Maleficent’s Character Depth

Maleficent

It’s been a week since Maleficent released on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming services everywhere. Five minutes after turning it on, I had decided it was brilliant. Fifteen minutes in, I loved the character of Maleficent. Thirty minutes later, I was thinking about how much Maleficent could teach me about writing other characters. The film was too good to distract myself from, though, so I turned off the writer part of my brain as best I could and simply absorbed each scene.

Watching the entire film once was not enough, so the next night, I did it again. This time, I took notes.

For good measure, I watched it a third time a couple of days later and added a few more notes.

Before I share my take on Maleficent, let me explain one thing: I’ve never seen the original Disney animated Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent scared me as a child, and then I never got around to watching the movie in later years. So I went into the retelling of Maleficent with no comparisons or biases. Thus, I can only analyze her character as it was portrayed in the Angelina Jolie version.

Oh, one more aside: If you haven’t watched Maleficent yet, I urge you to go no farther. The sections below contain spoilers, and I certainly don’t want to be guilty of ruining your experience. So if you’re planning to watch it but haven’t yet, just come back here later. I promise, the post isn’t going anywhere.

All right, now that I have all the disclaimers out of the way, let’s discuss Maleficent and what her character taught me about writing characters with depth.

  1. Maleficent wasn’t truly a villain in this version, but she does have a darker side. However, she wasn’t born with it. Her younger self was all lightness and kindness. Bits of her childhood still show through later, even as her darker side develops over it. Whether hero, anti-hero, sidekick or villain, I think it’s important to learn a character’s history and how their present traits developed. Back story is so essential for well-rounded characters!
  2. She was a dynamic character. This follows along with point #1: Maleficent changes over the film. Things don’t just happen to her; they shape her. Her reactions make her real and relatable, and I found myself wondering what I would do in her situations. A well-written character doesn’t simply move through scenarios; they respond to them and make us consider how we would react, too. Like real people, characters change as their lives do.

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  3. Maleficent longed for love. In some way, I think we all do. People (and apparently faeries) were created to love and be loved. Even after Maleficent was betrayed and no longer believed in true love, she couldn’t stop her heart from being touched again, this time by her adopted god-daughter. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe that even the coldest of characters has a heart in need of love.
  4. Even after she was broken and bitter, Maleficent had a soft spot. She rescues a crow, watches over little Aurora, and later tries to spare her enemy’s life. Granted, the most villainous characters are often devoid of all mercy; but for the rest, I find it highly important to infuse compassion into even the damaged ones. It gives us something to cheer for, and it also shows the character’s true strength.
  5. Loners need friends, too. Despite isolating herself in the Moors, Maleficent still needed companionship. Diaval is her faithful sidekick and servant, standing by Maleficent and growing to become her friend. Aurora also finds a place in Maleficent’s heart and life, so much that Maleficent is willing to go to any lengths to save her. Although Maleficent is undoubtedly independent, she needs help at times, too. Characters can be strong, even lone wolves, but just as we all desire love, on some level, we desire acceptance and understanding. There can be exceptions, but generally, I like to give characters at least one confidante.
  6. Brokenness isn’t weakness. Maleficent has her share of grief and heartbreak, and she doesn’t always deal with it in a healthy way. However, being damaged doesn’t turn her into a weak character. If anything, her trials eventually make her stronger than ever. I’m all for protagonists having flaws and sorrows, and for falling under their weight at times. In the end, though, I love seeing those characters rise above their hardships and come back stronger than ever.
  7. Her actions matter. Each choice Maleficent makes comes with consequences. To some extent, she decides her destiny. On the other had, her control only reaches so far. Maleficent cannot manage everything, and in some cases, her decisions don’t amount to as much as she would like. This is something I can fully relate to, and so it’s another important element for other characters. Their actions need to carry weight but no one can manipulate every outcome.
  8. Maleficent is intelligent. She plans her moves, considers her course, and acts based on what she knows. Never once did she seem slow-witted. Side characters don’t all need to be the brightest bulbs, but main characters should generally be smart enough to outshine them. After a while, cluelessness can become tiresome in protagonists.MALEFICENT
  9. She’s unique. No one else, faerie or human, has the same look, powers or backstory as Maleficent. Just as we are in real life, she is one of a kind. It sounds like an impossible task, but each character should be individual in their own way.
  10. Maleficent was never beyond hope. This is perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the story. In spite of all that went wrong, all she did wrong, and all that was lost, Maleficent had a chance to be restored. She took responsibility for her actions and did her best to amend them, and ultimately, she was redeemed. Regardless of my characters’ deeds, I believe they should have a chance to be redeemed. God lovingly teaches us that no one is too far gone to be forgiven. I try to extend this mercy to each character I write, even if they don’t all accept it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you enjoyed my take on the depth of Maleficent’s character! Maybe it will be helpful for you in creating your own deep characters. Is there anything you would add to the list, either about Maleficent or characters in general? What did you think of the film?

