Friday, July 15, 2011

Character Lounges: The Helpful Curse

The character (or “charrie”) lounge is something of an OYAN forum phenomenon, so I’ll explain. Usually, you get two to five other forum members, create a scenario relating to one of your books (or to none of your books), shove in a couple of characters apiece, and then have them interact. It’s rather like a role-playing games, I believe. The idea is that in a strange scenario with strange characters and other authors, you develop your characters better.

To some extent, it works. I used to be a great proponent of the “Charrie Lounge Cure” which turned flat, uninteresting characters into masterpieces (no, I didn’t ever actually say that).

But the great character lounge cure turned out to be rather like the internet--a curse as much as a blessing, something that the more you give to it, the less it gave back.

There was a point in 2009 where I was involved in several character lounges, one of them more of a role-playing than usual (it was actually written in third person instead of like instant messaging), I ended up spending HOURS just going back and forth between the other members of the lounges. I skipped between them and school, stayed up late at night, and eventually ended in a part-parental part-me break from the OYAN forum for a solid 3 months. How much did I write in this time period? As I remember it: absolutely nothing.

I had fallen into the trap of using my favourite characters only (instead of ones that really needed developing) and used it even as an escape from the stress of school assignments. It filled a void in my life that I usually would have filled with writing real books: it became my only writing, my only way of releasing the emotion. In truth, it became an escape. It was a way to write without really having to work.

Why am I writing this? I know other writers, at least on the forum, fall into the same trap. It’s non-committal, easy writing...especially if you only use favorite, developed characters! There’s no point in that. Yes, you might figure out something new after 50 pages of posting, but is it really worth all that time?

Instead, I suggest an alternative: faster, more exciting, and even more helpful. Live Character Chats. I’m serious. One of my best-loved characters, Much from Forest of Lies, developed at a startling rate through live character chats with fellow authors. He turned from a snobby, annoying character to one full of life and love, the character everybody (except one, that I know of) loved. Instant messaging with characters is fast, wild, and surprising. It develops faster than lounges, demands answers in split seconds that let the characters surface, and all and all, takes less time.

The other alternative (in case you live in an alternate universe or something that doesn’t have instant messaging--or you just don’t have friends who will do that sort of thing with you) is this: write your book. Simple and hard. Write your book. Let the characters know they’re free to take control (within reason)--and see where they take you.

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