Monday, 25 April 2011

A Muse on Aesthetics and Character Archetypes

I think we all end up having a preferred 'type' when it comes to the opposite sex. Of course, it's not exactly a concrete thing; my mother admits that my dad is the complete opposite to her 'type'; but we do have our own preferences when it comes to looking for a relationship. I think it applies to friends as well. You're looking for specific things in people you become friends with. If you don't gel with them, the friendship ain't gonna work.

But this post isn't about that. As well as having preferences in people, I think a lot of writers have preferences in the characters that they write. In fanfiction especially, since you're not going to write a character you don't identify with or find appealing in some way. At least, I know I wouldn't.

Me? I'm fairly easy to please. And since I wanted to write a post today, but wasn't entirely sure on a subject, I decided to do a basic run-down of my favourite character types.

Sort of like a bait and switch personality type deal.
When I'm writing female characters, I don't want them straightforward. A normal, well-adjusted character is all well and good, but where's the fun in that? Besides, I'm not exactly normal or well-adjusted myself, what with all my weird tendencies. And you know what they say; write what you know, and I have some notable tsundere traits.

The tsundere is the girl (occasionally a boy, but not often) that runs hot and cold, usually on the boy she likes. Naturally, this means that I get to have way too much fun stringing out relationship developments. She'll spend the whole time swinging wildly between bitching him out and acting all cute and shy because he did a nice thing. But it's not because she likes him or anything, okay?!

My favourite tsundere character to write is an aged-up Blossom from the Powerpuff Girls. I write her as extremely uptight, and constantly checking herself to make sure she's doing the right thing. And of course, I'm writing her opposite her Rowdyruff Boy counterpart Brick, who is clearly not the type of boy a good girl like her would ever go for, and it drives her nuts. As a result, she finds herself trying to be as cold as possible, but letting it slip when she forgets who she's dealing with and actually lets herself have fun. Ridiculously great fun to write.

They annoy you, but you're sorry that their life sucks so much.
As much as I have great fun writing tsundere characters, I tend to drift back to these ones. Where the tsundere has a temper on them, but is still well suited to light-hearted pieces, these are better for darker stories. A woobie is meant to elicit sympathy, but the jerkass woobie is the one you want to punch in the face and then give a hug to. They try to be unlikeable, either because they don't like people because of whatever tragic backstory they have or because they're just broken in some way.

Again, the Powerpuff Girls is where I tend to write these. Buttercup is just this character all over, at least when I write her. Buttercup, for me, is a prickly, uncomfortable teenager, and as such, shoots her mouth off, swears like a sailor and is very prone to completely losing it, usually in a violent sort of way. She doesn't want sympathy, so she does everything she can to avoid getting it, but at the same time, I write her tragically broken. I'm awful to my favourite characters, I really am. I just abuse them mercilessly.

Self-loathing and unrequited love issues ahoy.
The broken ace is my favourite for male characters. They're strong characters, but they have some sort of crippling issue or set of issues that have messed them up badly. Oddly enough, I don't write these often myself, but they're some of my favourites to read or watch.

Illidan Stormrage up there from the Warcraft series is a wonderful example of one of these. Exceptionally gifted at magic and an almost unrivalled demon hunter, he's obsessed with becoming strong in order to win the heart of his childhood friend Tyrande Whisperwind. Except that she's in love with his twin brother, and she's really not into the whole 'almighty displays of destructive magical power in order to prove my love' sort of thing. He... really doesn't take it well, and despite the fact that he's... well, he's evil by the end-up, there's no way around that, he's still exactly the kind of character I find appealing. He's awesome, but tragic, and there's a love triangle in there too. Not that he ever really had a chance there, but he likes to think he did.

Maybe it's just my innate romantic tendencies coming out. I just have a soft-spot for losing characters in love triangles I suppose. Except when it's Final Fantasy VII, but that's a whole other bag of gerbils that we won't go into right now.

Of course, I write character types other than these, and I'm not even scratching the surface of the many different character archetypes there are, but I'm also lazy and this post has taken long enough as is.

I'm not a very good blogger am I? :P

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

When Can I Have Fun Again?

You know, a lot of people tell my parents that I'm a real credit to them. Just a couple of weeks ago we ran into my old headmaster (who now runs a restaurant; go figure) and he couldn't stop telling my mother how well I'd grown up and how well-spoken and intelligent and charming I am.

Yes, I know. Rather hard to believe, isn't it?

The thing is, for all that I seem to come across as being all clever and what-not (which still confuses me, quite frankly, because I say some bloody stupid things sometimes), you'd think I'd be managing university without 50% of my coursework thoroughly kicking my ass. I guess I'm just really not cut out for this journalism lark. Not even this trusty bottle of Neuro Sonic I have next to me is helping, it's just that bad.

Not that it's really doing anything other than keeping my caffeine levels at the normal 'far too high' setting, but you know, it's still claiming the whole 'mental performance in a bottle' thing. Might as well humour it.

