(As a side note: as of May 1st, my car has–we’re fairly certain–completely died. Something has croaked in the engine and for a 17 year old car, I can’t afford to replace the engine. The trouble is, neither can I afford a new car. As such, I’m having to crash away from my apartment and closer to where I work so that I can carpool with people to get to my Day Job–which makes writing posts and whatnot a bit harder. I am going to do my best to ensure that nothing gets interrupted here, but if it is, I wanted you to know why. I’m also likely going to be working more in order to afford some kind of car, so my time to write and read is limited. I just ask for your patience and good thoughts/prayers for me. It’s a very hectic time in my family’s life as well as mine, and this could not have come at a worse time.)
THAT ALL BEING SAID.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I think character development is one of the most critical pieces of writing. One of my strongest pieces of critiques or any work comes when I feel I can’t connect with or relate to the characters. I find sometimes, however, that I have difficulty pointing out the exact point where I realize that this has happened or failed to. My first clue has been lately, though. I take you all back to some of my favorites: the running app Zombies, Run!.
In my (supposed) quest to lose weight and get back into a shape that isn’t round, I’ve been participating in some of the virtual 5k runs Z,R! and their parent company Six to Start have been putting together. I’m dreadfully behind on the official seasons (what else is new in my life) and I’ve never managed to complete the 5k training runs, though I haven’t given up on that yet. I love the characters and I’m always eager to get out and support Abel Township. In particular, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I have a fondness for Abel’s comms operator, Sam Yao. Philip Nightingale is an amazing actor who brings an incredibly caring and compassionate character to life; on several occasions I’ve found myself getting choked up over something affecting Sam simply through the tone of Nightingale’s voice. So even when the 5k runs are kicking my butt, I hear Sam–and more often than not, my fellow Abel Runners–urging me on, and my heart pushes me on.
However, the most recent 5k was a bit different. This story was more of a prequel, taking place at the very beginning of the zombie outbreak. As such, established holds such as Abel weren’t in existence yet; they didn’t know they needed them yet. All the people I know from there aren’t around story-wise yet. So while I’m running to save the city (and possibly most-to-all of Great Britain) from a nuclear explosion with my fellow operatives…I didn’t feel as driven. These weren’t voices I knew. Sam wasn’t there, Dr. Myers wasn’t there, Jody and my other Runner buds weren’t there. It was strange–and it was harder to care. Sure, I don’t want to explode, and I did actually manage to improve on my previous run’s time, but my heart wasn’t in it. I missed my zombie-free home base.
Now, that being said, it turns out that I did know one of the other operatives and didn’t realize it at first. Operative 4 was called simply “deLuca” throughout the run, and I didn’t think anything of the name. When the general we were chasing called her Janine, I was instantly listening. Janine deLuca is one of the head leaders of Abel Township, and not someone I’d ever mess with. Yet my debriefing packages for the run told me I needed to keep a pretty close eye on 4 since she’d proven unstable. …Unstable?! Are you sure we’re talking about the same Janine deLuca? Yes, now that I thought about it, the voice did seem familiar… But the trouble was that I only got this revelation right at the end of the run. It was, unfortunately, too little too late. (At least for the purposes of the run. It’s still on my mind now, though!)
But here is the perfect example. This is a world I love, with people I care about, and an app that actually makes me want to run…and yet take away the characters and I can’t get into it. This isn’t exclusive to Z,R!–I think this is why I have trouble with the regenerations of the Doctor in Doctor Who as well. I become attached to the character as I remember him, just in time for him to change. It’s difficult; I manage it because through all the reincarnations, he’s still the Doctor, but…it doesn’t come without a struggle.
I want my characters to evoke that kind of reaction in others. I think we all should.
Now if only I could figure out how.