Character Immortality

Recently, I’ve been thinking about character immortality. Not just in regards to my reading, but my writing too. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever killed off a “good guy” main character that readers have gotten to know, and hopefully like, in any of my books—so why and how did I get here in my meanderings?

Here’s the trail that got me started on character mortality thinking…. G.B. Pool and Jackie Houchin recently delved into the importance, scope, and all around “goodness” of reading. Then—once again—a book club happening moved my thoughts further on. That’s what reading will do for you, make you think! And thirdly, while mentally contemplating a chapter I’m currently working on, my writing-brain wished a character wasn’t there. Should I kill him off? Flashed across my thoughts. No. Was my answer. But, why not?

Starting with the reading part—if I know from the beginning a lead and/or beloved character is going to be killed off—I seldom will read the book. “But you’re always killing off people,” my hubby (a non mystery-genre reader) would probably point out. To explain the difference between a “plot-revolving-around” murder victim, and a key “on-stage” character is hard to explain to him—but for me, there definitely is a big difference.

On to Book Club. Members pick the books that go on our list, mainly I think, because it’s a book by an author they like, or it’s a book they’ve already read and think everyone else will like. The Hamish MacBeth series written by M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney) is one of my favorites—and having read many of Hamish’s adventures—I put one on our list. In the book I recommended, a character I really liked died, and it soured me on the whole book. Why, I asked myself?

I’m a bleeding-heart-nitwit was my answer. not an “answer” befitting my mystery writer/reader ego. But in fact, I’ve never read/or watched a Morse or Poirot outing where either protagonist got seriously ill, much less die. Avoided on purpose. Indeed, I guess I want me literary heroes to be immortal. Aging is okay, but you can’t go too far.

But time does pass in our stories. As it does in life, and one can only squeeze so much activity in a storytelling year! You have to adopt either a false conceit about time, or ?? Then when it comes to animals, even worse—sigh. I was told by a relative—that even as a child (this was way back when in the dark ages!) when leaving the movie theater after watching “Bambi” I proclaimed I’d never watch another movie like that again in my whole life.

This winding and contradictory mortality thinking road is snaking back and forth for me… For example, in my Rhodes series, it all starts with LC Rhodes setting everything in motion for Leiv’s adventures on his deathbed. And throughout the few books I’ve subsequently written in the series, Leiv often talks to his deceased grandfather, LC.

Clearly, my ramblings here have not brought me a clear understanding—or even a “why”—when it comes to immortality for some, and not for others? Indeed, in my writing reality conundrum mentioned earlier, I’m not killing off one of Leiv’s compadres, but decided to make him fit in. This time. But why?  I’m currently leaning toward considerations such as, “what kind of character are they?” Main, supporting, likable, gender, looks, age… I haven’t sorted it out yet.

And why am I continuing down this character immortality road—despite the lack of a clear answer? I didn’t like not liking one of my favorite author’s books! Indeed, Marion Chesney was(still is) very much a guiding-light “STAR” for me. Consequently, I would very much prefer that–not enjoying this particular offering–has to do with wrong-headed thinking on my part!

All thoughts on character mortality are definitely welcome…because as I’ve so often jabbered on about before —I think characters and scenery are the essence of good storytelling. And a key character’s mortality, is probably pretty important to good character development.

Happy Writing Trails!

An Unexpected Rest Stop

On my winding writing road, I’ve been stopped dead in my “writing tracks.”

Indeed, several recent posts here on Writers in Residence discussing research(Elaine L. Orr and G.B. Pool), and a recent most excellent local book-club selection, have sent me down a thought-path(new considerations), I most definitely did not expect.

Research thoughts, combined with my belief that characters and location are the essential keys to good story-telling, and subsequently good  book writing—have taken me aback a bit—well, at least rethinking my “absolutes.” So, I’m sharing here(smile).

Indeed, I always take particular note of posts—here, and elsewhere on writer’s blogs on “Research”—especially regarding, how, why, and its value. I so agree that only with direct knowledge, and/or in depth research, can you take a reader on the great adventure you think is important enough to write a book about. It’s in the “environment” that your characters tell their stories. Story telling at its best—and producing an enjoyable novel that will bring pleasure to a reader.

