Punisher, Deadpool, and the Ups and Downs of Antiheroes

I’ve written about antiheroes before on this blog, about how their character motivations affect their actions and how their moral ambiguity can show us what we value as an audience and a culture. But lately I’ve been writing about a specific comic book antihero named Deadpool and why, despite all the recent hype, I don’t really think he’s that great of a character. In my last post I mentioned how I can’t really root for Deadpool much, because he’s not fighting for a good reason, but only for money and fun.

“But wait!” you say. “Deadpool is more of an antihero anyway! Isn’t that what he’s supposed to be like? Not every character has to be a completely moral hero. You can like him even though he’s morally ambiguous.”

Yes, and I do like a lot of morally ambiguous characters. As a comic book fan, I still enjoy and am often fascinated by the adventures of grim antiheroes such as Wolverine, the Punisher, and Rorschach. I also really enjoy(ed) shows like Breaking Bad and its successor, Better Call Saul, which feature protagonists who definitely walk the moral line and in many ways become worse as they go along. In the literary realm (which I majored in), I love the stories of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, who frequently treat the theme of moral ambiguity and often feature heavily flawed protagonists. And yet I’m still not a huge supporter of Deadpool. Why?

Deadpool vs Punisher
Art by Steve Dillon from Deadpool #54 published by Marvel comics. Image taken from user lukesuperior on Flickr Creative Commons.

In my analysis, there are two different types of morally ambiguous characters. Or, characters who we would label as “antiheroes” are considered such for one of two different reasons. There may be some overlap or some in-between now and again, but I think these two categories encompass quite a few “antihero” characters.

The first type of character has high ideals and goals (morally, philosophically, etc.), but they become antiheroes because they use morally questionable methods. They have good goals, intentions, and motivations, but maybe not good actions. This is the standard “chaotic good” character. I would posit that Wolverine, Punisher, and Rorschach all fit into this category, and even Batman sometimes does depending on how he’s written. They believe in fighting evil, but they use violence, brutality, and even lethal force to achieve that end. Even Walter White seems to fit this description, at least toward the beginning of his transformation; he has noble goals (providing for his family) but they lead him to evil actions (dealing drugs). For more on this type of character, see my previous post about monomania, or an obsessive goal that would lead someone to do almost anything, no matter how drastic or immoral, to achieve it. Personally, I find this type of character quite fascinating and compelling, because I like to see their determination and just how far they’ll go to carry out their mission.

The second type of antihero has no such noble goals or high ideals; they are antiheroes because they only serve their own interests without actively trying to commit either good or evil. This type of character is often labeled as “chaotic neutral,” or maybe even “true neutral.” Characters of this sort would include Han Solo when the audience first meets him in Star Wars, as a lone(ish) smuggler without much altruism. In discussing the show Heroes with some friends, I’ve placed Noah Bennet in the first category and Nathan Petrelli in this second, self-serving group.

This is also the category where I’d place Deadpool. He’s commonly labeled as a mercenary, so we know that he’s not supposed to fight for much of anything besides his own gain. In many iterations (although I listed some exceptions in my last post), he just fights for money, for fun, for personal vendettas, or for his own depraved, insane reasons. Personally, I don’t find this type of character nearly as interesting, because they tend to lack a strong or clear motivation. Unlike those rigidly determined characters I mentioned above, they just kind of meander and get into random adventures and do whatever feels best to them at the time. They lack a compelling reason to fight or for the audience to root for them.

Some people tell me, “if you object to Deadpool’s mature content, then you must only like morally good characters.” That’s not really true, but I do tend to favor characters who have good intentions. Even when their actions are severely flawed like in the examples above, I’m drawn in by their determination and by the inherent conflict between their motives and actions.

On the other hand, when a character has a less compelling motivation, I have to ask myself why I should even be rooting for him. If Deadpool is just killing people for money, then why should I support him over his enemies? Why should I care if he wins or loses? And for me, the answer is that I really don’t.