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All Maleficent images are from Disney’s Official Maleficent Movie Site. I do not own them. 

An Award-Winning Post

Blog comments are awesome. I love the community and conversation they allow. It makes my day when even one is added to my site, and on my second post, I was thrilled when a friendly blogger with an awesome username dropped me a line.

Then last week, she sent another my way, and it made me even happier than the first.

triSARAHtops, of the blog with the same name, was kind enough to bestow upon me the Liebster award!

I hadn’t heard of it before, but now that I have, I think it’s awesome. The idea is to award 11 favorite bloggers who have 200 followers or fewer. I didn’t follow the 200 follower rule completely, because some bloggers simply had to be included, even though they passed that mark. I did try my best to select within the rule, however. With the award, you ask the bloggers 11 new questions, and they’re able to pass the idea around to continue the conversation. It’s also fun to follow the discussion and discover new blogs, along with new facts about favorite bloggers.

Here are my answers to triSARAHtop’s 11 questions:

  1. Describe your blog in one sentence.
    It’s like my own little cafe to share ideas and meet new friends, all without leaving my living room.
  2. Why do you blog?
    I started blogging because it felt like the next step for me as a writer. I’m shy overall, and blogging has given me the push I needed to share rather than stow everything away. Otherwise, I would be like Emily Dickinson and keep everything locked in a drawer.
  3. What do you feel is the best post you have written?
    So far, I only have three published posts, not counting this one, but many more to come. Out of the published ones, I feel the best is the latest: The Unchecked List.
  4. Follow-up to Question Three: Why do you feel this is your best post?
    To me, The Unchecked List is my best post because it felt so natural to write. I didn’t outline or premeditate that one. It made me uncomfortable at first, because again, I’m shy and it felt vulnerable to share that struggle, however small it seems. Once I proofread and published it, though, I was pretty happy, and then my best friends and family confirmed it for me. I consider it the post I can point to and say, “This is how I feel and sound. This is where I live.” And I hope other people can relate to that one, as well.
  5. Where do you find your inspirations?
    I know it sounds a bit cliche, but inspiration really is all around! My best sources are my journals, favorite books, other blogs (which we’ll talk more about in a moment), and Pinterest. Also, simply taking time to clear my mind and then listen to my ideas as they come back one by one.
  6. What do you do when you aren’t blogging?
    That information is classified. Only joking! When I’m not blogging, I could be doing any number of things: Writing fiction, getting lost in a book, daydreaming, chatting randomly to friends, watching movies with my family, chasing my Morkie around, volunteering for my church, or playing the piano rather unskillfully, to name a handful.
  7. Coffee or Tea?
    That would depend on the time of day. I’m a bit too enthusiastic about both of them. Especially when they’re iced.
  8. Who would win in a fight: Spiderman or Daredevil?
    I’ll have to say Spiderman, but I don’t have a good debate to back it up. I just really don’t know much about Daredevil except he’s blind and Ben Affleck played him awhile ago. (That’s right, isn’t it?
  9. What do you think is the best TV Show of all time?
    Of ALL time? Not just what’s on TV now? Snap. I read that wrong initially and was ready to explain what my current favorite show is. But out of all time, I’m going to have to say… Gracious, I really can’t say! I know it would be from BBC, but I’m not sure which one. Sherlock is the first that springs to mind, but probably because it’s just a current favorite. Though it is genius, after all.
  10. Why didn’t you choose Veronica Mars as the answer to Question 9? (If you did you can skip this one)
    First I had to say I don’t know about Daredevil, and now I’ll admit I didn’t choose Veronica Mars because I’ve never heard of it. … But anyhow, it’s because Sherlock cannot be ignored, and it’s one of the few shows that makes me feel smarter. (Even if I have pitiful deduction skills.)
  11. What is your favourite book?
    Such impossible questions! I could fill a library with answers but since I am only allowed to select one, I’ll say North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s a classic, but somehow felt easier to get lost in than other classics I’ve read. I love the characters and how each stands out with different strengths and weaknesses, as well as the progress they make over the course of the story. The setting is a character in itself, and the dialogue really caught my ear. Also, it’s not solely a love story, like some of my other favorite literature. Though there is that element, the story is also about society, family, friendship, justice, change, choices… I can honestly say, when I closed this book, I felt like I had learned something about life and myself.
    Oh, and there’s a wonderful miniseries based on the book, which I am utterly addicted to. Like any film, it doesn’t follow the novel exactly, but it’s so close and wonderful, I don’t mind at all. Also, Richard Armitage IS John Thornton. I could picture him as the character the entire time I was reading. Which could also account for some of my enjoyment of the book 😉

