On burnt marshmallows

The other night we all watched ‘Salt.’ It’s the only movie I’ve seen Angelina Jolie in where she actually acted all right (no phony British accent, yaaay!). While the action was good, the soundtrack good, the special effects well-done and the plot just twisted enough to keep you guessing, afterwards it felt…flat. I didn’t feel hyped and glad like I did when I got out of the theater after watching Bourne Legacy. My stomach didn’t hurt from laughing like it does after I watch Knight and Day or Red. It wasn’t pulse-pounding excitement like Eagle Eye. 

And I realized it was because the main character, Salt, was sad. There wasn’t anything likeable about her. She was a trained machine, fairly heartless, humorless killer out for revenge. There wasn’t anything in her to root for, there wasn’t any personal sympathy over ‘the poor little girl.’ And this is why the movie felt lacking. (I feel like such a snob watching movies now that I write. I dissect them instead of just watching them – but I think it’s actually a better way to go.)

It got me to thinking about my Unforget MC, Cayne. When I first spun him out of word-dust, he was very much like Salt – a heartless killer with his mind set on one thing. I knew he needed something, but for a while I couldn’t put my finger on it. And so he sat in a dark corner, waiting to really come to life, and finally he did. I realized he needed a heart. (One of those “How could I have forgotten that!?” author moments right there.)

And so, I gave him one. And with the very first heartbeat, he became a different man. He became three-dimensional, he became a real character, he became someone I could connect with and feel sympathy and root for.

Yes, he’s out for one thing at the beginning of the novel – to retrieve the two percent of his memories that still exist. And yes, his mind has been so drained that he’s trigger-happy and panicked and therefore shoots anybody in his way. But the more I got to know him (non-writers – not that there are many non-writers who read this blog – this is the way lots of authors talk. I beg your pardon if it seems unusual) I realized there was more to him. A lot more. His heart, tattered and bleeding as it was, was special. It was still there, all it needed was someone to remind him of it.

And so, I introduced Moon. She’s like Cayne in many ways – wary, sharp-tongued, mistrusting. But she has a tender, caring side that, while she doesn’t show it often in order to protect herself, ends up being prominent anyway. She’s a pickpocket and a thief in order to survive, and she constantly feels guilty about it because she’s a Christian. Her Christianity makes her even more uncomfortable – and horrified – at Cayne’s thoughtless killing of anyone who might be a threat. They stick together out of necessity for a little while and she hates every second of it, thinking Cayne is a mindless, heartless ‘ghoul’ (yes, she calls him a ghoul) something happens that makes her see that he is, in fact, the saddest person she has ever known.

Once she is allowed that glimpse into the man he used to be, she begins to pry his shell open little by little and realizes that he is a human being, albeit a ghost of what he was before. And Cayne surprises even himself as his heart begins to thaw, beat by beat. He begins to let people go. He begins to care for Moon, even putting himself on the line to protect her. Over the course of the novel, Cayne regains his humanity – and does it without the use of his memories, which were the only things he was living for.

He is, as my friend Ashley put so well, a ‘burnt marshmallow.’ He’s crispy and black and unappetizing on the outside, but the inside is an entirely different matter.

 

See the similarity?

So my main point is – if you’re going to have a character you want the reader to root for, they have to have a soul. Even if they aren’t very likeable at the beginning, if they have horrible habits or kill people or vote for Obama, they have to have a heart. They have to have something for the reader to sympathize with, to connect with, to have hope for. Cayne himself is hopeless at the beginning, but there’s something the reader can hope for – his redemption. (And yes! Unforget’s theme is redemption. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself).

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Snip-snip-snippets!

So I was up late last night, scribbling away in Unforget and deep in the world of “Starters,” and I remembered I hadn’t done Snippets this month. Anyway, I thought I would share some snippets I’ve written (thank you, NaNo forums for inspiring me. I love you forever) in Unforget. (You can see the bent of my mind at at the moment, but I feel torn. Monster calls me to edit, Unforget calls me to plan…ce la writer’s vie) (I think that was a lingual abomination).

So you lied to me.”

I bit the inside of my lip. There had to be a good explanation for why I hadn’t told him my real age – I just couldn’t come up with it on such a short notice. I didn’t think that, ‘You looked like a creep, and I didn’t want the wrong kind of attention’ would improve his mood at at all. Fortunately for me, he let me off the immediate hook by speaking again.

“If you’re going to have two faces, at least make one of them easy on the eyes.”