It’s often been said of writing fiction that desire plus obstacle equals story. In other words, give a character a strong desire, place obstacles in the way of that desire, and you have conflict, which is the basis of story. You have something happening that audiences will find interesting. But what happens if you take away that strong desire and throw in a halfhearted character who doesn’t care enough to take almost anything seriously? Where does the conflict come from then? Where is the compulsion? I think a lot of it gets lost.

Now, I’ve been saying that this preference is my own personal opinion. Maybe it’s just me and some people can enjoy the second kind of character without much motivation. But I think there’s a solid case in stories for the first kind (chaotic good) being better than the second kind (neutral).

HanSolo
Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars. Image taken from Wikipedia. Fair use.

You know why? Because Han Solo didn’t stay morally neutral for very long before he gained some more development and started fighting for a cause bigger than himself. And because even Deadpool, traditionally an amoral mercenary in the comics, has been altered for his huge film debut. In the movie, he’s not taking a hit on someone just for money–he’s trying to take revenge on someone who ruined his life. Yes, Deadpool is fighting against a bad guy, doing at least some form of good, and giving him an actual compelling character motivation! While he’s still a very flawed character certainly, this mission of his seems to place him more in the first category than the second. Filmmakers know that, for a big action movie, there needs to be a clear antagonist and a clear reason to root for the protagonist over that other person. They know that the antihero with a good(ish) mission is a lot more interesting than the antihero who just aimlessly does his own thing.

So that’s why I find the Punisher and others a lot more interesting than I find Deadpool. That’s why I have a hard time really rooting for Deadpool very often in the comics. But if I’m saying that the film version of Deadpool is closer to the kind of character I like, then why is it that I’m still not too excited about the film? Wait for my next post to find out.

What do you think? Is there really a huge distinction between different kinds of antiheroes? Who are your favorite antiheroes, and why do you find them compelling? Post your thoughts below.

 

Maxims of the Mad

This is what I used to imagine my callers looked like when they were on the phone with me.

Well, I’m a little stressed right now, between classes, moving, writing, and a few other things going on I have a lot on my mind.  So, I’m in the mood for something fun! A few years ago I worked at a Christian call center (which will remain nameless), taking calls that ranged from emergencies, to prayer requests, to sales orders, to well… you’ll see.  Anyway, I took the time to write down the most inane, insane, and incoherent of the calls I got and wound up with a list of somewhere around 1,400.  I plan on getting these published as a comedy books someday, but I figured I have enough to share a few here.  Please note that these do not represent the entirety of the Christian church, or even the vast majority of it, just the nutty ones.  So, here are a few Maxims of the Mad:

1.  Pray that the National Guard would go to war with the psychiatrists because they are poisoning the country with their drugs and all the psychiatrists need to die. (My father was killed by a psychiatrist! No, no he wasn’t, that’s a lie.)

2. I have one-hundred and twenty thousand babies trapped in the arctic circle on a ship named the Glory.  They have no food and the babies are starving to death.  Joyce Meyer is on another ship trying to find them.  Please pray that Joyce will be able to find my babies before they starve to death. (See… I’ve got nothing here.  Just nod and agree.)

3. I’m disabled and I want prayer for a physical healing, but I don’t want to have to go back to work after I’m healed so pray that God will heal me and give me money so I don’t have to work. (See, I don’t think that’s quite the way it works.)

4. My neighbor grows pot and sells it but he has a big parking lot and when his friends and relatives and his customers come they all park in my parking spaces.  Pray that they would be more sensitive and not take up my spaces. (So… I think someone’s priorities are in the wrong place… just saying.)

5. I want to be prayed for by El-Shaddai and the white Jesus who is on the right. (Is there a black Jesus on the left? I don’t understand this.)