But here’s what really pulled me into this particular rest stop. Our latest book club selection was by a famous, and justifiably so, well liked, well respected, popular, and to me, very accomplished and good writer. And I certainly would recommend. I sampled enough to know the prose was excellent—with good story telling prowess, and the characters seemed like real people. Indeed, the author’s ability to take you to a place in just one sentence was astounding! The characters seemed real and quite interesting. But, after reading the intro, a quickie synopsis, and enough sampling to make the above comments, I did not want to read the book.

Why? Right now I’m thinking it was because I did not want to go to the location of the novel which I’m sure, in its completeness, was presented expertly. Nor did I want to be involved in the lives of the characters.

Which led me here; is it possible a reader might not want to go to the place I’ve so wonderfully researched and described? Not want to enter into the story intrigues I want to draw them into? Not want to “feel” the sensations I’ve taken such care to describe? How could that be? Right now, I’m leaning toward the supposition there are some places some readers might not want to physically or mentally visit—in reality or literally. Regardless of how well researched, described, or author enticed into.

Surprised by my reaction, it’s given me pause to initially think some potential readers might not be reading my books because they don’t want to go where my setting is, or with my characters? The Mojave Desert, and Leiv et al?

Rereading the above before posting, there’s a lot of “I’s” here, but as always, I’m(smile) thinking laying out my surprising to me reaction, and initial thoughts here might be helpful? Location and characters are still my “holy grail” for writing—though there’s a “but” here somewhere that I’m missing…

All thoughts are welcome!

Happy Writing Trails!

Fiction to Reality to Fiction

winding road
The Winding Writing Road

Escapism through scenery and characters is what I love about reading fiction! And because of that I’ve often shared here on Writers in Residence my meandering and self-centric thoughts on both aspects—scenery and characters from a writing perspective. And in this post, I’m visiting both again—conjointly— as they are both affecting my writing adventure right now. For sure, I was completely surprised by Parnell Chatterman. A new hero and series I hope to start this year. (Big deal for me—a one at a time kind of writer.)I’m guessing part of my interest and surprise stems from a 2021 malaise that grabbed hold of me writing-wise all last year. So I certainly didn’t expect a new and concurrent series popping up!

In the past, my one at a time few books have been inspired and happened in the various places I lived at the time. I.e, Uncle Si’s secret, my first was written when I lived in North Bend, WA. From there, the next was around Ridgecrest, CA, and from there to the Mojave and fictional Newtown and Shiné. All real and inspiring places for me, and the last, nonexistent Shiné in particular, has become very real. And I’m thinking, the people in Shiné too? Hence the surprise—out of Shiné the place and it’s inhabitants, I’m starting a new series (only a few pages written) based on an “inhabitant” of Shiné. I honestly hadn’t realized how real Shiné had become for me. Real enough to become further fiction?

The distinction (and irony) I’m making and pointing out may not be obvious…so I’ll try to explain a little further. I walk my dog(s) every morning. It’s early, and I’m out in open desert (Shiné land!)  But in the far distance I can barely see trucks moving along I-15. Sometimes my imagination wanders off to what the drivers might be thinking, their back stories, and of course, how they would fit in a murder mystery. For me, scenery and setting inspiring fiction. (one such driver has a “walk on” in my current WIP.)

But Parnell Chatterman’s existence came out of place already in existence. (I know, I know, Shiné doesn’t really exist), GroupOfPeoplebut it is very real in this writer’s mind. The Mojave location, Shiné’s layout, the inhabitants—combined and somehow gave life to a new character with a series of his own!

So what is the take away from what I’m experiencing that might inspire writing friends, and also may be interesting to readers as to where all this writing stuff comes from? I think the nugget is to try to make your setting and characters so enticing, that consequently, a place someone might want to live in or visit in reality— and for the writers reading this, a whole new series may arise? Maybe there’s a character you really like in a current book that you want to bring to the stage? Or, on the other improvement side, maybe your current-book’s world isn’t enticingly-real enough to “create” new fiction. And the question would be do you want to change that?

And, the additional point —that for me and maybe some others of you—this writing journey is sooo full of surprises, and the importance of keeping our minds open to those surprises. Let them in!

questioningmanHaving reread this—I’m thinking my thoughts here might be either helpful—or maybe just come across as idiotic twaddle. Either way though, hoping my meanderings will re-emphasize how important setting and characters are. Parnell Chatterman certainly thinks so!(smile) I better get writing… And reading. Have Death of a Green-Eyed Monster by M.C. Beaton with R.W. Green waiting for me, and Hamish Macbeth and the Scottish Highlands are a setting and characters I love visiting! Lochdubh and Hamish are real, aren’t they?

