writing engaging stories. Let's see, there are the sacrificial robots (like crewmembers wearing red shirts that get beamed down with Kirk and Spock) and rescue robots (the ole token females ripe for savin') and the list goes on and on. Just another challenge in short story writing--giving characters depth in so few words.

BTW, whatever you do, don't feed that Gremlin after midnight and keep it away from water.

Ink said...

Oops. No food after midnight, you say? No water?

Um, sure. No problem. No problem at all.

Bookworm1605 said...

I take it you've never seen the movie:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gremlins

Ms Kitty said...

Don't tell him, let him find out for himself. (teehee)

Ink said...

Actually, I've seen it... I saw it in the theatre when I was very young... and I had to leave the theatre briefly because I was scared of the scene with the microwave. Ah, the cowardice of youth... I was not then ready for my initiation into Weird Menace (or even poetic squid...)

For some reason I have a very high ellipsis to word ratio in blog comments. Very confounding...

Ink said...

Actually, maybe because of that I've always had a fascination with Gremlins. The old war stories of gremlins in the machines... good stuff. So when I decided on calling my store Inklings Bookshop I sort of had this idea of word gremlins in the back of my head. Because such a thing would have to be called an inkling, of course... (and only later did I read a book by one of my favourite writers, Murakami, and found he had inkling monsters in the dark... too cool. A very strange book, for anyone interested: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World).

Bookworm1605 said...

Allrighty. Well, just in case you forgot the details, if he gets wet or eats after midnight, he'll turn into Wanu.