Asylum, Part 4

Asylum, Part 1

Asylum, Part 2

I looked at her.  Stared long and hard.  When she was sleeping like this, it was so much easier to pretend that this was the woman I knew.  This was the lady who held me in her lap when I was a child and had scraped my knee.  This was the mother who held me when my first boyfriend broke my heart.  When she was sleeping, I could still imagine that she was a grand concert pianist and a magical, genius composer who filled Carnegie Hall with her melodies.  When she sleeps, words like “psychotic breakdown,” “schizophrenic,” and “paranoid” don’t exist.  Just her, just my mother.

I ran my hand through her hair, brushing back the loose strands of wavy, dark brown hair.  My fingers traced the contours of her face, memorizing every new line and wrinkle.  This was my mother, calm and even.  But then there were the hands.  The hands clutching at the blanket should have been my mother’s hands.  But these were swollen and bandaged.  Their length minimized due to the injury.   And it came back to me all over again that this was not my mother.

A voice in the hall calls patients in for dinner, reminding me even further that “no,” this is not my mother.  My mother has disappeared into the broken soul and shell of a women who only mildly resembles her.  This lady, the one whose face and arm I’m stroking only looks like her.  Truthfully, she is a stranger.  And I remember the night it happened, the night my mother broke down and transformed into her.

We were all backstage, like usual.  I was at the side of the stage, watching everyone running back and forth, feeding off of the excitement and drama.  My mother was back in her dressing room with her manager and assistant.  In anticipation I peeked around the curtain, trying to see how many people had arrived, thirty minutes before opening curtain.  It shouldn’t have phased me anymore, not after all of these years, but I still got a current of excitement each time I saw a packed hall.  They loved her.  How could they not?  She was electrifying each time she stepped out on stage in one of her brilliant, signature,  gem-hued gowns, her dark hair wildly loose and flowing.  And she loved them.  But, she did not play for them.  She played for the music.  She always told me that she played for the music she loved, and that was why the audience loved her so much.  The entire audience could burst into flames during the middle of her concert, and she wouldn’t even notice.  It was part of her charm.

My mother had always existed in her own dream world.  She saw the world outside as she wanted it to be, filled with magic and fire and faeries and saints.  The funny thing was, when she played, everyone else could see the world that way too.  It was the only time they could see into her world.  She was hypnotic, magnetic.  Her vibrant, dreamy personality.  Her look, with long wavy hair flying here and there, snaking its way around her ears and shoulders.  And her hands, always moving, directing, playing.  They could never stay still.  I loved her fingers.  They were long and lean.  And her nails were always painted some floral color, making it look like wild-flowers grew on the ends of each finger.   This was my mother.

But that night, that night was different.  Instead of sitting in her dressing room, preparing and meditating, she was pacing the hall.  She kept talking to herself, mumbling something about “them and they.”  Her manager and assistant had tried to talk to her, but she had brushed them off.

They came to get me.  “Go to her.” They told me.  “Get her to settle down.  See what’s wrong.”  That’s my role.  That had always been my role.  I was her connection to the world, the chains that kept her feet on the ground.  Everyone knew it.  That’s why I was always around.  But I didn’t mind.  I kept her feet on the ground; she kept my head in the clouds.  It worked for us.

“Mom,” I said as I tried to catch her arm.  “Are you okay?  Can I get you anything?”

“No, no.  It’s all wrong. It’s all wrong.”  Her face scared me.  Her eyes weren’t the dreamer’s eyes I had grown up with.  Instead, they held terror, pure terror. And her terror frightened me.  I could feel it rolling off her, a tangible substance reaching out for me.  Something wasn’t right.  I grabbed both arms, trying to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t, or couldn’t.

“What’s wrong?  What happened?  Did someone hurt you.”  I demanded answers as I looked down the hall, trying to see who could have affected her like this.  But the hall was empty except for the occasional stage hands running back and forth.  I had known them for years, and they loved my mother.  I looked at her face and arms, trying to detect any marks from an assault.  “Mom, talk to me.  Tell me what happened.  Who scared you?”

