Get Real?

November 19, 2009

So I’m on the couch with Hubby.  We’re being forced to watch Sponge Bob by our captors; we will call them Offspring 1 and Offspring 2 (though I will not refer to them again in the post?)  Anyway, Hubby says to me, “Aren’t they under water?   Sooo, how can they have fire?  It’s just not realistic.”

Yes, I busted out laughing and followed up with, “Seriously we’re talking about a talking sponge that works as a fry cook and lives in a pineapple next door to a talking squid and starfish and you have a problem with the fire being realistic.”  More laughter followed to his dismay.   

Perturbed Hubby says, “You know what I mean.”  (No my husband’s name is not Hubby but work with me here)

Though I kind of knew what he meant, I took a moment longer to laugh at him.  So yesterday, I find myself having the same conversation with my MC, the love interest, not my POV MC.  He can do “special stuff” and I told him I want him to do his “special stuff” more often (ok, this is sounding dirty so let me clarify).  I got mad and Nick, my MC love interest, because he has abilities and he doesn’t use them enough.    Here’s the conversation:

Me: “Dude, you can do some really cool stuff.  DO you think you could use it more often in day to day life?”

Nick: “Why?”

“Because it’s cool.”


“Eh?  What do you mean you don’t like your powers?  Because now’s the time to bring it up, not six months from now when I querying agents.”

“No I like them, really like them but it seems corny when I use them.”  Nick whines.  (Let me tell you Nick never whines, so I have to listen.)   “It just doesn’t seem real.”

And then it hit me.  I get my husband’s point even better.  My YA novel has characters with special abilities, and sometimes I’m not sure how realistic they seem, considering they are made up people in my head with abilities that are not real.  You know where I’m going here. 

How do you know if your supernatural/paranormal characters sound cool on paper or cheesy?  I’ve gotta get my piece revised at least once and get it to a beta reader.  Maybe by the weekend I will have a couple of chapters cleaned up enough to feel comfortable about passing it off. 

Okay people, I’m out of here.  I have a busy next couple of days and a hungry kids and washing machine I need to feed so if I don’t get back quick enough, I apologize in advance.

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  1. Do you listen to the Writing Excuses podcast? I bet you'd like it... there was a podcast a while back where the sci fi guys were talking about how, if you get the LITTLE stuff right (no fire underwater), then your readers will buy right into the BIG stuff (talking fry cook sponge in a pineapple).

    Sounds like the emotional stuff is going right for your MC, so I bet he's going to end up using his powers in a very believable way.

  2. The whole fire thing bugged me too! Luckily, I didn't say anything out loud when I saw it on Spongebob.

    I agree with CKHB, though. You have to decide which rules you're going to bend in a real world setting. (Even if it's a cartoon....)

    Also, when it comes to cheesy and not cheesy--it depends on his reaction and the reaction of those around him. Readers can be sheep--if everyone seems to find it cool in the book, your reader might too.

  3. Great question. I think, at times, that the characters in my current WIP are covered in Cheese Whiz. Badly.

    I feel like I write in a tunnel and realize I need to find a bigger/badder/better writer's critique group. Already.

    And I fear that I am all too much adolescent in my writing, still. Meaning, that I have a long ways to go until I have tough writer's chops & am more confident in what I write. Until then, I'm learning...

  4. No kidding, that IS a hard one. Sometimes if I set it up right in the story, it seems realistic. But if I throw it in willy-nilly, it's not. Time away from it helps me see clearly too.

    My best remedy though, is my critique friends. If they question it's believability, I take a second look.

  5. The realism thing always makes me think of my brother, who spent a lot of time studying film animation. He likes to tell me about the guys at Pixar who spent hours studying how liquids move in water to get Dory's nosebleed right in Finding Nemo. Who cares if it's a movie about talking fish, everything else should still make sense. Just because some things are fantastical doesn't mean we should slack off on the rest of our reality. Let's aim for awesomeness.

  6. When I read books with a fantasy twist I want the author to set the rules and stick to them. I can accept a lot, but when the rules start getting broken that's when I stop reading.

  7. Printing out, and reading out loud helps. Even better, have somebody ready your work to you. It really give a feel on how it sounds and flows.

    Nice blog you got here

  8. LOL! Great minds think alike. I wrote a similar post late last night!

  9. Again, sorry for delaying my comments but it was a crazy busy day in the life of Gw/1i.

    CKHB - No I do not listen to that podcast but I always love referrals so I will definitely check it out.

    Wendy…Wendy, Wendy, Wendy – Very good advice, the characters around him can make or break the believability.

    Terresa – Cheese Whiz, funny. I too have a long way to go before I feel confident but the good news for me, and I am sure you have seen this too that my writing now, compared to a year ago, HUGE difference. Since I started blogging in October, it has jumped exponentially.

    Catherine – that is when beta readers or critique groups come in handy. I am trying to find some in my area.

    Dominique – The fact that your brother studied the blood vs. water from Dory is so cool. I am a true believer that it’s the multitude of small things in life that make or break us. The new movie Avatar for example looks really awesome, the concept is crazy cool but…there’s a big but, the details of the special effects is totally obvious.

    Stephanie – Good point. Make rules for my characters and don’t break them.

    Jm – glad you could join us. Reading aloud is something I learned today. Glad you enjoy my blog.

    Amy – Too cool, I will check your blog out too. Maybe I’ll have an epiphany after soaking my brain.

  10. So between mother in law stopping by unexpectedly tonight and my older son has a sleep over I am still busy thus make mistakes.

    I feel the need to always correct myself because I don't want you all to say "Wow, big grammatical mistake for a writer. Tisk tisk."

    I said" effects is" s and s, no no. the effects are....ugh ruff day today peeps. Like dogs are barking rough.

    There are a couple of more but I realized when I wrote them out in a big explanation I looked like a rambling bag lady so... DISCLAIMER: I am tired with only 3 hrs sleep (yes I saw the midnight showing of New Moon, fine I admited it. Crucify me if you must but I love the books and movies and I refuse to be ashamed of it any more.)

  11. This is a great post. I write the paranormal stuff too. There is a very thin line between cheesy and realistic.

    It's all in the writing and what we put as reactions to the said abilities... I try to have the MC and others react in a realistic manner, that should help with making it not cheesy, sometimes if you're laughing with your characters, your reader will too :O)

  12. I like the Twilight books and movie too, but I'm waiting to see New Moon until the sea of raging teenage hormones has ebbed, at least slightly. I'm surrounded by the darlings all day so I'd prefer to enjoy my movie in peace.

  13. Ah hah Stephanie! You look like those intellectual types you write about cryptic Egyptian pharaoh's but you too like the simple gooey smut! I knew it!


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