Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Everblue Original Critique Part 2

Part 2.

I just read through my post again, and it was a tad rushed. I’m going to apologise for the spelling and grammar, it’s terrible, I know.

There were a few parts I missed, and since I have to wait for my PC to finish it’s irritatingly long render times, I’ve got a bit of time to see if I can muddle through a few more concepts.

If you want expansion on anything, clarity, or it’s just plain confusing, please let me know, I will miss bits, and it’s quarter past five in the morning, so I’ll use that as an excuse for not being quite sharp enough.

It doesn’t help that what I’m about to talk about is quite complex, in depth, and generally advanced. These are not topics you’ll find in the introductory class to writing, these are more things I’ve stumbled upon from listening to other writers and critics talk about their various crafts.

So let’s go into those underlying concepts again, only deeper and hopefully better this time. I missed a few important things I wanted to say.

We’ll start with a few little details I should have picked out earlier.

First up. Our lovely General Shar. He’s trying to keep the peace for a little bit longer. So to speak. The old order works, and it’s worked well in his opinion, and he wants to get the most out of it.

This sets a decent enough premise for his motivation to go after Luna. He’s not blindly following his path, nor is he ignorant of the risks and ramifications of what’s happening. In fact, one could go so far as to say that one of his more defining traits is just how clear headed he is going into this.

From what I can gather from the little pieces of information you’ve dropped on us, he’s been making the kings and leaders of the various island states dance under his fingers, with the help of a number of others, to keep a tentative and dangerously unstable peace in what is one of the larger empires on the world.

Certain things are outlawed because they must be. Because if they aren’t, certain events will happen that will bring a change that he doesn’t want to see happen, because he can see the consequences of this change.

In all likelihood, this will be civil war among the islands, as the newly escaped Catalyst attracts followers and powerful people like flies to honey. Luna represents a new world order, and the resultant chaos that ensues from establishing this order.

He’s been after her for a long time. Actually, considering how long he’s been after her, and the importance of her place in the world in his view; why didn’t he personally oversee her execution. He, in the classic ball drop of every failed antagonist in modern fantasy, left the work to a minion. Sure, a well picked minion.

But a minion nonetheless.

More to the point. Evil overlord list 101.

I will not order my trusted lieutenant to kill the infant who is destined to overthrow me — I’ll do it myself.

Shar strikes me as the sort who’d make sure that the job is done properly, rather than rely on someone else to do it. And so I really have to ask why he just left it to an underling who he knew was closely related to her.

Now, looking past his moment of insanity, I’ll take a look at his character… again.

I didn’t cover it properly before, but he’s got nothing that really distinguishes him as a character. He’s an antagonist, a general, and what one might call a kingmaker. These characters have some very common character traits. Most of which he neatly encompasses.

But that’s not the real issue at play. It’s that he doesn’t have a very strong sense of personality showing through. You’ve given him good lines that sound right, and a strong personality that seems about right.

But it’s not particularly defined by anything. There’s a difference between a dark general’s scowl, and Clint Eastwood’s scowl in Gran Turino. Both have a similar character archetype. However Eastwood does an excellent job of portraying his disapproval at everything, or cynical attempt at smiling. Worse yet, Eastwood is a lot scarier than a brooding general. Doesn’t matter what story they’re in.

The line about the swords? It’s not an uncommon one. The writer wanted to show that the character wasn’t all about fighting and war, that he was nobler, had a higher sense of morality. That he preferred better forms of combat. Only to succeed in saying what many, many characters have before him. The way he held the sword, like he knew how to use it, and understood the intricate beauty of using one. That’s been seen before too. It’s known, because it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

To take him further, you need to really think hard. It’ll come easier as you get more experienced at it. To make him stand out you first have to ask this question.

What defines him as a character?

Then, after answering that. Answer these questions.

Where does he come from?

How would his upbringing have affected his speech patterns?

Does he have a specific dialect that he speaks from?

Does he have a unique vocabulary that he uses?

What does he study in his life? (This hugely affects a persons choice of words).

He rambles. Why does he ramble? When he’s talking about the sword, that’s rambling. Why did he choose to say that?

When dealing with character speech, you’re dealing with text only, so inject life into that text. Really think about how the characters would say things, what inflections they have, what slang they’ll use (everybody uses slang) and what their vocab will be. Real speech isn’t clean and simple. It’s all chopped up and messy. Obviously, you can’t copy verbatim, but messy up the speech of your characters.

Shar less so. Because he’s more refined. But he’ll have definite speech patterns based on his upbringing.

Of course, you’re a webcomic, so you can add expressions and physical actions to punctuate, underline, and add whole knew dimensions to your character’s speech. Combine the two. Iconic speech and iconic action, and you have unforgettable characters.

Shar is forgettable. I’m not saying that to be mean. I mean that he’s got nothing on the complete trolliness of Zee Captain from Romantically Apocalyptic (not a good analogy, I know).

Or the unutterable evil that is Black Mage from 8-Bit Theater:

Or even the straightforward, ruthless brutality of the businessman/villain that dominated Swordfish.

He’s just… Shar. That dude in the armour who stands around trying to look cool and spouting off vaguely ominous sentences about our main characters. Why is the Catalyst bad? The Catalyst can’t be bad. It’s Luna! She’s adorable! What’s so bad about her? Wait, can we even believe the guy who’s trying to kill her and enslaves people?? I don’t believe you Shar! You big meanie!

I’ve gone on long enough. So I’ll leave the thoughts on underlying psychosocial thematics and so on for another day. It’s six AM, I’m tired. This post is darn long. I haven’t even gotten to the deeper details with Luna as the Catalyst, or Clara.

So stay tuned. It’s going to get deeper.

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