• Writing

    Which Wax Figure Will Star in my Next Novel?

    Which Wax Figure Will Star in my Next Novel?, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/08/08/character/ #novel #books #character #waxfigure #ideas #writing #writinglife #KarenHugg #newnovel

    I just turned in the follow up to The Forgetting Flower to my publisher. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I hope the team greenlights it soon. In the meantime, I’ve thought of several ideas for a new novel but I’ve struggled with which one to focus on next. The ideas are really characters, a main character who might star in my next story, set where I don’t know, in what time, I’m not sure, in what genre, I have only a small clue. All I know for certain is I have these new characters and no story in which to plop them down inside.

    Spotlighted People on Display

    In my mind, my characters manifest like wax figures in a museum. They stand on a round platform under a spotlight, slowly rotating so I can get a better look at the their faces, their clothes, their accessories. As they move, they’re not real yet, simply statues of potential. They don’t shout, “Pick me!” or flirt or wink. They only stand in silence with a blank stare, waiting to be activated, waiting for me to point at one and say, “You, come with me.” Then they’ll animate, maybe shake their head out of slumber, and step off the platform to join me in the darkness of the story’s creation.

    Photographer in Provence

    The first figure is a 30-something woman in a thin skirt and flowery blouse and cloggy shoes. Her hair is pinned up because she’s hot. It’s sunny wear she is. She wears sunglasses and a necklace with a special pendant, carries an expensive camera and a backpack full of photography gear. She’s seeking a unique scene in Provence to shoot, a photo that will forward her career, which has been a failure thus far. But what she gets is a different kind of gem. A cognitively delayed teen will change her life.

    A Princess in a Plant Fantasy

    Second, a young princess stands in a scarlet dress made of leaves. With a green complexion, she stands out among the other people in this magical world. Her eyes are as dark as ebony, her finger nails are uncommonly hard, and her hair, the color of straw, is thick and silky like grass. Her kingdom is in disarray and only she can save it through political and marital maneuvering. That she may have to sacrifice the creatures of her own culture to do it, rips at her soul. But an ancient hidden tree may be the secret to solving her dilemmas.

    A Haunted House of Orchids

    An eccentric, curly-haired lord waits in a top hat and black suit. With white gloves in one hand and dissecting kit of tweezers, magnifying glass, and scalpel in the other, he stares off in the distance, awaiting a ship to come into harbor. He’s just hired a young governess to care for his three children because he’s about to embark on an exploration of South America. He’s told her she can enjoy his roomy comfortable mansion but must never go into the orchid greenhouse where a dark secret from his past lurks.

    The Botany Detective

    In the early 2000s, a dashing 30-something detective leans against a post with his linen blazer hooked over a shoulder. He’s handsome and he knows it, appreciates fine wine, cars, and women. But the death of his beloved gardener mum haunts him every day. He uses the plant knowledge she taught him to solve cases and bring justice and closure to victim’s families. He just wishes he could do the same for himself since his mother’s death, which he believes is a murder that’s never been solved.

    Botanique Noire in Paris

    On a Vespa scooter, Renia and Andre sit. She drives in a tapestry coat, corduroy overalls, and Doc Marten boots. Andre sits behind in his black racer jacket and brown canvas pants, a leather bag slung across his chest, machete in hand. He’s careful to hold on to the bar behind him instead of her waist, though both wish he’d rather not. They’re headed toward a last adventure in Paris that will test their crafty intelligence and strong resolve to protect plants against organized danger.

    A Murky Time

    While each of these characters excites me, I also feel a terrible angst. I can’t decide who to invite to step off the platform next. Therefore, these riches haunt me. The indecision is agony. There is one character(s) I’m particularly drawn to. I keep stepping around to inspect the person on their platform again and again. But I’m unsure if that choice is the right one. Still, I think about them and their situation often. For now, I’ll leave the wax museum and head to the garden. There I’ll work until I figure it all out.

    Does one of these characters interest you more than another? If you have an opinion, let me know in the comments below!

    Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

  • Writing

    Bran Was a Bore on Game of Thrones But Didn’t Have to Be

    Game of Thrones map, Bran Was a Bore on Game of Thrones, But He Didn't Have to Be, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/05/22/bran/ #GameofThrones #GeorgeRRMartin #Seasonfinale #BrandonStark #Bran #Winterfell #characterization #character #DalaiLama

    Attention: Spoilers Ahead!

    Like so many, I watched the Game of Thrones finale with great interest. I wasn’t particularly upset about Dany dying or Jon being banished to Castle Black or annoyed by the comedy in the new king’s council. I thought it was brilliant that Drogon unleashed his frustration by burning the Iron Throne. But one plot point didn’t move me whatsoever: Bran Stark becoming king. And that was because Bran himself hasn’t moved me, in years.

