Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Work In Progress

Perfection is overrated. There's no such thing as perfect, anyway, and always feeling that you've come up short somehow is very self-destructive. I could delve into the psychology of the whole coming-up-short thing , but why? If you're a female I don't need to explain it to you anyway. Our society makes it colossally hard to avoid. But there's perfect, and then there's likeable. And (where people are concerned, anyway) I actually find the two to be mutually exclusive. Which is interesting in light of our nature to try to be "perfect" - what did we hope perfection would bring us? This is not to say I don't try to improve as a person. I am definitely a work in progress. But see? Admitting to it is a very freeing thing. I feel lighter, just saying it. What prompted this musing was realizing that what I like about my main characters is that they're not perfect. Sammy Keyes? She's hot headed and fist ready. I love that girl! She's flawed, all right, but she does try to learn from her mistakes. Two steps forward, one back. So she is getting somewhere, but I guarantee you, the destination will never be perfection. Which is how I know I'll always like her. Holly in Runaway? She thought everyone in her life was stupid and wrong and mean and blind. It was when she finally admitted that she'd been part of the problem that her life began turning around. Evangeline in Confessions of a Serial Kisser? Her revelation came when she saw that in order to get forgiveness she first had to give it. Forgiveness is a toughie because at the core of it is acceptance, and we only truly accept someone else's mistakes when we admit to being capable of making mistakes, too. Anyway, it makes me feel better about my own flaws when I recognize that what makes me like my characters is their flaws. So I'll just continue to try to be the best person I can be, and if I stumble or come up short, I'll remind myself that I'm a (hopefully likeable) work in progress, and try again tomorrow. I hope you'll do the same.

22 comments:

Dohickeyjr said...

Your books are a great read.The only "flaw' though is that they come out too slow.I mean if some creepy guy(Edward Cullen) decided to chase things down for food, well lets just say your books would get eaten first.Either your books or Marissa's little brother Mikey.I read Mikey lost ten pounds but Edward Cullen can fly so that advantage is clearly lost.Anyways, I am not here to bash , we know it is a delicate process. The reason for the long introduction is because I am wondering if you know any other books that are a good read? Something that is in the city or suburbs kind of how Sammy Keyes is? Thanks for the help and don't get eaten.

Nicole said...

True, I love Sammy's hot-headedness! But she's improving too (for example NOT starting a fight with Heather at the end of Dead Giveaway). Your post got me wondering if there are any perfect characters out there, and the closest I could think of is Nancy Drew - she's described as really clever, pretty, and everyone likes her (except the bad guys), but inevitably she always makes one or two big mistakes that she has to get out of in the end. I concluded that if all the characters in a book were perfect there wouldn't be a story in the first place (at least not a very good plot). And in real life, how awful would it be if we were perfect? What would we have to work towards or look forward to? I spend hours drawing so that when I look back on works I did even a few months ago I can tell I've progressed...and it makes me feel good :)
In a perfect world I'd get tired of immediately succeeding at everything I tried. There'd be no progress. A perfect world would be a boring world.
So...hooray for flaws!

Pooja Dimba said...

Nancy Drew is annoying. See Sammy Keyes is liked because of the problems she has and the flaws she has.
That's Sammy. I mean she's so interesting and cool.. that you like the flaws she has.
Her flaws make her interesting to read about.
I mean perfect characters they are so normal.
They're book plots are so alike that sometimes I can't tell which book is which.
But that never happens when I read Sammy Keyes because they are so different then the rest of the rest of the books I read.
She's so unique and that is something that's hard to find in books these days.

Dohickeyjr said...

I think the only thing that I find annoying is the whole "Cammy" thing. I mean I guess books have to have a little romance feature to them ,but it just takes a a nice chunk of the book.The first few books didn't have Casey in them so they had more information and mystery.Now Casey is a big part in it may be there is a little less information.If that makes any sense. It just seems like Sammy spends a few pages just thinking about Casey and her "dilemas" involving him. That is the probably the only pet peeve of mine for this series.

Nicole said...

I guess I can see how Nancy Drew can be a little annoying. But man, I lived off of those books when I was younger! I loved the old-fashioned language like when they stopped to eat "luncheon" haha.
And I can kind of see what Dohickeyjr was talking about...I liked it best when Casey was first introduced and he liked her already but she didn't like him/was in denial. I thought that was really cute while it lasted.

sammy4ever said...

you can totally tell you're an author by the way you write these blog posts. they're amazing! i don't know how you're able to write so well, it's like you know all of us. anyway, you're right about your characters' flaws. like you said, sammy learns from her mistakes. she's becoming more mature. an example (i'm gonna use nicole's) is when she decides not to punch heather's lights out at the end of dead giveaway. and also when she decides to confess to her wrong doing and clear heather's name, sorta. even my mother said she didn't think she had the courage to do something like that. and i guess that's one of sammy's main traits: courage. wether it's facing bad guys or junior high life, she's got courage.

sammy4ever said...

just another thought, have you ever noticed how everyone puts REALLY long comments on your posts? it just shows you how many fans you've got (:
and also, are you planning on putting an epilogue at the end of the SK series? you know, to let us know what happened to everyone? i think that would be a cool idea! oh, pretty pretty pretty please? with a cherry on top?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Dohickeyjr: I like your description "delicate process". Nice. Slow, yes, but buckling down. Meanwhile, I'm sure the other commenters here would have reading suggestions for you. (Probably lots of them.) Interesting your view on Cammy. I actually like the presence of Casey -- I think it makes for a realistic middle school situation.

Nicole: Exactly!

