REVIEWS: The Phippsian Reader

phippsmartin at phippsmartin at
Sun May 15 16:17:46 PDT 2005

saxon.bren... at wrote:
> Martin, since he's working so heavily with
> parody and satire (the latter, of course, being parody with teeth) it
> means that he has a great amount of variation in plot but a heavy
> reliance on archetype of character. Fortunately not total reliance on
> archetype, however. Although he tends to do it only occasionally,
> Martin does focus on one or two characters from time-to-time and
> throw in little gems of characterisation; and IIRC for a very long
> he was the only person doing any sort of characterisation in the
> of 'LNH Comics Present' and of 'LNH' vol.1.

In the old days, LNH writers weren't expected to impose their own
characterisations on other characters.  Then Jef Kolodziej declared a
bunch of characters "public domain" in his version of the roster.
There was some opposition to this on the basis that the original writer
might return and not like where the character went.  The alternative
was to create a lot of characters yourself and play with those but that
was also discouraged (as it now is with LNHY).  In practice, many
people created groups outside of the LNH and gave themselves the
freedom to create as many characters as they wanted.  The latter
approach is a relatively new thing for me.  And the more characters you
create, obviously, the less time you will have to develop each
character individually.

What I try to do is give each character their own voice.  Somebody came
on this group a while ago and said that we shouldn't have to describe
how a character speaks: that we should be able to understand what is
going through their heads by means of the proper choice of dialogue.  I
agree with that, except that not all communication is verbal.  Hence my
characters smile and grimace and nod but don't angst or have lengthy
internal monologues, unless the monologue itself is a gag, such as the
one where the Philippine President was wondering if she was wearing
enough make-up while the Thai Prime Minister was talking to her.  I
realise that I should try to get inside every characters head but,
frankly, that sort of writing style tends to slow down the plot

Case in point: Tom wrote a story in which Golden Boy fought a bunch of
cultists.  That was it, plotwise.  It took a long time to tell because
all the action was described from Golden Boy's point of view and he
angsted about everything.  Everything.  Meanwhile, I will have a story
with twice as much plot (albeit twice as short) and you'll say "Is that
it?"  Hmm.  Different point of view.  I don't usually expect the reader
to be emotionally involved when I write: maybe the reader feels sorry
for Insomnia Boy because he can't sleep but that's about it.  With The
Day After Next, I felt obliged to have people stand back and pause for
a moment, but you'll notice that most of the angsting was in the form
of dialogue and not internal monologue.  I just like that approach
better for me personally.

I suppose the question is this: can a story be considered good when the
writer doesn't ask the readers to be emotionally involved.  I'd say
"Yes".  Consider: "Three people go into a bar, a doctor, a lawyer and
an accountant..."  In humour you have archetypes because you need to
get to the punch line as soon as possible: there's no time for the
characters to have internal monologues.  Now because I am telling
stories and not just telling jokes, I will sometimes have characters
step back and say "Whoa!" and reflect about what is going on, maybe
even dramatically argue about it.  But that's about it and it's back to
the story.  I find most episodic TV to be the same way, with the
exception of soap operas of course.


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