Showing posts with label characters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label characters. Show all posts

Feb 21, 2021

When A Character Stinks


I've sometimes abandoned reading/watching a story because of a single character. The writer/s must think this person is funny/appealing/recognizable, but for me, they're nothing but irritating. Here are three that get to me.

With apologies to cozy lovers:  the amateur sleuth's zany best friend. When she constantly proposes absolutely dumb ideas, like having a seance to find out who the killer is, I'm out. Crazy buddies can be a hoot in a story, but they can also take things from slightly wacky to waaaay too unbelievable. 

Other characters that stop me reading/watching are self-obsessed whiners. Even if they have good reason to be messed up, I quickly get tired of their antics. Rusty on Major Crimes is a good example, as is Anaken Skywalker in Star Wars. I never finished watching the movie that explained his background, because I couldn't stand his whiny "it's not fair" attitude. I used to read Kay Scarpetta novels, but the bitchy niece went over the top, and I didn't want to be around her anymore, even in fiction.

The one person who creates, or at least courts, disaster by disobeying logic and rules. For the old folks among us, Dr. Smith from Lost in Space is the prime example. They should have shot that guy into a black hole in the third episode. Yes, I know it's a plot device, but when it's the same character every time, he/she quickly becomes tiresome. In current mystery/cop show offerings, there are officers who  go off the rails, investigating crimes they've been told not to, breaking every rule the department has on the books, and mistreating suspects. Disaster is averted when they get the bad guy, but I can't help but be concerned about all the people they bullied along the way.

I know, I know. These are accepted stereotypes for their genres. They make setting up a plot easy, and readers/watchers accept them for what they are. For me, they're deal-breakers. If you aren't creative enough to get past using mass-produced, plaster characters, I'll go somewhere else.

What type of character(s) irritate you?

 


Sep 6, 2016

People Ask Cool Questions #1

https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Silence-Loser-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B00A87IAQG
I'm on vacation for September, so for the blog I thought I'd address some questions people ask at personal appearances.
QUESTION #1 Where do you get the names/inspiration for your characters?
Often from real people I know. I need an image in my head to create a character. (Brag here: one site said last week that my characters are people you think about long after you finish the book. YAY!)
I start with someone I've known--perhaps a coworker or a former student--and imagine how that person would react to the scenario I'm creating. I always add when I admit this that those people NEVER stay real. As soon as I have a firm picture in mind, the character becomes a whole new person, with his own personality, attitudes, and personal details.
For example, Verle in the Loser Mysteries started out as a man who was sort of my second dad, since I practically lived at his house as a kid. Readers who knew him would soon find, however, that he isn't like the real Verle at all. For one thing, he's afraid of his wife--like that would happen!
Loser herself was inspired by homeless people I saw during a stay in Richmond, Virginia, in 2007. I can't explain how it happens, but I started wondering what might happen if a homeless woman felt compelled to investigate a murder.
Once I tell them that, people are likely to ask if I know introduced myself to any of those homeless people so I could get to know them. No. People are people, and over the years I met plenty who lived outside what we consider "normal" circumstances. Though their situation separates "them" from "us," they have similar motivations. Their coping methods just have to be a lot different.
Reality is where my characters start. After that it's all my imagination.

The Loser Mysteries are available in print or as e-books on Amazon and by order at your local bookstore. Killing Silence is also available in audio format.

Apr 18, 2016

The Gifts I Buy Myself

I buy myself presents all the time: they're called books.
Sometimes they're Kindle books, although I'm often irritated by the inflated cost of books by big-name authors. If mid-list authors' books can be produced for six dollars or less, why can't everyone's?
I know, supply and demand, but there isn't the cost in e-books that there is with print: no print cost, no warehousing, no shipping.
But I digress.
In addition to Kindle books, I also buy print books. Lots of them. No less than three, sometimes more, bookstores exist where the clerks smile when they see me coming. They know I'm buying.
Sometimes my purchases result in entertainment for few hours, and that's great. People gripe about "affording" books, but where else do you get eight hours of entertainment for under thirty bucks?
The best times are when my purchase results in absolute rapture. I got lucky last week with THE NIGHTINGALE on my Kindle, which was wonderful. On Thursday I picked up (at a nice young clerk at McLean and Eakin's suggestion) BE FRANK WITH ME.
Oh, the joy.
I can't tell you where it's going for sure yet, because I haven't finished. It concerns a young woman who's sent to smooth the way for a famous author so she can get a  book written. Smoothing the way involves dealing with Frank, a kid who's unique, hilarious, frustrating, and endearing. If you love unique characters cleverly presented, you will love Frank, and his mom's pretty interesting, too.
One of the blurbs mentions that the reader wants to
read the book again later, just to spend more time with Frank.
That's like double value for your money. How great is that?

Oct 5, 2015

Plain Talk For Writers: A Sense of Place

No, I'm not talking about book settings, though they're important and wonderful when done well.

I'm talking about YOUR place in the world of writing.

If you're published, you probably already have an idea of where you fit, and it probably bothers you a little that it isn't where you'd like to be or where you thought you'd be. If you're not yet published, you should spend some time thinking about where you will fit in once you show your work to the world.

Before publication, many writers have an inflated idea of the importance of their work. I'm approached all the time at book signings by people who claim they have the next bestseller in mind or in progress. The fact that they tell me about it is a hint that they don't know the process at all. There's hope in their eyes, a fantasy scenario where I grab them by the arm and say, "Wow! I need to tell my agent right away about your completely awesome idea." Well, I won't. In the first place, I fired my agent, and in the second place, I've heard it before. Really.


Honestly, 99% of books, including my own, are not that original. Most of us take a theme that's well known (In mystery it's usually the search for justice), find some characters we like, and work out a story. However, the number of variations on any theme is limited. For example, I'm aware of three best-selling authors right now who have a new book where the protagonist has amnesia. I bought two of them, and I had to quit reading one until I finish the other, because I kept getting them mixed up in my head. Amnesia as a theme in mysteries comes in waves--as do other themes, alcoholic protagonists, divorced sleuths with children at risk, cops with bosses who hate them, etc. Apparently it's been long enough since writers did amnesiacs as protags that we can use it again.

What's your place in the writing world? Chances are your plot isn't original (Nor are those of most best-selling authors). Chances are the people in your book are re-hashes of stereotypical characters readers have seen before, probably many times. That's okay, as long as you recognize it. The most honest thing a writer can do is accept that she isn't doing anything groundbreaking. Once we accept that truth, we won't expect to shoot to the top of the ranks like Nike rising from the sea.

If you're lucky, you write something entertaining enough that a portion of the population will read it. Then you build on that, so they learn to come back to you for the kind of story they like. If you're even more lucky, a few of them will say nice things about it to other readers (Most don't. They just reach for the next book on their TBR pile).

That's your place, and when you understand it, you'll stop wondering why awards aren't lining your office wall and movie producers aren't knocking on your door. You'll be happy brightening the corner where you are.


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