Pooja: I think ND was probably really cutting edge (and gutsy) for her time. I find it surprising, though, that this generation reads her. I've never known a contemporary "kid" to get caught in a rainstorm and go home to iron her cotton blouse.

Sammy4Ever: Very nice of you, thank you. And I like your assessment. Courage is one of those solid building blocks of character. Not something you can just buy at the store, either.

Dohickeyjr said...

It is a good view of middle school but I didn't think it needed to be emphasized. I kind of like the sidestory of Mikey and Hudson in the Cold Hard Cash and wish there were more details to that.

Pooja Dimba said...

Doheckeyjr- I kind of have to disagree with you about your Cammy petpeev. I mean ... Sure she'll spend a chapter or two on .. Casey but isn't that what a normal middle schooler does now a days.
Its realistic and makes sense...

Dohickeyjr said...

Even though as realistic as it is, I think the reader can comprehend her relationship problems with much fewer details.I mean it is kind of like when something like this is said "I left the senior highrise and made my way over to the Pup Parlor". You don't have to go into how she got there.We know that she probably jaywalked a street.Same concept with Casey, we know that she is having love problems, just don't emphasize it as much.

xxCammyLoverxx said...

I like this post a lot. :)
And just on a side note, me and my sister were wondering on how Sammy's room would look if she had one. And we were also trying to figure out what type of clothes Casey wore. See, these are the amazingly strange things going on in your fans' brains.
PS- I had SK&WC dream #3 last night. This one's cover was normal but the dream was weird. I honestly think I think about it waaay too much before I go to sleep.
That, or I'm going crazy. :O

-Stephiee.

herovermeer said...

A work in progress..it has a certain ring to it dont you think? im one myself if i do say so... this might sound random but when i write, nothing else matters at the time its just me , my pencil and journal. I write and you know what? i feel free like nobody can stop me from doing what i love most which is writing what i cant say out loud, and it feels good.Like when the wind blankets your body in coolness of the summer air.When i used to read a book and its over (believe it or not) i used to cry ,and i would have this tingling sensation going on in my stomach.....now i know that when the last sentence in the book is over it might be the end of that adventure but its the beginning of something i cant even begin to imagine to describe in words...its a mystery and i guess we just have to stay tuned to see what you've got in store for us..and hey another thing if in life we didnt have any flaws or "complications" wouldnt we be perfect? and trust me being perfect is not in my vocabulary...
with much love and respect ,
A.R.Cali (Hero)

clararoxlol said...

that was a fantastic blog. very inspiring.

herovermeer said...

oh and one thing about nancy drew ........ i think trixie belden is way better than her( not to be mean shes good but trixie belden is a lot better my opinion) but you never here about trixie or the others ex 1: in my history class my teacher said "name some famous detectives real ones or ones in books everybody said nancy drew and when i said Trixie belden sherlock holmes hercule poirot they were like what? i could understand about hercule but sherlock? they just made a movie about him with robert downey junior!! and when she said name some mystery writers or some detective fiction writers or watever u want to call it i cant remember the crickets started right on cue and when i said edgar allen poe and agatha christie and arthur conan doyle who by the way created sherlock they rolled their eyes and muttered teachers pet and then i said do you know who wendelin van draanen is or carolyn keene they were like ohhhhhhh and i was thinking at least they still are a little bit sane but the thing is we did a segment called mysteries and their writers not even 5 months ago.....wooooowwww..i rest my case

much love and respect,
A.R.Cali(Hero)

Levina said...

Yes! One-hundred-and-ten-percent true. One of the things I absolutely LOVE about books is female leads, and especially FLAWED female leads.

See, there's a term in fnfic circles called a 'Mary Sue' which is basically a perfect female character which is perfect, beautiful, and has no real flaws whatsoever. And they are beyond aggravating.

I put Sammy on my list of 'fave heroines' because she jumps out at me and isn't afraid to be imperfect.
My character's (the one in the story I mentioned before) name is Halo (strange names are common where she comes from). She is absentminded, a little bit arrogant at times, she has a phobia of speaking in front of a lot of people, is cold and logical, and I never want to write about anyone but her.

Heroines forever!

Dohickeyjr said...

So would you say Sammy is perfect at being unperfect?

Levina said...

Exactly. What a great way to put it.

Surfgirl said...

The fact that Sammy is flawed is what I love so much about her! I used to read Nancy Drew and it just annoyed me how perfect she was. I can completely relate to Sammy and feel like I've grown up with her. She's honestly my twin, my name is Samantha Joesphine and I've always been a total tomboy. When I struggle with something about myself I remember, hey be strong, if sammy keyes has to deal with snotty girls, then other girls must also. How Sammy deals with her flaws inspires me.

xxCammyLoverxx said...

Excited for the post tomorrow! :D
And to the person who said Casey bugged them- I'll say it now. Yes, I loooooooooove Casey and he is one of my favorite characters and the Cammy pairing is my favorite in the whole world, but I've loved Sammy even before Casey came, so I just wanted to let you know I don't only read SK for *Casey*. I read it because I also love Sammy and her friends and her personality herself, and Casey is just *adding* to my love for her. So don't think I only read your SK series for Cammy, because it's more than that. I'm a true fan- I love Sammy's flaws and her good traits, too. So that's all.
P.S- I think I'm going insane waiting for WC! :O When in the website thingie coming? :D

-Stephiee.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

SurfGirl: Wow! A real Sammy Jo, how cool is that!

Everyone: Thank you for your comments. Enjoyed them! More tonight...

xxCammyLoverxx said...

Speaking of "Jo", that reminded me. I always wondered what it stood for. I know people whose names are "Joanna" or, like Surfgirl, "Josephine". So which one is it?
-Stephanie