“Everything, everything is wrong.  They’re trying to take it away from me. They’re trying to kill me.”  Abruptly, she looked at me, shoved my hands off of her, and resumed her pacing.  I got in step with her, trying to make sense of what she said.

“Who is they, mom?  What do they want?”

“Me.  The music.  They.  The ones out there.”  I looked along the lines of her outstretched arm, trying to see who she saw.  Once again, no one was there.  No one was down the hall now, not even the stage hands.

“It’s almost time.  Is she ready?”  After a few more laps, one of the previous stage hands  came running back to us, breathlessly wording the question that always preceded every show.  Usually, at the end of this question, my mom would stand up fiercely tall, push back her gown, and glide out of the door and onto the stage.

Tonight, she walked towards the stage, but it wasn’t her.  Her back was bent, her head down.  Broken.  That’s the only word that came to me, but I didn’t know why.  Not then.  I followed her, taking my place in the wing.  After being announced, she walked out on stage amid the roar of cheers.  She sat down.  Lifted her hands.  Began to play.  And as soon as she began, I knew something was wrong.

The song.  It wasn’t right.  The notes were right, of course.  Technically she was perfect.  And then it hit me.  That’s what was wrong.  My mom is not a perfectly technical person.  She plays emotion and life.  She doesn’t play notes.  Tonight, she played notes.  Mohini’s Enchantment was barely recognizable as notes.  She got to the end, and then it was over.  Or rather, the song wasn’t over, but she was.  Her fingers, long and lean.  Her pianist’s fingers stumbled.  Then they stopped.  She stood up abruptly, kicking back the piano bench.  Turning, she faced the audience, her shoulders straightening, her face raising.  She stared them down.  I was paralyzed.  Everyone was paralyzed.

Broken

Then, she spoke.  Her words, soft, yet audible due to the concert hall’s acoustics.  “No more.” She said.  “No more.  It’s mine.  It will always be mine.  I won’t let you have it.”  With that, she walked off the stage, and once again, she left people captivated in her wake.  Only this time, they were filled with shock, not awe.

That was the first episode, but it wasn’t the last.  And as I look at her sleeping.  As I look at the form of my mother, of this new woman, this stranger who is working so hard to erase my mother, my mind goes back and forth between images.  I still see me at my mother’s lap, learning music and art.  Being transported into her world.  But then the scene changes, and I see the stranger.  I see my mother in my lap, broken and defeated, tears rolling down her face, her dark hair swallowing her whole and her precious fingers cut off at the stems, never to bloom again.

Asylum, Part 2

For part 1: 

Continued:

I’m not dead.  At least they told me I wasn’t dead.  They had to give me a sedative because I was screaming so loudly.  I tried to tell them about the girl, but I couldn’t.  I was too tired.  That would be my secret.  Well, mine and the girl’s.  I looked for her today when I went out to the common area.  I saw her, watching the tv.  She was quiet now.  I wanted to go to her and tell her that I saw what had happened.  But, instead, I just watched her.

Her skin is so pale.  I feel cold just looking at it.  My hair stood up as I shivered.  So cold.  Her hair was silent today though.  She exacted her revenge by subduing it into a ponytail.  It makes her look different.  Fresh.  Girl-ish.  Again she rocked back and forth, but this time, her body found its rhythm in the melodies drifting from the tv.   Her fingers, long and thin, moved down, left, right, up.  Down, left, right, up.  1-2-3 and 4. 1-2-3 and 4.  The rhythm of the music.  Keeping time.  Her fingers fascinated me.  The tips on each finger, the nails, were painted today.  A dark violet-blue, like a wild flower.

Down, left, right, up.  I can hear the music coming from her fingers, in the hum of the AC.  It was Mohini Enchantment.   My fingers joined hers.  Only she directed while I played.  My fingers knew every note, every key on the keyboard.  The song begins soft and then crescendos, and I could hear it unraveling perfectly toward the climax.  The song is a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon.  Slowly, slowly the wings spread.  The song ends.

