Ode to Logan and Spike and Amanda :)


This week I finally get to do something to support the writers’ strike! I mean, besides posting about it incessantly on my blog. Something that involves showering and wearing pants and leaving the house and going outdoors! And possibly marching and shouting!

All things I usually avoid in the winter (well, OK, I shower, but that’s only because our bathroom floor is heated, so aren’t you glad that you agreed with me on that wise renovation decision, guy who has to sit next to me on the couch every night?).

But these are things I will nonetheless do on Friday, with great enthusiasm, because TV writers are awesome and I passionately want them to be treated fairly RIGHT NOW so they can come back asap and give me more Chuck (which I have officially decided is my favorite new show of the season, since I’m sure you were all desperately wondering).

So if you’re in Boston or anywhere nearby, come join me at the Boston TV Party!

JOSS WHEDON will be there! Speaking! Marching! Standing! Being inherently awesome! I’m entirely certain that just being in his presence is going to make me a better writer. VERY EXCITING!

Also speaking: Jaime Paglia, creator of Eureka (another show I love) and Rob Kutner from The Daily Show, which I OBVIOUSLY adore and I’m not really sure how I’m surviving without it. Have things happened in the outside world in the last six weeks? I hope not! We clearly can’t have an election without The Daily Show to help us figure out who is lame and who is lying, so if this writers’ strike doesn’t get sorted out soon, I’m afraid we’ll just have to shut down the government and anything that might cause news until Jon Stewart returns to make sense of it all. Right? Right.

Yay Boston TV Party! Everybody come! Yay writers!

I thought I should take a break from posting honeymoon photos this week to write about writing instead, since I guess that’s really what author blogs are for (aren’t they?)…

So, hmm, let’s see. I have finished the first draft of the Almanzo manuscript, which is quite thrilling, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. It has horses! And romance! And authentic pioneer life historical details! At least, I hope they’re authentic. Otherwise all these library fines will be for naught! Seriously, I think they’ll be able to build a whole new wing of the Watertown library one day just from my fines. I wish there were some kind of premium library membership for due date-challenged authors. I would so happily pay the library something up front each year so that I didn’t have to worry about fines piling up and disapproving librarians shaking their heads at me.

I’ve been thinking lately about what makes a character likable. Laura, not surprisingly, did a really excellent job of making Almanzo likable in her books, even when the character of Laura was warily unsure she wanted to be courted by him. Here’s what I’ve come up with from that example:

* He’s unselfishly heroic. He goes out during the dangerous long winter to find wheat to feed the whole town, although he could easily have died doing it, and he doesn’t even demand payment for it.

* He’s good with animals. Every time we see him through Laura’s eyes, he’s handling a team of beautiful horses with remarkable skill, and he clearly cares about them, too.

* He’s devoted/reliable/determined/loyal. Even though Laura rejects him a couple of times, he never turns his affections to another girl; she’s always the one for him, and he keeps coming back to be there for her. When she’s teaching school twenty miles from home, he shows up every weekend to take her back to her parents, even when the weather is dangerous and it’s so cold they can’t even talk to each other on the way.

* Other trustworthy characters like him. Cap Garland (whom I’m convinced Laura must have had a crush on to write him like she did) and Pa both clearly have very high opinions of Almanzo, so you know he’s a good guy even before Laura does. I think this is an important one…if other characters dislike your hero, then it’s likely the reader will feel the same way. At least, it’s a tricky line to walk.

But it’s not hard to portray Almanzo as a hero; he pretty much just is one. What do you do for someone who nobody likes, who never does anything heroic, and who is definitely untrustworthy? How do you make a villain likable?

I think the simplest answer is: you make him fall in love. Or you make him funny. Or, ideally, both.

It worked for Spike on Buffy. It totally worked for Logan on Veronica Mars. And it’s currently working (at least in my opinion) for Chuck on Gossip Girl. Oh, I know he’s irredeemably bad! But look how much he loves Blair! Awwwww!

(Of course, I haven’t watched the most recent episode yet, so maybe my opinion will change, but we’ll see.)

What I really need are some girl villains to apply this theory to, but those are sadly hard to come by. Maybe Jennifer Esposito’s character on Samantha Who? — she’s kind of an awful person, but she makes up for it by being hilarious. Oh! Amanda on Ugly Betty! She was more of a villain in the first season, but she is definitely funny, and I think seeing her in love with Daniel made her incredibly sympathetic. I’ll see if I can think of any others…

So that’s my wise writing observation for the day: If you’re planning to redeem your villain in the end, it’ll help if you make him/her hilarious and/or completely smitten at some point.

My wise TV observation for the day is that the kids of Kid Nation are TOO adorable for words (well, most of them). I am SO GLAD that Zach got a gold star at last (awwww) and I would have given him one of the $50K ones, too, just for working so hard and being so ridiculously mature (only ten years old? are you sure?). In the end, every kid I was really hoping would get a gold star got one, although of course that could be clever editing making me think things turned out just right.

I do wish the last three stars had been voted on by the town instead of chosen by the Council, mainly so Council members like Michael and DK could have been eligible, too, and to see how everyone else felt about everybody. As long as Sophia still got one, because she rules. Their bios on CBS.com are totally fascinating, too. I think Alex could be our president right now and we’d be much better off. I also love how much Laurel loves reading and that she writes to authors. So awesome! Laurel, write to me! I’ll write back! Assuming she still has time to write to authors now that she’s a celebrity, of course.

All right, I’m off to bed, since there is apparently something horribly wrong with me this week where I get tired at 11pm. WHAT. How am I supposed to write more books than Agatha Christie with a severe deficiency like that? (Interesting fun fact: according to Wikipedia, Agatha Christie found her own character Hercule Poirot “insufferable” and “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome ego-centric little creep”. !! And yet she wrote THIRTY books about him! Can you imagine spending that much time with someone you dislike so much? Why wouldn’t she have made him more likable somehow? I guess that shows admirable dedication to keeping her character consistent, but sheesh. I wonder if he has any of the Vital Likability Characteristics we’ve discussed here — not that I can remember from the last Poirot book I read, which was a while ago. HMMM!)

Quote of the Day: “Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.”
— Elizabeth Taylor