You know, as an editor and book reviewer, I get constant opportunity to experience a lot in the literary world. I get to see a lot of different techniques and worlds. Sometimes I get first peek into a new series, new characters and new creations. It's fantastic, and it's enlightening. It allows me to take things with me into my own writing. It makes me aware of common mistakes in literature, like starting too many sentences with the word And, or But. Making sure that I'm minding my commas and semi-colons. It allows me to see where the market is over-saturated and where there's room to introduce a new idea that people might want to read.
It's also helped in characterization, because some of my biggest literary pet peeves are in the characters themselves. Some authors will build an amazing world. New species and lands, powers and plots, and you think, this is going to be great. This is going to be something new and fantastic.
And then the characters come into play and everything falls apart. The truth is, while books can be your fantasies all played out, your
characters need to have believable flaws. Anyone who knows me knows I like to take Twilight to task. It's not what I consider decent literary fiction. Now, I don't do book-shaming. If you like Twilight, read it proudly, and if you're judged, who cares. But the truth is, Twilight has set the bar for the new wave of fantasy fiction and it's destroying believable characters.
Having a character who occasionally gets muddy and cut up, or a character who is a little bit clumsy, are not character flaws. They're incidents attempting to appear as character flaws in order to try and counter the oh-my-god-so-beautiful-and-perfect-and-shiny woman.
Every other woman is jealous, every man is in love with, and somehow, despite being a self-proclaimed klutz or not that smart, she manages
to be the amazing hero. She can lie on the bed and do nothing for an entire book and yet somehow be the plot's savior. Even in a fantasy
world, characters need to have some flaws. Otherwise, the readers simply cannot connect to that person, because no one is that person, and no one ever will be. It might be a fun little fantasy from time to time, but eventually it gets tired and eventually the reader just wants something to connect to. They want to be inspired by something that might actually happen to them in their lives.
I get a lot of criticism for my character, Ben. Ben is an Atheist, a homicide detective. Frankly, he's a jerk. He doesn't date because he's not really a nice guy, he's a workaholic, and he loves his sister but he thinks everything she stands for is nonsense and he has no respect for it.
Ive gotten emails asking me to kill Ben off. I've gotten emails asking me why he's still fighting the idea of gods and immortals etc. I've gotten emails asking me why Ben can't just let it all go, or why he's such a jerk.
Well, he can't let it go because he's an Atheist. He's devout. He's a seasoned detective who has spent most of his adult life eye-balls deep in the scum of human society. He doesn't believe that there's anything out there like a god, because if there was, people wouldn't act the way they do. He wouldn't be standing in gory, serial-killer crime scenes. He's a jerk because? well? some people are jerks.
Don't get me wrong, Ben grows through the series. By book three, Cry, Nike, Ben doesn't fight the idea of gods. He'll use Mark and Judas's names freely, and he'll call the gods what they are. He doesn't try and rationalize and reason away the strange things he sees. He's willing to take on Nike with a sort of power he doesn't understand.
Doesn't mean he went all perfect-guy on everyone though. It was important to me to keep Ben human. To keep his flaws and his character imperfections. To make readers understand that in life, there are people who are just that way. They can grow and change, but they're human and they're not going to be everything we want them to be.
I created characters, Gods and Immortals, Angels and Demons and they're all flawed. They're all subject to some sort of vice and weakness that humans, can relate to. Things that the reader can stop and say, 'Yeah I've been there,' because even though there's the fantasy element to it, I want people to keep with the books. I want people to read more because they understand these characters and their failings. I want them to understand their triumphs because it's a triumph that is reachable for anyone. Okay, maybe not saving the world from a crazed god, but finding purpose and relationships and connection in your life to beings that are also just as flawed? Yeah, we all do that.
I think writers need to spend more time creating characters that can grow, instead of giving them superficial 'issues' that clears up with a pair of skinny jeans and a halter top, or rippling muscles and long, flowing hair. Writers need to spend more time finding the things that are beautiful in reality and using that in their fantasy. It's best that we don't forget that our lives, even ordinary, 'boring' lives, can be just as beautiful and fulfilling as any fantasy novel out there.
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About Angella Graff
Angella Graff was born and raised in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona. She married and became a mother very young, and after getting started with her family, began her University studies where she found her passion for creative writing, history and theology.
She now resides in Tucson with her husband Joshua, three children, Christian, Isabella and Adia, and their three cats, Archive (Ivy), Lasciel and Fix. She prefers to spend her days writing, gardening, and reading non-fiction theology theory books. Angella is also an avid, if not fanatic fan of Doctor Who and BBC Sherlock, which tend to dominate her dry, sarcastic humor, a lot of which is apparent in her writing.
Currently Angella is working on an Urban Fantasy series called The Judas Curse, involving extensive research into Mythos, Christianity and history. The first book of The Judas Curse, The Awakening, was released November 2012.
The Judas Kiss
Judas’ Kiss haunts him 2 millenia into his unending existence. Torn between petty gods and their hunger for power, a faithless police officer slips further into machinations that have already cost the life of someone he loved. Mark’s story finally begins to unfold in the newest volume of Angella Graff’s well received series: The Judas Curse.
Just as Detective Ben Stanford is ready to put the past at rest, he’s pulled down once again into the chaos of gods, theology, and mystery. Told that his sister is alive and the two immortals, Mark and Judas, have been kidnapped by the treacherous goddess, Nike, Ben must find a way to rescue the pair before she can harness their powers.
While Mark waits alone, forced to write out the story of how their powers came to be, and Judas lay tortured by the angry Goddess, a reluctant Ben must enlist the help of an unwilling being from the ancient Norse Pantheon.
Time is ticking, and the hard-headed detective must use everything he learned in the past to prevent another disaster, which could potentially wipe-out the human race.