HOW IMPORTANT IS ENVIRONMENT?

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Picture this: Your characters are in a gun fight. Bullets flying through the empty air. Nothing but white space all around them. No people running out of the way. No glass to crash through. No busy streets with gridlocked traffic to trap the fight and build tension. No buildings to jump off to avoid the inevitable explosion from a well hidden bomb. No breeze. No season of the year,(Colored leaves scattered over the ground, knee high snow drifts, or sweltering heat from the never ending laser beam of the sun.)

Your environment paints a picture of your world. It pulls the reader in and says to them, “This feels real.” Leave it out and you have the above white space floating around in their imagination; nothing but white space.

How do you choose environment for your characters? That depends on genre of the story. If it’s sci-fie, you might consider a spaceship or an alien world. Romance, Paris or an empty park filled with flowers and colorful trees. Action, I prefer environments we can relate to in everyday life. Offices are not a bad choice. The bank you pass every day. Maybe the school or college you attended.

Pictures are very helpful. Google has a wonderful source of reference, just remember not to use them for commercial use. Then you get sued and you end up like the guys in the first paragraph. (Maybe you take less drastic measures.)

We’ve established that environment is connected to Genre. It is also connected to character type. For instance, You might not find the homeless man who witnessed a murder hanging out inside a jewelry store. You might not find the well dressed assassin hanging out at Walmart.

Where you place your characters tells us a lot about them. How they live. What kind of money they have. What kind of friends or enemies they might have. How they might live. All of these things play on each other.

We humans have been building places to exist since the beginning. We’ve thrived in every environment from the deserts to the swamps. In the mountains and even underground. It’s our job to put our characters in a place they belong.

Can these rules be broken? Yes, break these rules. Maybe your character being in an environment they don’t belong in is part of your story. Maybe they don’t know they don’t belong there. Maybe part of their journey is coming to know that fact.

Weather is definitely important. Is it raining? Is it cold outside? If so, can we see their frosted breath? (Little kids at a bus stop pretending they’re smoking, pushing their breath out with their fingers holding imaginary cigarettes.)

When writing about your environment, remember your six senses. (Yes, SIX) Smell, touch, hear, taste, see, sense. Have you ever walked into a room and had a weird feeling like you’re being watched? SIXTH SENSE.

How do you use the senses. You can use them all but It’s not necessary. A few should be more than enough. Some author’s like to write a paragraph or two and set the scene before their characters interact with the environment. A great example of this style is used often in a book called: Of Mice and Men, a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. It is also a great example of writing accents.

I prefer to layer my description between dialog and action. I find it makes for a story that flows and is never interrupted by a constant output of information. The last thing I want is to push a reader out of the story to talk about a tree for three pages. Total overkill will make someone close your book.

When writing, try to find your own path. Use the method that works best for you and if you’re ever unsure how to handle your environment. Step away from the computer and go take a walk, environments are all around you.

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UNLIKABLE CHARACTERS

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What is the deal with people these days? They want us to believe that everybody is a drug addict looser who is so awful you don’t want to even look at them. They portray men as wimpy feminine sissies who are incompetent and woman are selfish evil reptiles with nothing on their minds but sex and hate.

What are we letting them turn our heros into? I won’t stand for it and neither should you. There is nothing good on TV anymore, they show us something that has a sliver of interest, then you get to know the characters and you become disappointed and detached.

What is the problem? Well, that’s simple. Everybody in almost every story of this age has become completely unlikable. They will argue that people have to have flaws. Okay, I get that. What is with all the drugs? Has everyone become some kind of lawless hack that has no talent and can do nothing but be disgusting? NO! But that’s what they want us to believe.

Ever notice that anything that sparks your imagination gets canceled and any shallow piece of garbage that you have no interest in goes on for years before someone wakes up and strips it away?

Even your villains should have something that makes you like them. What is the point of writing about such horrible creatures that no one could possibly like? If you pronounce your “ing’s” at the end of your words and are clean and sober they say you’re all high and mighty. The truth is that those sick people are just weak. I don’t want to read a book or watch a TV show or movie about such pathetic idiots.

I will not step down and be weak because that’s the common decision. Neither will my characters. You should love your characters, even the bad guys. Your hero’s need to be bigger than life. Your villains need to have a reason for being.

Would Batman still become Batman if his parents were not murdered by a mugger? Probably not. Give your characters a reason why they act the way they do.

The men and women I write about are powerhouses who effect everything around them. They are soulful and alive, with dreams and aspirations. They are who I want to be, how I want the world to be. You can be anyone, do anything. So why can’t your characters?

Death to unlikable characters! BOO! We don’t need them, I don’t want them. I understand having one or two in a story but not all of them. That just sucks the life out of you and makes you not want to watch, read, or write them.

Have some courage and just be yourself. Let your characters do the same. If every character in every story was nothing but a mass of flawed mess, why would we ever want to read them? Not every man is a sissy and not every woman is a soulless bovine. Don’t let them ruin our heros.

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