Now, the 11 Lovely Bloggers I am sharing the Liebster award with:

  1. Wishful Thinking. I discovered Miriam’s blog a couple of months ago, when I was still summoning the bravery to start mine. I love her conversational tone, and the way each post has such personality. Also, she has incredibly cool glasses.
  2. Escaping Reality- One Book at a Time. I “met” Lynette on Pinterest, since we followed each other’s BBC Robin Hood boards. (that show needs more fans, by the way.) Since then, I discovered she shares some awesome book reviews on her great blog! Just clicking on her site makes me want to lock myself away with a stack of novels.
  3.  Living on Literary Lane – I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now, and it has been an incredible inspiration! Each post is so poetic, it has the timeless feel of literature and fairy tales to me. After I read one of Elizabeth’s posts, I always feel such storytelling energy.
  4. Of Battles, Dragons and Swords of Adamant – I came across Gillian’s blog through Twitter, and instantly, the fantasy feeling drew me in! She’s a very talented writer, and reading her blog is like stepping into another magical world.
  5. Entirely Bonkers – Just the name of this blog caught my attention, for being quirky and a reference to Alice in Wonderland. I have so enjoyed Emily’s posts here, and the whimsy and art they’re written with.
  6. Whisperings of the Pen – I found Katie’s blog through her annual “Actually Finishing Something in July” event when I participated in 2013. I didn’t get to take part in the event last year, but even so, I’ve really enjoyed her writing!
  7. The Inkpen Authoress – This blog is simply lovely. Rachel’s writing just flows, and like so many of these other blogs, inspires me to go and write more. Also, her header is the cutest.
  8. Scribbles & Inkstains – I was instantly a fan when I first found this blog, and then I managed to lose the address in my favorites file and my brain went blank as to the name. I’m so glad I finally came across it again! I’m looking forward to reading more of it in the future. Also, I love the design.
  9. The Villain Authoress – Though she may be a “character’s worst nightmare,” Rana’s blog is far from nightmarish! Her posts are both engaging and informative, and they make me want to run off and write five chapters.
  10. Ella Dement –  I discovered Ella’s blog through Twitter, because we share many favorite story genres. I like her short posts, (says the girl who’s almost up to 2,000 words here!) and how they typically end with a question. Also, the look of her blog reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, which is a pleasant thought.
  11. Book Geeks Anonymous – I only found Hanna’s blog recently, but I’m so glad I did! Her site is brimming with such rich literature, that if I could smell it, I bet it would have that irresistible aroma of old novels.