Happy Writing Trails!

Past, Present, and Around the Corner

I perceive my goals with my blog thinking and writing efforts–are to improve my own writing, while taking our readers along the trip with me—in case my issues and insights are more universal than just me. Said a different way, my sharing all this writing angst is hopefully to mirror what some writers are also feeling/thinking; and for readers, emphasize the fact it’s not just sitting down at the keyboard(smile, smile) and pounding out a book. At least not for me!

And most importantly in my thinking— is I want readers to gleefully jump full-steam into the story happenings, and want to be there. For the whole point—bottom line in my mind—is fiction writing and reading is to enjoy a chunk of time in our lives.

Writing and reading should be Fun. With a capital “F”!

Last year I focused on characters. This year I’m going back to scenery. I say back to, because much of my novice nattering was a lot about how important scenery and characters are. Well, I’m still of that mind, but hopefully I’m thinking and working on both on a deeper level. This year back to looking at scenery with more veteran eyes. Because “A-Number-1” for me as a reader, is escapism. Going somewhere that isn’t my house(more specifically, my couch!)

I write third person, omnipotent—all seeing and all knowing, ha, ha! Third person, can be omnipotent when it comes to viewing the world from the outside, or viewing through a characters perspective—knowing what he/she—actually what everyone—is thinking or doing. And that’s where the writing competence comes in—when and how to present the scenery my characters are acting in. With the key goal of sensory intake of the reader—bringing them into my story.

So today is “sensing” the scenery. And here’s what I’m thinking . My first “new thinking” inclination is the past is more easily able to be internalized by a reader if “told” by the characters themselves. Not through omniscient expose. More often than not, I’ve filled in past happenings as the omniscient storyteller. But, if a character was actually there, they should share their vision. We should see what they saw, not what the author thinks is a pretty or interesting picture…

An example off the top of my head—as narrator I might say about a past event, “It was a rough fight, hard punches thrown, blood drawn and splattered all over.” While a character would say/or think, “God, when I got smacked in the mouth, it really hurt against my teeth. I still remember the taste of my own blood…”

And if talking about scenery in the past in particular, I could say “it was a cool summer morning, and xxx remembered that first day it started. Indeed, her minds eye could once again see that sky as she looked up and from her books and saw such beautiful colors – as the sun rose…”  OR xxx rubbed her eyes and looked up from the book she was reading, and the scratchiness she felt in her right-eye reminded her of a similar day two years previously—feeling the same ocular irritation, seeing almost identical colors on the horizon, experiences almost identical feelings of apprehension….” I’ll stop(smile) getting carried away.. The goal, I think, is to bring the past out of the background, into a current plot happenings.

So the take away, I think, even though you might be writing in third person, sensory recounting the past should be done when possible through a character’s eyes. This is going to be hard for me because I like past stuff to come out in the “mystery reveal.” Hmmm. And the combining this thought with sensory perception exposition. Hmmm. But using my thoughts from last year on characters, and how they sensed the past, is a good place to start I think..

Speaking of last year, on a personal note, so glad 2021 is in my rear view mirror. My thinking is probably psychological craziness on several levels, but for me, good riddance none the less… And hello 2022!

Happy Writing Trails!

Characters and the “W”s

GroupOfPeople

For me this year “On the writing road” has been a character exploring and development kind of journey. (How) our characters can be the readers eyes when it comes to exploring and—

  • Visualizing my tales location/scenery, (where)
  • Getting to know the story inhabitant’s personalities—particularly the protagonist and villain, (who)
  • Sensually feeling the environment—(how) their five senses are encountering everything around them so the reader can feel the heat, see the colored sky, (what)
  • And, most importantly, engaging a reader to like, and want to know more about our protagonist and main characters—i.e. want to read the darn book.

Part of my interest in these character rest stops is a past tendency to lean on narrative explanation to develop many aspects of my tale. Now working on my characters doing more of the work!