“Eye,” I corrected, pointing toward the bandage over the right side of his face before bothering to feel offended. Which I did, just not too much.

He leaned forward, squinting at me with his good eye. “I think you understood the insult.”

I nodded. “Yep, sure did. Thanks for that. But,” I added, shifting so the wind wasn’t blowing through the hole in the knee of my jeans, “isn’t it better to have two faces than half of one?”

He regarded me in silence for the space of a long breath before responding, “The bandage comes off, you know.”

************************

So.” Topaz folded my sweatshirt with practiced, precise movements. “What are your thoughts on…” She nodded toward the door.

“My thoughts?” I studied my fingernails. “He’s… kind of hard to get along with.”

“That is kinder than what most would say.”

“Yeah, well.” I shrugged and leaned back on the bed. “You kind of have to get over the glaring ‘do not disturb’ sign hung on his personality. Then he’s not so bad, as long as you can put up with his emotional moments. Then he’s like a deranged teenaged girl in a man suit.”

Topaz hid her laugh behind a slender hand. “And what,” she asked, still smiling, “does he think of you?”

“I think he tolerates my existence,” I answered. “It’s a step up.” 

“You tolerate each other, then. That must be nice.” She placed the sweatshirt on the foot of the bed and sat looking at her hands.

I sat up. “What do you mean? He gets along well with you. I’ve never seen him act that nicely toward anyone else, ever. Since I met him, anyway,” I added, figuring that five days wasn’t really long enough to use ‘ever.’

She shrugged her shoulders and smiled at me, a wistful smile that made me realize. This beautiful, elegant woman was jealous of me. “Yes,” she agreed, the wistfulness slipping into something secretive and sad. “Only take care of yourself, Moon. There is nothing in the world so difficult as loving someone who likes you.”

I wanted to ask, What about falling in love with someone you hate?

************************

No,” I spat. “The mistake I made was trusting him in the first place.”

“But there is the question – wouldn’t you do it again if it meant seeing him smile?”

*************************

I aimed a kick at a fist-sized pebble and missed. “Sorry for…” I tapped my face where his now sported a bruise where my forehead had bashed into him.

He continued to look straight ahead at the end of the alley. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I said your head was empty. I really thought you already knew.”

I was going to kill him. And I didn’t care if I had to jump to do it, the mule.

***************************

I hope you enjoyed the snippets; I’m having so much fun writing their dialogue. They’re going to bounce really well off each other – I can’t wait for November to actually begin so I can officially start on this thing! 

Credendo Vides,

Mirriam

Beautiful People – Unforget Edition

I’m missing Beautiful People, so I took Abigail’s idea – just ask them questions of your own, take some previous ones, mix and match. I chose to do this now because I’m fleshing out Cayne and Moon, so I thought I’d do a NaNo: Double Edition and interview them both!
 
 
Cayne
 
1. What does he look like?
Cayne is, at first glance, not a handsome man. Striking, but not handsome. There is something  too angular about his face, too frightening in his glance to be called such. His aura is such that people often do not see ‘the forest for the trees,’ as it were; they see the dark cloud around him and from it gain their opinion of him. Inky black hair, black eyes, and pale skin give him a graveyard appearance (though he is very much alive). He is tall and thin, but walks with a slight hunch and his head down, as if to keep from being noticed.   
 
2. How old is he?
He is twenty-seven years old.
 
3. What kind of personality does he have?  Introverted or extroverted?  Cheerful or morose?
For the past two years, since the Incident, Cayne’s personality is the opposite of what it once was. Now he is deeply introverted, constantly wary, simultaneously angry and anguished. He is unstable; if he held a gun, you would want to keep clear because the slightest thing could set him off. He will run through walls to gain what he is after, but he does not often stop to think they could be ran around, as well. On rare occasions, his former personality will peek through the clouds and you may get a smile or even a genuine, deep-throated laugh from him. He lives for himself, but he now and then it’s as if something touches him and he goes out of his way to do something gentle, even kind.
4. What animals does he like best?
He is not fond of other creatures, humans or animals. However, a sleek, black-coated cat takes a liking to him partway through the book and he ends up with a grudging fondness for the thing.
 
5. Is there something he is afraid of?
Cayne is one of those puzzling people who is, in all honesty, afraid of life. Many would mistake his rash, violent actions for fearlessness, but in truth he is afraid of the emptiness inside his own mind, his own heart. He is empty and desperate to be filled, and he believes pursuing his lost memories will do that.
 