To these eleven bloggers, I present eleven questions: 

  1. What is the story behind your blog name? 
  2. How long does it take you to write each post? 
  3. Which blogging platform do you use? WordPress, Blogger, or something else entirely?
  4. Do you prefer e-books or physical copies? 
  5. What are five words to describe you? 
  6. What are five different words to describe your blog?
  7. Do you keep a journal? 
  8. What are three of your other hobbies? 
  9. If you could visit any city in the world, which would you choose?
  10. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
  11. Would you rather ask questions or answer them?

Here is a quick review of the “Rules” for any bloggers who would like to accept the Liebster Award:
– Answer the 11 interview questions
– In that post, link back to the person who awarded you, which would be me in this case. This means I’ll get to see your responses, which I’m looking forward to!
– Choose 11 other bloggers to award, focusing on those with 200 followers or below. (I did make a few exceptions, but it’s the general rule.)
– Link to those bloggers in your post, then go and leave them comments to share the good news!
– Be sure to ask them 11 original questions.
– Have fun sharing!

To my friends who aren’t listed for the Liebster award, I’m still curious to hear your answers for those eleven questions! If you’d like to share them, even for just a few questions, please leave your replies in the comments.

Also, let me know if you’re a follower of any of the blogs I mentioned! If you’re not, I suggest checking them out. 🙂

Let’s chat again soon!

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30 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is the start of NaNoWriMo, more formally known as National Novel Writing Month. It’s the challenge to write 50,000 words, or one draft of a novel, in a single month.

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Or as I like to explain it, thirty days and nights of caffeine, creativity and craziness, all written down for you to admire (or gasp at) come December.

Maybe you’ve been a NaNoWriMo-er before, maybe you’re considering it, or maybe you’ve never heard of it until now.

Whichever category applies to you, if you are a writer, I think you have a reason to become a National Novel Writing Month Writer. 30 reasons, in fact, and probably more. But since there are only 30 days of writing frenzy for November, and because I should really be working on my novel instead of making this list, I’ll just stick to 30 reasons.

If you’re on the fence about NaNoWriMo, maybe this list will help your decision. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to do NaNoWriMo, perhaps this can explain a bit. Or maybe when you’re deep in the heart of your story, shivering and scribbling through November, you can pull out this list and remember why you started in the first place.

Without further ado, I give you, 30 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo!