A nurse, a different one this time, came over to me, her green scrubs a welcome relief from all of the white surrounding me.  She asked me if I would like to go into the recreation room.  She told me it was where they keep all of the musical instruments.  She said the others would like to hear me play.

I looked at her, but I couldn’t tell if working in this place had messed with her mind that much, or if she was just stupid.  “No.” I tell her, my voice oddly low and husky.  “No, I can’t play.  I don’t know how to play anymore.”

The look she gave me implied that skepticism.  It angered me.  I knew what she wanted.  But I wasn’t going to let her have it.  Everyone always wants me to play.  Play, play, play.  They want my music.  But  my music is mine.  I created it, and I can kill it.  Nobody will ever have it again.  My hands, the hands that had just been gliding up and down the keys clenched, and I held them to my chest.  My body started shaking as I tried to hold it in.  Don’t give in.  Don’t give in.  My mind was still foggy except for the music playing.  Mohini had turned into Vivaldi’s Winter as my body responded in agitation which was trying to catch up to my mind.  My feet stood me up and began to pace.  “I don’t play.  I can’t play.  I don’t play.  I can’t play.”  I tried to get her to understand.  I tried to get my fingers, which were fighting their imprisonment, to understand.  “I can’t play.”

The nurse continued to watch me, to tell me that it doesn’t matter if I could play or not, I could still the use the piano.  She kept talking. Talking. Talking.  So, I told her okay.  I followed her into the room.  And I saw it.  I walked right over to the piano.  I ran my hands over the smooth ivory keys, the dusty wood.  And then, I did it.  I lifted the lid and slammed it.  Hard.  The strings’ vibrations reverberated throughout the room.  But I didn’t say a word.

The doctor says my right hand is broken, or at least fractured.  All of the fingers and a few of the knuckles are broken.  When he was finished, I looked at the nurse who brought me to him, the one who tried so hard to get me to play.  “Now,” I said, “Now, I can’t even use it.”

Asylum, Part 1

I see their faces.  All about me.  Their eyes look back, staring at me.  What do they see?  Do they see in me what I see in them?  Surely not!  I’m not like them.  I can’t be like them.  I have to get out of here.

Asylums. Where safety comes first.

When they brought me here, they told me I’d be safe.  That I’d be with others like myself.  But I can’t be like them.  No.  They’re – they’re insane.  I’m not crazy.  I know I’m not crazy.  Ok, sure, I occasionally sing the song.  “I am slowly going crazy 1-2-3-4-5-6 switch.  Crazy going slowly am I 6-5-4-3-2-1 switch.”  Repeat now.  It’s actually a fun little song.  It gets my mind racing. “1-2-3-4-5-6- switch.”  But, singing that song doesn’t make me crazy.  They told me I could take it easy here.  That I could get some rest.  Rest my mind they said.   They told me that I was safe now.  But, how could I be safe with their eyes on me.  Their insane eyes.  Looking at me.  Watching me.  Safe?  Here?

I’m watching one girl.  She’s sitting by herself next to the white wall.  With her white dress on, she almost blends in.  Blend.  Bland.  The two words are so close together in spelling.  But they’re different.  One’s a cause.  The other the effect.  Blend. Bland. Blend. Bland. Bland. Bland. Blend. Bland. Bland. Blend. Together. Different.

This girl.  This girl in the white dress melting into the wall, sinking back.  Fading away.  Almost.  Her hair won’t let her.  The dress, the wall, her chapped, pale lips.  They wash out her skin, erasing it.  Like bones left in the desert sand.  Eroding away.  But her hair saves her.  It won’t let the wall swallow her.

I’ve never seen hair alive.  But hers is.  I know it is because it winks at me.  She sways forward then backward, forward then backward, blend, then bland. Forward.  Backward. Like a confused pendulum caged inside a clock, trying to escape. Forward. Backward.  Blend then bland.

