Friday, September 24, 2010

Yalanci & Compelling Characters

Leaf Sarma.Image via Wikipedia
Some of you might notice a new name scrolling across the top of the blog. I've been searching for a good name since I joined the blogosphere and it finally came to me last night. 
"Serendipity" comes from the Persian Tale of The Three Princes of Serendip. The story is representative of the way ideas link together for me and ultimately relate to my writing. Or, as Wikipedia puts it, my "propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated."
Serendipity was also the name of my 6th grade science book. Apparently, serendipity is one of those things scientists are thankful for too. Did you know chocolate chip cookies were created serendipitously? Yum! Which leads into the rest of the post.

Friday is usually a Food/Flora/Fauna post and Angela McAlister is Starving for a Blogfest, but today is also a Blog Experiment with Elana Johnson, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Jennifer Daiker. Of course, I like to multitask so the dust bunnies in my head got together to find a link between.....

Yalancı and Compelling Characters (?)

*The importnant footnote here is that Yalancı means liar in Turkish. 

Stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolmas or sarmas, are the best Yalancı. You see, dolmas are supposed to have meat in them, but Yalancı doesn't. Its filled with spiced rice, currants, pine nuts and drenched in olive oil with lemon juice instead. (My favorite meze!) Other dishes can also be called Yalancı. For example, if you want something which tastes like Mantı (Turkish tortellini), you use spaghetti and throw the filling into the sauce on top. Then you have Yalancı Mantı.

Yalancı is just not what it seems, much like the most compelling characters.

Observe:
  • Villains aren't great until we find out why we should be sympathetic. 
  • Heros and heroines aren't wonderful without their quirky weaknesses.
  • Even settings (which are best treated as a character) are cliché until you add sensory details.
Bottom line...in a great character, there is always an underlying backstory or facet to discover. Its a writer's job to give you only what you need to know, when you need to know it and hopefully keep you engaged in the process.

(I think I just saved Elana's left kidney.)
Enhanced by Zemanta

30 comments:

Cruella Collett said...

I love the link here! And I agree - characters without layers are boring.

And now I'm hungry...

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

YUMMM! Dolmades!!! (in Greece they don't have meat in them either - the laxanodolmades do though, and they're made with cabbage leaves instead of vine leaves) Great comparison you made here!!! PS: I just ate laxanodolmades for lunch :o) hehe

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Serendipity is one of my favourite words. So much of what happens in my life seems to happen serendipitously, that it cannot but be a favourite word.
And I loved how you combined Yalanci and compelling characters.

C. N. Nevets said...

I love the analogy, and I love the introduction to Turkish cuisine (color me naive). That sounds so good I'm drooling.

Jen said...

This was excellent! I loved your take, and you my friend, definitely saved Elana's kidney. This is very different :)

Nicki Elson said...

Yup, depth. It's depth that makes characters compelling. I like that you included the scenery as a character here---definitely saved the kidney with that one!

Elana Johnson said...

Phew. My kidney is intact. This is a great post -- I especially liked the part about how our characters aren't wonderful without their weaknesses. That rings so true to me.

Clarissa Draper said...

Superman wouldn't be superman without his cryptonite. I love that you made that point. We need flawed heroes and understood antagonists to make a story sizzle. Great post.

Oh, and I love stuffed grape leaves.

CD

Shallee said...

I love your bottom line! We should always want to discover something about a character.

Natalie said...

YUM, you should make some of these for me heehee.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great analogy! And Yalancı sounds good.

Hart Johnson said...

LOVE THIS! And Serendipity is one of my favorite things. I really count on it in writing, in spite of swearing things can't be forced... if I am stumped... write something totally unrelated and I find my solution. I use it at work to--I am a statistician, and have been known to inherit data sets with 'issues' but sometimes when I'm really looking hard for something, I find something else, even more interesting.

And I totally agree--it is the TRICK or the HIDDEN or the UNEXPECTED that makes characters really appealing.

Dominique said...

I totally agree that heroes and heroines are much more interesting when they have some good weaknesses. After all, what's the point of rooting for someone with no capacity to lose?

Carolyn V. said...

Great Post Carolyn! It's funny because I wrote a ms with a really mean bad guy. My crit group hated him, because there wasn't enough goodness in him to believe him. So I had to change him. So I guess they do need weakness/good stuff. =)

Laura Pauling said...

I love delicious backstories and when they are slowly revealed!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Nice post for both exercises. I am a day late in stopping by, it's the first time I forgot about entering a fest. I feel really bad.

I have posted mine anyway, if you are so inclined to stop by for a visit - you can bring food!

Melissa said...

You definitely saved Elana's kidney. Thank heavens. What a unique (and wonderful) approach.

Cinette said...

I loved your aproach to both blogfests! Great post!

Lynda Young said...

Serendipity is a great name for the blog. And this is a great post for the Blog Experiement. :)

L'Aussie said...

Dolmades, in Oz they don't have meat either. I love them! Great link to layers in characterisation..:)

Kirthi said...

One of my best friends, Didem, is Turkish. She speaks Turkish and has similar music tastes (she's currently interested in someone named Duman) This post will help me brag to her ^_^
And I love how you mention characters' quirky weirdness!

Faith said...

Er... now I'm just really hungry. Thanks a lot. Haha.

Nice post as well!

Missed Periods said...

Yalanci or not, those sarma look amazing.

Lola Sharp said...

Mmmmm!! Yummy!

Wonderful approach to both blogfests! :)

This is my first time here...nice to meet you.
~Lola

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love dolmades- tried them for the first time in Greece this year. Man, who knew grape leaves could be so darn tasty, especially in tzatziki?

Jennie Bailey said...

GREAT comparison! I really loved this: "Villains aren't great until we find out why we should be sympathetic."
So true. I love a villain that I can empathize with in some way.

Pam Torres said...

I think there is nothing better than food used as an analogy. Mmm sounds so good and really hit at the core of what makes compelling characters. Thanks! Serendipity is an awesome name for you blog.

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love the line about villains. ot all villains have to be evil for evil's sake. It's best to give them dimensions too, not just the MCs.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

If something is exactly what we think it is, then it's not very intriguing. Great post!

Lovy Boheme said...

mmm...stuffed grape leaves are so gooood. Sorry I'm late on commenting! Now I know some new words. :)

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails