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I was thinking about the whole characterization question, and it seems to me that one reason people disagree is that there are different ways to approach characterization. My way is this: I form an initial impression of a character from the first few books/episodes/comics/whatever they're in. As the series goes on, and the character does more stuff, I try to incorporate that new stuff into my concept of the character. As someone writing fic or meta, I see my task as making sense of all the puzzle pieces I'm given. Sometimes I feel that a new piece is the wrong color or the wrong shape to go in the place I'm told it's supposed to, and sometimes I may suspect that it came from a different puzzle altogether. I can and do complain about that. But ultimately, I feel that I need to make that piece fit, somehow. If I just throw it away, I've failed. If making it fit means changing my idea of what the puzzle looks like, well, that's what I'll do. I had to do a lot of that in S6, with Buffy. I didn't like the new picture nearly as much. But I can't throw those pieces out.

There are other approaches. Some people disallow new pieces after a certain point, feeling that their puzzle is finished. Others think that it's perfectly OK to throw out a lemon yellow piece when the predominant color of the puzzle is purple. Obviously that piece is a mistake, and to force it into the existing puzzle would ruin it. Honestly, I wish I could make myself do this sometimes. I think I would be happier about some things if i could. But that approach has its problems, too - just ask anyone who was deeply invested in Angel being Spike's sire, and felt angry and betrayed by Fool For Love.

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
Interesting thoughts. Personally I try to see things as a whole. Exceptions and peculiar pieces are just part of something bigger and I try to find the ratio that makes things part of something bigger. But, you know, I watched all BtVS after it was finished so maybe that's why I see the whole thing. I also changed my mind in different occasions and basically so I'm open in that sense. But generally yeah: I look the picture on the puzzle and then I try to organize the little pieces.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
It's a lot easier, I think, to accept a character as they're presented when you're talking about a finished product. I started watching BtVS between seasons 3 and 4, so I saw the whole Buffy/Angel thing complete, and it was easy for me to accept that they were over. Not so easy for B/A fans who'd been watching since S1, had a chance to speculate and built up expectations which Angel leaving destroyed. I had my rude awakening in S6, where the Buffy I thought I knew started doing things I would have sworn she never would.
Apr. 15th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
Hmm, to follow your lemon yellow vs. purple analogy, I think I see the process of characterisation more like trying to work out the colours in a particularly elusive blob of grey - so, from one angle, everything might look basically purple to me, but I can see specks of yellow or whatever else in there (and accept that someone looking from a different angle might see magenta or just plain brown). Writing a character is then like trying to recreate the blended colour from scratch - it's never going to be quite the same, but you can try to capture what you saw originally and hopefully some of what other people see as well.
Apr. 16th, 2013 11:19 am (UTC)
I really love this analogy. I second this!
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's not as simple as yellow vs purple - especially as someone else will swear that they're lime green and mauve. *g*
Apr. 15th, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm. Yes. Puzzling out why characters act a particular, perhaps unexpected, way is one of the things that drives my all-too-rare writing. That's the fun part!

That said, I've thrown up my hands at trying to align the characterizations of the comics with the rest of the Buffyverse canon. I guess that means I've decided it's a different puzzle altogether.

I mainlined BtVS the first time, without questioning much, and FFL was a jewel box of Spike material. Imagine my surprise that it was a "ruiner" for older writers. I understand the "you've been Joss'ed" phenomenon much better now.

ETA: Oh! And also! It's nearly impossible to pour every bit of nuance that might be my head canon for a particular character into the portrayal on the page in a given story. Especially shortish things. My understanding of the character will inform how I portray them, but the portrayal will likely not encompass my entire understanding. In that, I've got some sympathy for Gage...he just can't get it all in there. Some subtlety and allusion can be useful, though.

Edited at 2013-04-15 10:51 pm (UTC)
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC)
I think the comics characterization has been extremely jerky, yeah. Unfortunately the reason I'm able to reconcile a lot of Comic!Buffy's actions is that they align with the pessimistic view of her I developed while the show was still on. I still hate that the writers have taken the character this way, but for me, there's not nearly the huge break between show and comics that some people see. I don't WANT to have to reconcile Buffy as a selfish, crappy leader, but I can point back to show things that support that reading. I just wish I didn't have to.
Apr. 15th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
You seem to assume that canon is consistent about a character. IMO different sets of writers had diametrically different views of the same character and wrote their parts accordingly.
Apr. 16th, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
No, I'm not assuming canon is consistent - it's just that I have a need to create consistency out of canon.
Apr. 16th, 2013 06:30 am (UTC)
I remember one of very early connections with a charachter in a series of books was in grade 6. He was a western anithero type, Catsfoot, and I loved him. ONe day I read another in the series and he was described as having long hair.
I couldn't deal with a boy having long hair.