Today, I’m pondering further down the “What” path, as in what’s next in terms of actual plot development. Not writing the next scene or plot development because I think it’s a good idea—but “what” my protagonist thinks would be a good idea.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say. The current Rhodes novel I’m working on, of course, takes place in Shiné. And at several locations. And in the beginning, early one morning Leiv needs to visit four spots to get the basic setting, background events, and murder situation in the reader’s mind. I’ve spent several months changing my mind, back and forth, flitting around on who, and in what order the first scenes should go. Duh! I asked Leiv “What” did his senses tell him was the next scene, based on his mental processes.

This approach may be already quite obvious to other writers—let Leiv tell the story. But I like writing in third person, so there hasn’t been the “I” POV in my tales from the start of my writing journey. So my excuse is, that starting as an outside narrator blinded me as to my protagonist actually leading plot scene exposition.

So, continuing as the third person story teller in my latest, I moved from an outside scene, to an inside scene, to outside again. However Leiv’s mind plot evolution started outside, where he remembered an inside bookstore scene, then another inside office scene, then another inside junkyard scene…

I’m exaggerating the distinction I’m making to make the point—my recent writing-improvement path is still characters—and on all levels and perspectives. There are elements in my tales that my protagonist doesn’t know about, and for those, scenes, the reader is stuck with me, the narrator.

Indeed, my characters have captured me…but I’m not sending out an SOS yet. (smile)

Bottom line for the writing nugget in this post, I think–is no matter your POV(but especially in third person), it is for your characters to bring your reader in (because we like or are interested in them), where we can then see the world through their eyes, and then they can lead us forward through story happenings based on what they see, feel, and need to know. Seems pretty obvious now that I’ve laid it out in writing…

Happy writing trails

Betwixt and Between

AnotherRoadSignRecently, I was given a nudge down my “how to improve” writing road journey, while thinking about my most recent book club selection discussion. I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned how much I like—and have learned from my local monthly book club. Indeed, without the diversity of selections members put on our list, there are so many books and authors I would have regretfully never read. So first off, let me say again, I love book club!

For example, our August book selection was Catalyst, written by the highly acclaimed and award winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author Anne McCaffrey, this offering written with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough[i]. Great writers, but in a genre which is not my forte—which I’ve proclaimed on several past occasions. Thank goodness for members who ignore me and push us all outside our reading cocoons. Indeed, I’ve self-indulgently proclaimed on more than one occasion about the genre, “Not what I like. Not real.” 

On my way home from our meeting, I had one of those “good-grief” moments that astound me at my own silly thinking and categorizing. I write fiction. Duh, questioningmannot Real! Mystery fiction writers ask readers to accept people, places, events, etc.—all that often aren’t real—though sometimes based on real events and situated in real places.

From there, I headed down the “how real should our fiction be?” path. Sounds silly, but what I mean is the importance of having the right “reality balance” to our commercial fiction—mysteries in particular. I’ve talked before about closing books without reading because the characters don’t grab me, or I dislike them, which sorry to say, I seem to be doing more of. But, does the reality-balance also have something to do with my lack of story engagement?

Some thoughts:

    • For sure, for me in particular, I want readers to be able to visualize a non-existent-unreal town of Shiné as a real place. Store fronts, roads, places of business, even a castle. If they actually visualize an unreal alien world they can’t go to, will they want to mentally be there, or visit again? Indeed, I want them to escape from the reality of their habitat to a neat identifiable place they’d like to visit, but different from where they are—at least for a couple hours. But not as far as a different planet or world?
    • Are the characters real? Certainly not. But real enough for a reader to visualize a real person they can piece together, and at the same time find the character different or eccentric enough to find interesting? Normal enough to be real, but not too normal as to be alien, or worse, unlikable. Another balancing act.
    • Scenery? Can they see a real place in their mind’s eye? In my writing case, the Mojave Desert does exist. But Shiné? No. But can a reader imagine a place “like” this possibly existing in the real world?
    • And here’s a hard one. Are the events real? Especially with some of the mystery writing conceits in use. Of course not, ask any policeman(and I’ve asked several–thank you my PSWA friends and San Bernardino County Sheriffs). Indeed, we’ve got the reality in our own lives of actual bad guys and victims. The balance here is of not trivializing real crime and horror, but at the same time offering escapism with characters being killed and justice of some kind happening. Hmm…
    • And here’s another tricky one, is it a realistic story? Again, of course not. The goal is larger than life adventures, with larger than life characters, with larger than life attributes—and minimal flaws. Not reality for sure.
    • Is the conclusion realistic? And on this one, not a dilemma or quandary for me at all. No. It’s what I want to happen. Reality doesn’t matter. That being said, sometimes an author has hit the mark on all the previous points, and I’ve gotten to the end and said, bah humbug!(smile)

Agatha Christie, I think, was a genius when it comes to snatching a reader into sometimes outlandish unreal situations, with larger than life characters when it comes to abilities, and posit some implausible situations and happenings—but leaving me thinking these people, places, and events actually happened. Easily suspending my disbelief while reading. Her non-reality was/still is[ii] for me very real.