    It isn’t that I dislike Bran particularly. He was a likable little boy and the story of becoming the Three-eyed Raven was interesting. But that he finally turned into a sleepy detached automaton was quite bluntly, a missed characterization opportunity on the writers’ part.

    Bran’s Journey

    As a child, Brandon Stark was active and curious. As a teenager after his accident, he was warm and friendly and somewhat extroverted. He was also brave. He warged into his direwolf, Summer, and fought, he warged into Hodor and fought. But after he took vision trips with the Three-eyed Raven and became the Three-eyed Raven himself, he turned into a bore. (For some reason, even his hair, wavy and wild before, became straight and dreary.) Yes, he was able to see visions of the past and future and those visions were interesting bits of back story but after, he lost his investment in the people he loved. He became detached from emotion, unable to show affection, and sort of intellectually neutral in most situations.

    Because he was so one-dimensional, all scenes containing Bran fell flat. Even unrealistic. When he reunited with Jaime and then defended him, you got a glimpse that he was grateful that Jaime had pushed him out the window, but these moments of gratitude were few and far between. He barely hugged his siblings when they were reunited after years.

    I know that Benioff and Weiss might have felt as if they had to write his character that way since otherwise Bran would interfere with the outcomes of his family’s actions. However, I didn’t buy that. After having seen the big picture of humankind’s eternity I didn’t believe he would no longer care to show emotion to his family. In fact, I thought of one true life person who’s in a similar situation that the writers could have modeled Bran after. If they’d studied this person, they could have made Bran’s Three-eyed Raven personality more charismatic and complex.

    Take a Look at a True Monk

    If you’ve ever read or watched interviews with the Dalai Lama, you might be surprised by how much he smiles and laughs. He does so a lot. (I heard him speak in person once and it was eye opening.) It’s because this deeply spiritual man is removed from day-to-day life through his Buddhist practice. He isn’t personally invested in a career or family or money or any of the usual institutions or desires the rest of us need to survive. He’s always been focused on larger issues of compassion, community, altruism, and peace.

    And because the Dalai Lama has lived this way for decades, he sees the rest of the world as well, silly. All of our rushing around, our need to get ahead, our greed, our desires are all ways to bring about more suffering. (See China’s oppression for the most glaring example.) I think the world seems weird to him, oddly competitive where one wins and another loses. The Dalai Lama believes being kind and loving toward each other is better than selfishness and competition. And yet he’s forgiving of this behavior. He’s advised us to remember, when we’re irritated by others’ behavior, that that person simply wants happiness and is trying to get it. It’s amazing. It’s as if he’s a compassionate father of everyone. A kind of modern day Jesus Christ.

    A Lesson from the Dalai Lama

    So if Bran were detached from the goings on of his civilization as the Dalai Lama is, why wouldn’t he behave similarly? Why wouldn’t he find everyone warring to be strange and silly? Even perhaps laugh at it? If he knew full well that the life experience is all humans have, then why wouldn’t he be at least interested in preserving it peacefully in small ways? Because he knew he was supposed to be king? Doubt it. I don’t think he cared.

    Also, I don’t believe his large vision of time and humanity would trump his ability to love his family. Why wouldn’t he be happy for Jon to be a Targaryen and the true king? Even if he knew it wouldn’t work out for him? He would be happy that Sansa was treating the people of Winterfell well and planning for winter so no one would starve. He’d be thankful to have Arya safely in Winterfell with him. Because he’d know that these experiences, as life, are fleeting. He would probably cherish them even more, knowing he shouldn’t interfere with life’s natural chain of events. He would at least show a fatherly like affection.

    Bran Needed a Motivation

    And that could have been Bran’s motivation. To preserve what is good in the small ways he could. Instead, at least in the TV show, the writers never gave him a motivation, I guess in the name of him being as Sam said, “Whatever Bran is.” It was as if Sam spoke the words of the writers: they didn’t know what to do with him.

    Obviously, the show is what it is. But outside of the characters shrugging and letting him be weird, I saw no true drama around his transformation. And no meaty development of why he chose to detach. Even with the Night King’s mission to kill him. I’ve heard viewers shrug and say, “He’s supposed to be a tree now.” Well, even trees communicate, heal their wounds, and do what they can to preserve their tree families. It would have been nice to see Bran continue to participate in the world in a more meaningful way than just sitting on the throne. Oh well, at least he’s looking for Drogon.

    Photo by Mauricio Santos