I know when Hugh Jackman played Wolverine he was exactly as I had always pictured Wolverine, despite the fact that I watched and read the cartoons and comics of the day.

I have always been a very visual reader and I suppose I change the charachter to suit what I want them to be or runaway from them if I come across a change I don't like.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
I have often built up pictures of characters in my head and been disappointed when they make a movie and cast someone who doesn't match my image, but I can usually separate the two.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:39 pm (UTC)
Obviously from an early age I was shallow and appearance was, if not everything, than pretty durn important. Lol.
However, as long as the charachter acts as I believe he was written, that I can recognise his charachter traits, then I can get over the movies changing my image.
Apr. 16th, 2013 09:27 am (UTC)
Funny how you keep echoing my internal dilemmas. All week I've been thinking about how I either need to reject the comics for once and for all, or rethink my views on Spike.

I came to the Buffyverse years after it was over - S8 was just wrapping up - so I never experienced that sense of disappointment over how they changed my perceptions of a character. The characters were who they already were, long ago set in stone. Until now...
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:00 pm (UTC)
I either need to reject the comics for once and for all, or rethink my views on Spike.

REJECT THEM, hon! I've finally come around to thinking of them as crackfic, or as a variation on all those "authorized" Star Wars novels that my brothers had - which were basically fanfic people actually got paid to write. I know I'm much happier for it.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 02:42 am (UTC)
But (crazy person that I am) I actually *like* some of the stuff from comics (just some. just a very little bit). The S8 storyline with Dracula, for example.

And I'm with Barb, my mind needs to make sense of it all, even when there is no sense to be made. :P
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Heh, I'm an old hand at dealing with the disappointment Joss doles out. Or delegates his third-level minions to dole out now that he's Big Movie Producer Guy. *g*
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
I've not read the comments just snippets about the story line for background. I'm not sure that I should read them now to see what the fuss is or just keep my money, the tiny bit of sanity that gets me through RL and my dreams of the charachters as I have them now.
I can't imagine that Joss is nice to Spike. I always got the impression he kinda resented his popularity.
Apr. 16th, 2013 10:54 am (UTC)
Being hugely Jossed was very traumatic at the time. But with time and distance it was also quite liberating. I suspect that if it hadn't happened I would have been like you and felt the desire to fit in every last little piece as 'correctly' as possible. But the experience of being Jossed to hell and back freed me. I had to choose between giving up writing the relationship that interested me, or ignoring canon. Fortunately I went for the later and had a lot of fun with it. It is still fun to work in pieces from the show, but now I am like someone who takes the puzzle pieces and glues them on top of one another to make a collage, with lots of string and junk added as well and maybe some new pieces that don't fit at all and - you get the idea. So I feel I get the best of both worlds.

So for me now meta is there for discussing what is and is not canon and that is where I invest my energy into getting things as accurate as possible. Fic is just for fun.

How quickly will you write a new character after they appear? Because if you are determined to stick with canon you are obviously taking a risk each time someone new turns up, in case they get significantly changed out from under you.
Apr. 16th, 2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
I do tend to wait awhile before tossing new characters into my fic, so I can get a better feel for them. I also need to consider how (and if) new canon characters would fit into the established continuity of my AU. I might decide to use, say, Oz's wife from the comics at some point, but if I do, she and Oz will be meeting up with Buffy & Co. under very different circumstances.

I feel no obligation to stick to the events of canon when writing fanfic. For fanfic purposes, I see canon as the control subject. I know that character X behaved in Y fashion under circumstance Z, so if I want them to behave in fashion Q instead, I need to introduce factors A, B, or C. Etc. What I want is not to copy canon exactly, but to make a reasonable extrapolation from canon. I want readers to recognize the canon characters in mine, even though mine have developed in different directions, and find it plausible that things could have happened that way.

I don't think that people are doomed to turn out one way and one way only, so I'm fairly confident in my ability to create plausible alternative lives. What I'm talking about here is more about how I see the canon characters. We've got a situation now where a lot of people are saying, "X would never do Y," but my inclination is more to say, "What would make X do Y?" even if the answer makes me like X less.
Apr. 17th, 2013 07:49 am (UTC)
Oh right, that is an important difference, I hadn't twigged that was what you were saying.

Presumably some PhD student somewhere has categorised all these different types of fanfic and is making deep psychological assumptions about us based on which style we prefer.
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