Still pondering, but thinking “real” fiction writing of any kind, is a balancing act for sure. My take away from these meanderings? For me—more carefulness when it comes to reality-balancing, when developing all my characters, places, situations, and conclusions. And maybe read more Scifi(smile).

balancingAct

 

Happy Writing and Reading Trails!


[i] More about Catalyst and Anne McCaffrey here on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Catalyst-Tale-Barque-Cats-Book-ebook/dp/B002XHNOMO/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=catalyst+anne&qid=1629596367&sr=8-1

[ii] I re-watch Poirot mysteries on DVDs all the time (with David Suchet).

Words, Thoughts, and Deeds

AnotherRoadSignScenery and characters—for me, writing’s “Holy Grail!”[i] And luckily, several weeks back, Writer in Residence Gayle Bartos-Pool wrote an excellent post on Character Arcs, which sent me down a writing road side trip—reviewing how I’ve been developing my characters for readers to see, feel, and know them. Something in my past writing, I’ve just done—and not really thought about—can I do better?

I should have been paying more attention to my character development, especially, since as a reader, if I don’t like, can’t see, or don’t identify with a character (or set of characters), I don’t enjoy, and often don’t continue reading a book. Shut it closed, and move on to the next one in my stack. So my thinking after Gayle’s post is/has been from a reader’s perspective. Learning how to do something is indeed very important, but figuring out what you should be doing in the first place, is even harder, I think.

GroupOfPeopleSo thinking and looking back, I’ve unconsciously been using—first a characters words (through dialogue/interactive and solo), second, what they are thinking (in narrative exposition parts), and then what they actually do (storytelling and action bits). Sometimes, their words, thoughts, and deeds are contradictory, which can also define their character.

But that’s not enough.

For example, my latest protagonist, Leiv Everett Rhodes, doesn’t always communicate what he’s thinking via what he says. I’m hoping what he “does” are his written character-defining moments. So, I did some prior writing scanning[ii] And no, I have not adequately developed Leiv enough, on any level for a reader to say, “Wow, I like this guy a lot.”

So, what am I going to do? For starters, the “physicality” of the man is not clearly defined. Which is sort of on purpose—giving a vagueness that gives a reader an outline to fill in from people they’ve met. I’m also going to have him do more things, and how he does them hopefully will give some likeable balancingActglimpses into him. For sure, I know exactly how Leiv Everett Rhodes looks in my eyes, but not sure if my readers do. Although I don’t think I want a reader to see “my” Leiv in their eyes, but a Leiv they like looking at. Another tightrope!

I’m going to stop here, because I have more thinking to do—but here’s where I’m ending up with this post—it’s not enough to tell a good story, indeed, I think writers owe their readers to be taken away into another world and be led there by characters they want to follow. And self-critique, no matter how difficult, can’t be replaced by editors, beta-readers, writing groups, friends… And for sure, rereading and rewriting our own work, trying our best to be “outside” our creation is very difficult.

When I read back over this post, it sounds rather simple-minded and straightforward. Yet, as a reader, I’ve closed too many books–not because of plot or lack of an interesting story premise—but because I either actively disliked—or at a minimum, was not grabbed by the characters.[iii]

Maybe, I’m just becoming a grumpy-reading person, and at an age where I’m not that easily pleased?(smile) even by myself. Gosh, I hope not…

Happy Writing and Reading Trails!


[i] A rather grandiose statement, but I liked the sound of it!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Grail

[ii] Never before reread my old books, just looked up sometimes what I said about a situation or person!

[iii] In getting involved in Jackie Houchin’s “spine stacking” from last week, realized how many books I didn’t complete reading! Many closed early on.