Her hair though.  Not black, not brown.  Just dark…and infinite.  It wraps itself about her shoulders.  Tendrils, snaking around her ears, her neck, her breasts.  Some strands, the winking ones, fly free.  Medusa would be jealous.

Medusa, the Greek Gorgon who went from guardian to killer.

Looking at her hair, I think it might kill her.  Strangle her during the night as it snakes its way around and around and around her neck.  Blend. Bland. Backwards. Forwards.  Or maybe, maybe it will choke her, suffocate her, drown her.  Its thick waves refusing to budge from her pale, chapped lips.  Snaking its way into her mouth, down her throat.  I see the hair moving around, up, through, in, out, only now its wink is a threat, warning me not to tell on it.

The confused pendulum goes faster and faster.  I want to cry out for someone to help her, to save her as the hair makes its way into her mouth.  I hear her moaning and stand up.  “STOP.”  I start to cry out.  But the hair.  It’s getting bigger, rising.  The winking turns into a menacing stare as the cobra arches its neck.  I put a hand over my mouth and bolt down the hall to the white room assigned to me.  I go into the far left corner, next to the bed, and crouch down to hide myself from the cobra’s eyes.

How can I be safe here?  The cobra. It will kill me in my sleep.  Kill me like it’s killing that girl.

I’m not hidden for long.  A woman in a white coat, a nurse I think, comes over to me and puts her arms around me.

“Hush now.” She whispers.  “There’s no need to cry.”  Maybe she’s not a nurse.  Maybe she’s crazy too because I’m not the one crying.  It’s the girl who is crying.  The one with the hair and the cobra who is trying to kill her.  I want to tell her this, but I remember the stare.

“Shhhhh.” She continues whispering to me.  “You’re safe here.  You’ll be just fine in the morning.”  But I know the truth.  I’ll be dead in the morning.  The cobra will find me.  All that hair.  Savage.

I can hear the girl’s moans all the way in my room.  But then I feel a pinch from the nurse.  She’s attacking me.  I try to call for help, but I can’t remember how to speak.  Or, rather my lips refuse to move.  My tongue is heavy.  I reach to touch my tongue, and I see my fingers, struggling to free themselves from the invisible weight of the crazy woman.  She did something to me.  She poisoned me.  Big, blue, purple fingers.  Heavy.  So heavy.  I let them fall, and try to stand, but my swollen feet won’t move.  Two big blocks of blue ice.

And I know.  I know.  The girl. The nurse.  They killed me.

Story Challenge of the Week

Alright, I’ve had some feedback on my challenges – some from the blog and some more personally directed – and so I’m going to keep providing them, at least for the foreseeable future.  If you’ve been keeping up with the blog over the past month, then you know that I have been giving you themes instead of specific words, to write with.  The rules are still generally the same.  You must write a story of at least a hundred words, and not more than five hundred (if you want to post it as a comment – if it’s just for yourself, then it can be as long as you want).  The story must be about the theme given in this post.  So,  if the theme I give you is Life, don’t write a story about the lord of the underworld.  If the theme is War, don’t write a story about a farmer planting his crops.  Themes are very broad, so it really shouldn’t be hard to stay within a given theme, but I teach, so I know that some people have trouble with this.

Your theme this week is: Insanity

Write me a story about crazy people.  You can use any kind of setting that you want, just make you’re main character nuts.  This could be anything from paranoia, to schizophrenia, to multiple personality disorder (I know it has another name now, but I can’t remember it off the top of my head, and don’t feel like looking it up).  Write about a psych ward, a serial killer, a struggling depressive, whatever – just make it a crazy person.

Voices in My Head

This picture was done by Idol, and can be found along with the artists other work.

