Do Your Characters Say, “Mayday! Mayday!”?

The entire topic for this month is, “Mayday, mayday! Obstacles, unseen dangers and challenges.” We’re supposed to discuss writing-specific obstacles and challenges; however, I’d like to approach this topic from a different angle and apply it to characters, as that’s what popped into my mind as soon as I saw “Mayday!” It’s a call for help, and that makes me think of characters asking for help.

Although protagonists in science fiction and fantasy may have high-tech equipment or special powers, often that’s not enough for them to overcome the challenges they face. What makes them look for assistance? My science fiction Catalyst Chronicles series illustrates some situations where characters may seek help from others. These situations apply to characters in other genres too, but for discussion purposes I’ll use the ones I’m most familiar with.

In Lyon’s Legacy, Book One of the series, my heroine, Jo, starts off as the last person who’d ask anyone for help. She feels her family has abandoned her, particularly those on her father’s side–that is, except for her uncle, who wants her to become a musician like their famous ancestor, Sean Lyon, and that’s the last thing she wants. Consequently, she projects a tough shell to protect herself from other people. However, the events of the story crack that shell. When she realizes she can’t accomplish her goal on her own, she reaches out to someone she’s neglected for a long time and asks for help. This is a sign of emotional growth for her, especially since her goal is about helping someone else.

Twinned Universes features another character, a teenager named Paul, as the hero. He’s the alpha male of his group of friends, but he has to face some powerful, ruthless antagonists. At stake isn’t just Paul’s future or one person’s life (Sean Lyon’s), but Sean’s effect on history. Paul doesn’t mind asking other people for help. He’s an actor, and he knows it takes more than one person to produce a play. However, he does underestimate how much help his friends can give him, and he doesn’t always pick the right person to ask for help.

I’m currently working on Book Three of the Catalyst Chronicles, called Catalyst in the Crucible. The costs and stakes have gone up, while the main character has undergone a reversal of fortune. He needs support more than ever before, but the one person who can help him the most has reason to dislike him. (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers.) This book is going to stretch me as a writer, but I hope it’ll be a good read when it’s done.

Asking for help isn’t just an admission that the character is facing a touch challenge; it can be a sign of emotional growth that makes the character (and the story) stronger. Plus, if a character goes it alone, then there are no interesting sidekicks or partners to add spice to the story.

Do you think characters should stand on their own or seek aid from others? Do you have examples of either situation? If so, please share them in the comments.

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The Challenges Never Stop

When I was querying agents, I thought all my dreams would magically happen once I got that offer. What can I say? I’m an optimist. And while I did accomplish that goal, I quickly realized the challenge didn’t end there. Next I went out on submission, and I got my share of rejections. And even after I signed my first book deal, I faced the challenge of trying to build my brand and get people interested in my book. Everywhere I turned, there was another challenge in front of me.

And now that I have books out in the world… If you guessed I’m facing more challenges, you are absolutely correct. I’m out there promoting and trying to work on new books at the same time, which is… Yup, you guessed it! Challenging!

What’s the lesson here? No matter what, you’re always going to face challenges, but they’re what the journey is about. So I’ve learned to embrace them. It won’t be easy, but I’ll get everything done because that’s what writers do.

What challenges have you faced lately?

The Merry, Merry month of Mayhem—and the Marchapalooza CONTEST winners

AND..the winners are…
Mandy Silberstein
Nancy Allis

Congrats, ladies!

And now for the post..

I kind of have this thing about May.
Yes, the weather is usually amazing–and today (or yesterday when this post appears) beats April, but for me May = deadlines. You see, I am an academic and May is the end of the school term, with all its accompanying angst and epic drama. It’s the time for student shows, regtete_de_mort2istration for the Fall term–annual reports, and the like. And that’s your normal May.

For me this is no normal May. This is the May to end all Mays. This May ends with BEA, Book Expo America wherein I will be signing copies of BREAKING GLASS alongside an awesome line-up of my fellow Spencer Hill Press authors.

May is the time for nagging my marketing director, Jenn Allis Provost (who is also a Scene 13 member), the editor and chief of SHP, Kate Kaynak, my agent, and any other poor soul who crosses my path. I have recently discovered that if getting published is hard, BEING published is harder. It’s not easy being a debut author anywhere, but I daresay being one in New York City is a little like being a newborn guppy in a tank of piranhas. Yeah–fish food.

It’s hard to get book stores to notice you. Heck, it’s even hard to get the New York Public Library to notice you. One bit of success, though–I have gotten my college to notice me–and my students. So that’s a start.

Oh–and did I mention my son is graduating college in a week and a half, has no job and is moving back home? Mayhem, indeed.

However, I am not giving up. I am far too stubborn! I still have plans for world domination. Let’s see, I have about two months and a week to do it.