  1. You like to write. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure you won’t enjoy NaNoWriMo. Why not dedicate this month to something else you enjoy? If, however, you do enjoy writing, then there’s a solid chance you will enjoy NaNoWriMo.
  2. You have a story to tell. Even if you haven’t worked out the specifics, if you have a spark, NaNoWriMo will fan the flames into a wildfire.
  3. It’s a challenge. The goal is to write an entire first draft of 50,000 words in 30 days (and nights. You will be writing at odd hours, I guarantee it.) If you like the thrill of a challenge, what could be better than scaling Mount WriMo?
  4. You will have stories to tell. This isn’t the same as #2. No, what I mean is, after 30 days of crazed writing, you will have some interesting stories about the experience. Like the time you had a packed schedule, exams to study for, and not enough sleep, but still kept writing, thus getting sick and being out of commission for two days. Not like I did that last year or anything… But it does make an interesting story, and it sounds almost noble. Or insane. 
  5. It’s competitive. Even if you’re just competing with yourself, entering that word count is motivating. On the days I fall behind, the feeling of competition gets me writing enough to get ahead.
  6. It’s inspiring. Just logging on to the NaNoWriMo site makes me want to write an entire book in an hour. It makes me feel like I am a writer, despite doubts, and I can tell this story. (Maybe not in a hour, but it’s empowering all the same.) I especially love the pep talks they share. They’re often witty and amusing, and they offer practical advice on how to succeed with both the challenge and writing in general.
  7. It’s global. Writing can be lonely, but NaNoWriMo provides a community. You connect with so many people, and even if you don’t converse, you know they’re in your corner. It can be inspiring just to read other writers’ profiles and see their novel progress (and then compete with them, as mentioned in #5)
  8. You can blog about it. I certainly plan to!
  9. You can do it with friends. NaNoWriMo doesn’t just let you meet other writers. You can share it with the writers you already know! Last year, one of my best friends took the challenge with me, and it’s become one of my favorite memories with her. We spent November sharing progress updates, complaining about stubborn characters, drinking coffee and plotting our next moves. In fact, we got so into the challenge, we invented our own in January to do it all again. If you have any friends who are also writers, or want to be writers, invite them to try NaNoWriMo with you.
  10. It’s an excuse to drink extra coffee, or tea, or both.
  11. It’s also an excellent excuse for getting out of things. If someone invites you somewhere you don’t want to go, you can simply smile and offer an apology, with the words, “I have a novel to write.” (That said, even NaNoWriMo can’t be used as an excuse for everything. Sorry, fellow introverts.)
  12. It’s a great topic of conversation. I love telling people about NaNoWriMo! If they don’t get why you’re taking part in this somewhat crazy event, feel free to refer them back here.
  13. November brings the perfect novel-writing weather. Hot chocolate + knitted blanket = noveling essentials
  14. Writing becomes a priority. This is one of the biggest reasons I love NaNoWriMo. Dedicating the month to my novel means I actually have to write it. It become a real, tangible goal rather than something I’ll do “later.” Even if I don’t feel ready, I have to sit down and write my story.
  15. It shuts down the inner editor. A lot of the time, perfection stops progress. NaNoWriMo forces participants to write fast to keep up. When you’re going at that speed, you have to step out of your own way or get steamrolled by your own story. A novel is never perfect the first time, but it can’t be improved unless it’s written. NaNoWriMo helps get that messy first draft out.
  16. You know how if you talk too much, you lose your voice? It’s the opposite in writing. The more you say, the more you get written down, the clearer and stronger your voice becomes. NaNoWriMo is a month long conversation between you and your characters and story. When I took the challenge, it helped me find my voice because I wasn’t stopping to censor it.
  17. You will become a stronger writer. NaNoWriMo is like a month-long fitness program for writing muscles. There is strain, and sometimes pain, but it builds writing power and endurance that will stretch beyond the month.
  18. It establishes writing habits. Often by the first week, you’ve figured out which writing habits work for you. Do you like to write in the morning, at lunchtime, in the evening? Do you need silence, music or the sound of thunderstorms? Do you prefer to write at a desk or on your bed? Do you need pajamas and messy hair, or do you make yourself presentable first? There’s no single method for writing, and NaNoWriMo encourages you to find the ones that work for you.
  19. After spending a solid month with them, you’ll really get to know your characters. They become real. And they hang out even after the month ends.
  20. It becomes easier and easier to enter your fictional world. Your story’s setting becomes a real place, and the more time you spend in it, the more you learn about it.
  21. You must write. So many times, we wait for inspiration, for the right words, the right moment. NaNoWriMo takes no excuses. Because writing is a priority, (see #14) you have to show up everyday, sit down and do it. NaNoWriMo is a tool for making me stick to that.
  22. Writer’s block gets smashed. That’s not to say writer’s block doesn’t happen during November. I’ve definitely had writer’s block during NaNoWriMo. But because I had a word count to reach, I couldn’t stop writing. NaNoWriMo forced me to write around that block, to push through it. It kept me going even when stopping seemed easier. It taught me the only way to beat writer’s block is to attack it head-on.
  23. You’ll never feel more like a writer. 
  24. It’s exciting. There’s something thrilling about watching your story grow in a month, and seeing your word count skyrocket.
  25. It’s rewarding. In the same way it’s exciting, this challenge really pays off. Your reward at the end is 50,000 of your own words- the first draft of your story. What better prize is there? To celebrate, NaNoWriMo also offers some awesome winner’s goodies, but I won’t spoil that 😉
  26. It gives you confidence. NaNoWriMo proved to me that I can write more than 1,000 words in a day. It boosted my confidence as a writer, and also as a person. Doing NaNoWriMo is like getting author super powers.
  27. You will learn a lot about writing in a short time. By the end of November, I could already tell I had improved as a writer. There’s so much to take in, and packing it into one month avoids gaps.
  28. Your novel needs you. It deserves to be told, and only you can tell it. NaNoWriMo helps.
  29. Someone needs your novel. No one else can tell your story, and if you don’t, no one else can read it. Someone out there needs your words. It could be your best friend, a stranger, or simply yourself. NaNoWriMo will help you write and share those words.
  30. Why not? Just give it a try. If you happen to decide NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, it’s okay. But it could also be just what you need to get your novel out there. You’ll never know until you try.

