Friday, November 07, 2008

Being Part of Something

[NaNo is kicking my butt. I've got 10,109 words done so far, and I'm barely caught up. It's been sort of weird, especially as I'm writing scenes that I've only hinted at in some of my other writing. Here's hoping that I can keep it up!]

Reading my last entry, I obviously wrote it in a rush. I need to expand on relationships a bit. After all, keeping it real isn't just about adding real relationships; it's understanding how those relationships work. There's a reason anti-heroes are popular; they don't have any real relationships to slow things down and so they are easier to write about. However, by throwing some real relationships at a character, you add not only depth but can create hooks for when you are running out of steam later on.

Consider James Bond. Not only does he gain a lot of power from MI6, but the organization itself keeps things going. He not only gets some real cool toys, an expense account, and easy transport to any location in the world, he also has set goals to accomplish; all of that is custom-made for writing. You can create foreshadowing with the items (exactly how does a watch that creates an EMP going to be useful in the field?). That expense account can be good thing when he needs a boost or specific funding, but it can be taken away as the situation warrants, either by the organization, by theft (especially if it's represented by credit cards), or by situation (he's far away from civilization). The transportation puts him wherever he needs to be.

Best yet, though, are those goals. They provide the initial hook, the push that gets things going. Bond gets an initial list of things to do, and reason that the bad guy needs to be defeated. The important thing to keep in mind is that these goals are not iron-clad; if the mission goes bust obviously those goals will change, or at least be modified a bit. But, they provide an original reason to get Bond into the field, and that's good enough.

And don't think that the organization is nothing but help. After all, Bond needs to follow certain regulations before he can kill someone, and there are certain protocols that need to be followed for him to do his job effectively. He also has to worry about jurisdiction (there are certain areas where he can't go and he can't kill people for everyday crimes). He's even been hindered or helped depending on MI6's reputation (and not only the bad guys have disliked MI6). And that's ignoring the various office politics and interdepartmental conflicts that have popped up from time to time, or when he's seriously screwed up and so MI6 has restricted what he can do, has forced him to do menial tasks, or assigns him to duties a rookie can do.

And this applies even to gangs. The equipment, amount of money, and transportation available may change, but there may be other perks available (reinforcements, living arrangements, even internet access). An organization can be a source of strength as well as (and this is important!) conflict.

And even gods aren't immune to this. Consider Thor; his friends (the elves and gods) and enemies (giants and evil gods) are defined by the group he belongs to, as are his duties (defend the gods and humanity). He gets access to some pretty weird stuff (a cart pulled by goats, a really special hammer), transportation (a rainbow bridge to anywhere), and some pretty interesting resources (an entire army of dead warriors) if he needs it. Not to mention sibling rivalries that are even weirder (his brother Loki can be good or evil, depending on the writer, and either way he gets Thor into trouble).

The bottom line is that everybody belongs to an organization. And, for better or worse, there strengths and weaknesses belonging to one. As a writer, you need to learn how to mine those in order to maximize the conflict in your stories and to have a lot of fun with the characters. And then there are relationships....