Also, no, there's not really a point to this post, but I'm meant to be writing a feature article, and since the ability to do so is eluding me (and has been for the past week and a half) I am procrastinating, and you're just going to have to suffer for it, okay? I don't even like this any more than you do, but it's either this or I dissolve into a wibbly puddle of goo in the middle of the library, and no one wants that.

Anyway, going back to my initial vague tangent, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has the feeling that their parents think that they're a lot more intelligent than they feel they are. I mean, I think my mother is fairly sure that I'm some sort of genius, especially in the creative writing department. I'm... really not.

And that isn't just self-deprecation by the way. I mean, I can write, yeah, but I'm not the next Tolkein or Pratchett or anything, and that's just on a technical level. As for entertainment value, I guess I like what I write (mostly), but I don't expect that many other people to. I just like writing.

I suppose parents just like to put their children on a pedestal, to push them to be special in some way. It's not all that surprising I guess. I mean, I'm sure we all want to be recognised for something. I know I'd like to at least be good at something that didn't involve me sitting in front of a computer screen, but since that's not likely to happen anytime soon, I'm not all that fussed about it. I suppose it carries over to children eventually, if you have them. You wanted to be special, now you want them to be special. I guess I understand that.

At least I can still go save the world in video games. That counts, right?

Oh, I don't know. Here's a picture of a hedgehog in an egg cup:

I think his expression perfectly sums up the expected reaction to this post.

Monday, 4 April 2011

A New Thing

Hey guys. Posting's been... well, yeah, it's been basically non-existant for a while. Things have been happening and then deadlines crept up on me and there was a mad dash to the finishline for an essay. But now that I have a teeny bit of breathing space in between that essay and my next couple of assignments, I thought I'd actually write something worthwhile.

Well I say worthwhile. I'm actually going to review a webcomic, but that's worthwhile for a student, right? Anyway, in order to actually keep my blog semi-alive, I'm planning on making this a monthly occurrence, since I read so many webcomics that I've lost track, and therefore I'll have plenty of material.

So, for our first review: Gunnerkrigg Court. Warning you now, there will be spoilers.

And so, onward!

On the face of it, Gunnerkrigg is your typical urban fantasy/science fiction webcomic, set in a mysterious UK boarding school. And then you read it, and suddenly you are presented with a seamless blend of world mythologies, magic and science. Almost anything goes at this school, and it's amazing.

Also, do not be put off by the early art. The art evolution is astounding; best illustrated by these two pages: Chapter 2, Page 2 and the same scene in flashback in Chapter 18, Page 41.

The Setting

Gunnerkrigg Court, while a school, also seems to be a gigantic self-contained city/science lab/countryside/massive unexplained building thing. As well as regular school subjects, the students also have lessons featuring insane simulations involving aliens, there are robots running around the hallways, a minotaur in the library and a rookie ghost hanging around the spare classroom.

Across the gorge outside lie the Gillitie Woods, in direct opposition to the Court. Where the Court values science and technology, the inhabitants of the Woods live by nature and magic. Also living in the Woods is the trickster god Coyote, and much of the story revolves around relationships between the Woods and the Court's chosen medium. Or in the case, mediums in training.

The Characters

Antimony 'Annie' Carver is the main protagonist of the story. Presented as being equally as strange as the school she begins to attend in the beginning of the comic, Annie is almost constantly stoic, never surprised by anything and always very polite. As it turns out, this isn't because she's just a boring mary sue narrative character.

Annie begins attending the Court after her mother's death and her father's disappearance. While there, she makes many discoveries about both herself and her parents, not least about their time as pupils at the Court.

As Annie develops and matures over the course of the story, she makes friends with Katerina Donlan (see below), she accidentally enslaves a demon in her plush toy wolf, steadfastly holds by her belief that she has to do everything herself and gets in and out of more trouble in two years than most people see in a lifetime. Most importantly, she comes to realise her true potential as a medium for the Court, and as her mother's daughter.

Katerina 'Kat' Donlan is Annie's best friend at the Court, and the daughter of two of the science teachers. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Kat becomes friends with Annie in much the same way as her parents became friends with Annie's mother back in the day.

Kat is a steadfast believer in the power of science, and she's a scientific genius to boot. While Annie has her affinity for nature and magic, Kat has a natural talent for physics and especially robotics. Much more easy-going than Annie, Kat balances out the friendship by providing humour, video-game geekery and terribly cheesy lines, which she gets away with by being damn adorable about it.

The Story

While featuring easygoing humour and some lighthearted storylines, Gunnerkrigg is an intricate web of interwoven storylines, intrigue and overarching plotlines that disappear just long enough for you to think they've been forgotten, only to resurface in glorious fashion. It's clever, it's elegant, and it's also really enjoyable to read through again, if only to see all those little bits of foreshadowing you might have missed the first time round.

All in all, Gunnerkrigg is my favourite webcomic, and it's a solid, captivating read. Yes, the art is initially a bit... off, but as already stated (and shown) it gets much better, and is continuing to improve with every page that gets put up.

For those interested, Gunnerkrigg updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.