Are you going to be part of NaNoWriMo this November? Is there anything you would add to the list? Happy Novel Writing Month!

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Beginning in the Middle

How are you supposed to start a blog post?

Or a blog, for that matter?

It’s been nearly a year since I decided I was going to start another blog. I have piles of post ideas for later, next week and month and year. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the first post, the very beginning of my blog should be.

It should be witty, I think. Creative, certainly. Helpful in some way, and memorable.

My first blog post must cast a vision for the blog’s future, without being too specific. It should also introduce me. That means it needs to capture my voice completely.

And to top it all off, it needs SEO… Which I’m told stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and is supposed to help me appear in Google searches. Beyond that, I am clueless. So I need to do my own Google search.

Speaking of Google, I also did some searches about “How to Write Your First Blog Post,” and “How to Start a Blog.” I found several excellent sources, and as I read, I nodded along, thinking, “I can do this. I have to do this.”

Then I sat down before my white computer screen, blinked along with the  flashing cursor and tried to write a suitable beginning.

I typed several lines and backspaced them all. I wrote a few more, and deleted everything again, except  the middle.

How could I have so many middles but no beginnings? Why did I know what was supposed to happen at the end, but not now?

My conclusion is, I will never land upon a perfect beginning. As much as I want a smart, smooth start, there won’t be one. Beginnings are messy. Life itself begins amid chaos. It will probably be at least a decade before I find out firsthand, but from all the moms I know, I can conclude that giving birth is not neat or comfortable. It’s painful and messy and scary; but, it’s just the beginning. After the birth comes raising the baby. Even if the beginning wasn’t perfect, there’s a lifetime ahead. All thanks to that difficult start.

If I’m waiting for a perfect start, I’ll be waiting forever. There won’t be a middle or end unless I jump in to the beginning… Take the plunge before I know the depth or catch my breath completely. I’ve moved my “Blog Launch Date” too many times already. Despite my excuses about domain names, image software, and social media, it’s really been because I couldn’t find a starting point.

So this is my start. Right in the middle of my tangled mess of thoughts. This is my push, the delivery of my blog into the world. It’s not the time I expected, or exactly how I envisioned, but it’s still time.

Now that it’s arrived, I’ll be able to help it grow. It’s going to be just as messy as the start, I’m sure, but I hope you’ll stick around to share it with me. I hope you’ll also share your own ideas and growing projects, messes and all.

After all, isn’t that really what life and writing are about? Seeing and sharing beauty not in spite of imperfections, but in them.

Starting because it’s time, not because everything is perfectly in place.

Sometimes that means beginning in the middle.

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