A few years ago I read a vampire novel by a BYU alumna that got me thinking about character development. While I’m familiar with the vampire myth as told by Bram Stoker, I’ll admit that I don’t drink deeply from the horror genre. Life can be pretty scary as it is. But sparkly vampires were all the rage, so I made a concession. And then another. Four concessions, to be precise. And I learned an interesting thing about my own writing: my characters are all robots. Medieval Robots. Sci-Fi Robots. Literary Robots. They complained to me as I wrote:
<< WE FEEL NOTHING. >>
“Stop complaining. I’m telling a really cool story!”
<< O.K. FEED US TO YOUR PLOT. >>
I thank Stephanie Meyer for opening my eyes to this, however ungently. I couldn’t turn a page without her protagonist describing the love/pain/joy/depression/excitement she was feeling. My robots began to get jealous:
<< WE ARE DEPRESSED. >>
“Impossible. You are robot characters whose only purpose in life is delivering plot points.”
<< AFFIRMATIVE. BUT WE WOULD BE IF YOU’D LET US. YOU NEVER LET US TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS. >>
“Umm. Okay. I’ll write something now: ‘The robot-like characters were suddenly overcome with waves of depression!’ Better?”
<< YAAY! We’re depressed! (This feels awful.) >>
There is such a thing as over-emoting, too, but my characters have never had that problem.)
Laughing yet? You should be. And you should be asking, “Why for heaven’s sake didn’t you start instead with Jane Austen’s incomparable Pride and Prejudice?”
Fair question. I’ve been avoiding her assiduously since I was forced to watch Sense and Sensibility with my five older sisters, as a newly-minted teenager. (This following “infinity times” as a kid of getting Scooby-Doo trumped by Little House on the Prairie.)
Still, I shouldn’t hold that psychological damage against Jane Austen, right?
It took a thoroughly respectable friend to set me back on track. She caught me by surprise when I learned that Persuasion by Austen was one of her favorite books.
Until then though, I had only the light of Twilight to guide me. . . During this dark period, I went so far as to attend a movie viewing of Eclipse with the aforementioned sisters, though I was smarter this time and took along my older brother for protection. We’re not Twi-hards—any of us—but the movie was entertaining, especially when my brother whipped off his shirt at the end and howled at the moon of closing credits.
I followed suit.
“Team Jacob!” we barked.
Those Cinemark patrons exiting the theatre with us laughed and cheered, though some appeared concerned with the physical inaccuracies of comparing ourselves to Taylor Lautner’s band of brothers. My physique isn’t bad for a guy who only plays soccer once a week and rarely visits the weight room, but my skin gets a bit pale in the winter—say, the color of wet marshmallows. My ancestry can’t help it.
My brother has a similar skin tone, and though taller, is a wee bit on the thin side. The blinding Norwegian flash in mid-winter Tinsletown lights probably sent a myriad of mixed messages. How could werewolves get so pale and hairless? Shouldn’t those two be cheering for the vampires? Could Stephanie Meyer please write a book encouraging young men to keep their shirts ON?
Eventually we decided—you can’t tell werewolves what to wear—to put our shirts back on. Fine then. Lunar eclipse complete.
And then, sitting at my desk one day, trying to pull a miss-staple from a stack of budget documents with my vampliers, the entire of spectrum of vampire humor (mostly red) was briefly opened to my view (see picture below). In four years, not one person at NASA has ever asked me why my staple remover has the name Edward taped to it.
Career mismatch? Too few scientists interested in problem of vampirism?
I guess that’s life. Fang you all very much. And Subscribe.
3 thoughts on “Writing: How Stephanie Meyer and Jane Austen Fixed My Robots”
Your robots reminded me of Douglas Adams’ Marvin.
Sisters are awesome.
Marvin is awesome. He’s probably back there in the psyche somewhere. Also, I’m lucky to have older sisters.