As part of FanX, they have a lot of panels about writing, illustrating, film making, and game making, cause those are the kind of people who go to these things. I went to several writing panels, and they were, for the most part, really good.
Here’s a summary of things that the panels made me think about:
- Belief. You want characters with depth right? Give them a belief system. I think that this is something that comes out with most writers without them really thinking about it, because most people on earth belief in something, traditional religion aside. But when you consciously give the character a set of laws that governs them by belief, it suddenly becomes really interesting when they are put in a situation, especially where their beliefs are challenged. They also become easier for the reader to relate to, because even if the reader doesn’t share beliefs with a character, they still have a belief system and understand how that influences their own decisions.
- Diversity. Along the same lines, not all of your characters have to believe the same thing. How many alien planets have you seen in sci-fi where the entire planet has the same belief system? It’s not like that on Earth, why should it be anywhere else? Same with race, gender, disabilities, sexuality…if there is an inhabited planet out there somewhere, it’s probably facing all the same diversity blessings and issues we are, so if you are writing a world other than our own, make it so. (Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are all fantastic at this).
- Don’t Be Afraid. A lot of writers don’t know if they are “allowed” to write characters that aren’t themselves – meaning if I’m a woman, can I write a male protagonist? If I’m white, can I write a black or any other race protagonist? If I’m religious, can I write an aetheist or any other religion protagonist? Well, why not? Just do your research well. From real people, not from TV or films.
- The Status Quo. What is the status quo in your story? Does it need to be changed, and if yes, who is changing it? Does that make them the villain, or the hero? And why? This is something I really love, because these lines between hero and villain are becoming muddier in our post-modernist art movement. Let’s briefly look at two examples: In The Dark Knight, the Joker wants to upset the status quo. He doesn’t like how things are happening in Gotham, so he starts taking matters into his own hands and wreaking havoc in the city, so Batman has to come in and restore status quo. In The Hunger Games, Katniss wants to upset the status quo. She doesn’t like how things are happening in Panem, so she starts taking matters into her own hands and wreaking havoc in the country, so President Snow has to come in and restore status quo. Oh wait. So what’s the difference between a hero and a villain? It all depends on who is telling the story and which they favor. (Now go read a history textbook and think about that.)
Even with just these few thoughts, my mind exploded with ideas for some of the stories I’ve already had floating around in my head.
The last mega tip I got from FanX writing panels was the value of having a writer’s group. Thank goodness I have one, plus some other writer/editors I swap work with. So shout out to them, I cannot begin to say how valuable they are and continuously will be!