6. If he had magic, how would it express itself? 
Without a doubt, it would be the ability to become invisible. If you asked him, he might not choose this – but if he had been born with an ability, this would be it. It would suit his current personality.
 
7. Is he musical?
He does not play any instruments, but he has a surprisingly haunting singing voice. Remember the song ‘Mist’ I posted a while back? That is Cayne’s voice.
 
8. Does he have any annoying habits?  Any habits at all?
He has a habit of not blinking for long periods of time, giving people the feeling he is staring at them. It results in very uncomfortable moments – but, Cayne is not a ‘comfortable’ person. While talking, he also has an unconscious habit of going ‘hmm’ while he’s thinking.
 
9. What sort of laugh does he have?
It’s almost more like an erratic, deep-throated giggle than an actual laugh. He also sort of hunches his shoulders, as if his subconscious is embarrassed by it. A real, loud, genuine laugh from Cayne is about as rare as a raindrop on a sunny day, but it’s worth hearing. 
 
10. How do other characters feel about him?
The officials don’t feel anything about him. They’re doing their job, hunting down a rogue asset. Moon’s feelings for him are complicated – at first, he is someone she takes pity on. Then she’s forced to stick with him out of necessity. She hates him fiercely at times, and at others loves him so hard it hurts. Topaz is both friend and comforter to him, loving him with a caring but distant sort of love.
 
Bonus Question: If they could be played by any actor, who would it be? Kang Dong-Won. Ironically, he is released from military service during November… “Sometimes, the stars simply align.”
 
 
Moon
 
 
 
1. What does she look like?
Moon is petite and waifish, often mistaken as several years younger than she really is. She has a heart-shaped face, large blue eyes, and her most striking feature – her hair – is white, cut in a curving bob. When Cayne first meets her, he is under the impression she is fourteen or fifteen, and she lets him believe it until he discovers her real age. (An argument ensues. Cayne despises being lied to for any reason whatsoever).
 
2. How old is she?
She is twenty years old.
 
3. What kind of personality does he have?  Introverted or extroverted?  Cheerful or morose?
Moon is spunky and level-headed, often thinking through things where Cayne would simply rush in and in her words, ‘make a mess of everything.’ She is quick-witted which, though often a good thing, leads to cutting remarks when she is angry. She thinks through everything she does, except for what comes out of her mouth. Though you would not think it on first acquaintance, she cares for everyone – even those who drive her half-mad.
4. What animals does she like best?
Moon is fond of animals of all kinds, especially stray cats and dogs. There are not many animals to be found in the city, and the wild dogs found outside the city are best left alone.
 
5. Is there something she is afraid of?
She is terrified of losing someone she is close to. In this respect, she and Cayne are not so different – they neither of them are very willing to open themselves up to anyone else. She lost her parents at a young age and has been on her own and ‘doing just fine,’ so when Cayne is thrown into her life story she isn’t quite sure how to handle it.
 
6. If she had magic, how would it express itself? 
 
She would be an elemental, but just which element I’m not certain. She’s an eclectic mixture of personality facets, and in some moods fire would suit her better than rain.
 
7. Is she musical?
She hums, but she does not like to sing. Her humming, though, is almost incessant and drives Cayne to distraction. He’s gotten used to just covering her mouth whenever it irritates him past the point of distraction. (Granted, she smacks it away, but at least she’s quiet for a while afterward).
 
8. Does she have any annoying habits?  Any habits at all?
The aforementioned humming counts as a habit, I suppose. She also has the childish habit of sticking her tongue out at people who annoy her, even when they aren’t looking at her.
 
9. What sort of laugh does she have?
She has a quick laugh; a light giggle that often turns into a bubbly, full-out laugh. It’s contagious and once she starts, it also takes a while for her to stop.
 
10. How do other characters feel about her?
Just as her feelings for Cayne are mixed, Cayne’s feelings for her are equally confusing. At first, he sees her as an annoyance, a ‘tag-along’ he would just as soon throw to the dogs. However, her personality is infectious and sticks to him like a burr, until he softens just enough to care about her. It is certainly not ‘instant love’ on his part – he is searching for memories of his dead fiancee and is not interested in any sort of romance with anyone. However, this may change.
 
Bonus Question: If they could be played by any actor, who would it be? Oooh, an actress for Moon…this is difficult. She would probably have to be played by a teenager to have the right ‘look’ but I can’t think of one off the top of my head! (Or the bottom of it, for that matter.)