Today we have a post from Sabrina Hardy:

For a writer, creativity can often take strange forms. Someone I know views the story she is working on as if she is the narrator. She sees the events, places and the dramatis personae, but has no involvement in it herself, and she is unable to see what the characters are thinking because she views them as an outsider. Another one of my acquaintances is more like an architect. He starts the writing process by crafting each character, each location, and each plot point in full detail before he puts them all together to form a complete story. He’ll spend weeks on just one character, fully fleshing it out until it becomes who he wants it to be. His stories are beautifully crafted and intricate, it just takes a very long time for him to write even a 5 page short story. Some people “get inside” the head of one particular character, and then write from that character’s perspective. That character is naturally the most well-rounded (and probably the most interesting, as a result) of the cast, and the story is often written in first person. Other writers prefer the most straightforward way of scribbling a story into existence: just sitting down and writing. They get an idea, sit down, and just write. They don’t bother with figuring out plot details, fleshing out the characters, or designing anything beforehand. They just let the story take care of itself through constant revisions. Hey, whatever works, right?

J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter novels

The way I write, on the other hand, is pretty odd (from the perspective of “normal” people, anyway). It’s not a manifestation of creativity solely attributed to me, I know several other people who write this way too. It’s just strange, and there’s not many of us who work this way. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I have voices in my head. No, I don’t have Multiple Personality Disorder. That’s just how my creativity works: I get an idea for a story, and the whole cast of characters jumps into my mind. I didn’t consciously create them; they’re just there, fully formed. I don’t know every aspect of their personalities right away, of course. Different characteristics reveal themselves as the story goes on. The characters just randomly show up in my head, introduce themselves, and say “Hey, we want to tell you the story of our lives so you can write it down for posterity” or something along those lines. And before you start thinking that’s crazy, let me remind you that J.K. Rowling started her immensely popular novel series that way. She said that a kid with black hair and glasses popped into her head one day and said something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Harry Potter.” Not that I’m going to be the author of the next multi-million dollar series of books or anything, but you get the picture.

Ok, now that the voices have started, what next? Writing the story, of course. I talk to the characters and ask them what happened, and then they tell me the story in their own words: what they were thinking, how they were acting, where they were, even what they were wearing. It works best when I write the story in first person, because then I get the perspective of all the characters, but I only have to put it into the words of one. Having six or more different personalities in your head can be very confusing at times, otherwise. Writing in third person isn’t hard, it just takes longer. I have analyze every scene from the point of each character involved in that scene. First I have to talk to the scene’s main character, and find out what he/she was doing, saying, etc. at this particular point. Then I have to interview any other characters one by one and figure out what they were doing during the whole scene. After that, I have to match everyone’s thoughts and actions up to figure out whom was doing what at any particular second in the scene. Things have to match up, otherwise you get problems like the villain ordering the execution of the hero before he even knows that said hero exists. This is very problematic, and should be avoided at all costs.

Sometimes you just can't get along.

The issue of writer’s block can also be somewhat odd in this case. The problem with all the characters living in my head is that the protagonists and the antagonists hate each other. Since they all want the story written, you’d think they’d cooperate. No, not really. They usually end up fighting and arguing and generally not talking to me. This is how writer’s block manifests itself, for me: characters don’t get along, they squabble, they don’t communicate with me, and I have no idea what happens next in the story. When that happens, I get stuck in the middle of a war, trying to broker a peace treaty between them so I can get the story written. It’s very annoying, and sometimes leads to me contemplating destroying the entire cast of characters and just starting all over again. I haven’t gotten that far…yet.

And a Jedi Penguin, just to top things off.

Once those problems are sorted out, the story pretty much takes care of itself. The voices in my head tell me what happened, and all I do is the physical act of writing it down. I don’t have to understand what’s going on, just that something is happening and it’s important. When the characters shut up, I know I’m done, and I can go back and read the story to see what I’ve written. Keeps things interesting that way. Once the story is finished, the characters retreat to a retirement village somewhere in the back of my mind, where the rest of my characters exist. They’ll talk to me occasionally, and I can bring them out of retirement if I need them. All-in-all, things work out pretty well. Not everyone works this way, obviously, but I’ve been pretty satisfied with it. I rather like having voices in my head (in a completely non-insane way).