Literary Pixie-Dust

In this short post, I’m indulging myself musing over a realization that hit me the other night—an insight into reading, rather than writing, and for what I’m fancifully calling “Literary Pixie Dust.”

Alas, I’ve never had great eyesight, and with age, it’s gotten worse, so a lot of my “reading” is moving into audio books, or Kindle text-to-speech. Sometimes I’ll also get the book because of the touch and feel…and smell of books. Several nights ago, while falling off to sleep, I was listening to the audio book Light Darkens by Ngaio Marsh and read by Philip Franks, and it hit my conscious psyche[i] that with my favorites like her, there’s “something special” from the very beginning. And that “Something” is not something I remember ever reading or talking about.

But fanciful and goofy as it might sound, there is a “magic”[ii] that takes you into the story—and in that you’re not just reading, not just enjoying, not just picturing[iii]—but your mind is dusted with some kind of story-pixie-dust. Indeed, the characters, the scenery, the plot—including the overarching musicality of the author’s writing that I’ve gabbed about before—all seem to twinkle. (I’m not surprised if you’re laughing by now!)

As I fell off to sleep, I was kind of laughing at myself. Must be the audio experience itself, the book reader, his voice. So, next morning I found my book copy of Light Darkens, and “it” was still there. I could hear it while reading with my eyes. (M.C. Beaton sprinkles the same pixie-dust on her delightful Hamish Macbeth novels.)

It’s similar to several movies I’ve seen during my life that had a “special something” outside of all the good movie-making mechanics like directing, photography, screenplay, casting, etc.

I’m pretty sure I’m not a pixie-dust writer[iv], but I am a reader. And I’ve heard said in so many ways how wonderful reading is, all the places you can travel, all the characters you can meet…but it really is also “magical” for some readers like me. A thought, which led me to feeling so lucky to be involved in the reading and writing world throughout my life.

This was a different kind of rest stop on the winding road of writing for me. But, on that winding road, my writing goal for this year is–to do more of it, and along the way learn as much as I can! Pixie-dust magic is not on the agenda. Indeed, I’m not sure this indefinable (but very real to me as a reader) element is something one can actually learn? Regardless, it would sure be nice to have. Hats off to Ngaio et al.!

Happy Writing and Reading Trails!

 


[i] I’ve read the book in the past, but not heard the audio book.

[ii] I’ve searched my mind (and on line thesaurus for the perfect word)—but it won’t come. Hence “magic.”

[iii] Wrote a post here in the past about pictures left in my mind from some books.

[iv] Even if I dreamed of being such, don’t think my style, characters, or topic lend to that sort of “magic.”

 

Sitting in the Rest Area Thoughts

RestareasignAnother “on the writing road again” post. Indeed, I’m finding my writing journey endless—though a most enjoyable discovery adventure—with my posts here at Writers in Residence, metaphorical rest stops[i], and my actual books, destination arrivals in places I’ve never been.[ii]

Looking back, I think my journey started with scenery, North Bend, WA, and now it’s the Mojave Desert and Route 66. And I’m thinking many would agree, questioningmanthat setting/scenery is the initiating spark for many a tale. Often being the impetus for the plot—or at the very least, the enabling/hindering plot action backdrop. I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years pondering over how to enhance my writing in those areas.

But now, with the arrival of 2021, when I think about the books, DVDs, and TV  I enjoy most, it’s the ones with great characters that have brought me the most enjoyment. Fotosearch_k8817762To mention a few, Agatha Christie (Poirot and Marple,) Neil Richards and Matthew Costello’s Cherringham audio series, Midsomer Murders(my all time favorite,) Justified, The Good Wife, Marilyn Meredith’s[iii] Tempe Crabtree and Gordon Butler, Craig Johnson’s Longmire, Simon Brett’s Charles Paris, Patricia Gligor’s Malone and Morgan—and not to sound like a publicist for Writers in Residence(smile), love Johnny Casino and the Harlow brothers.

There are many more… Good plots, enjoyable get-away settings—but most of all, it’s the Characters. And it’s not just the protagonist, but most importantly, all the story and backstory characters that bring a richness to the tales.

More particularly, is it their niceness? Their eccentricities? Do they remind me of people I’ve known? Is it because they make me smile and reminisce? Not sure, but my next writing travel-leg starting now at this rest stop—is to make my characters the best they can be.

How?   GroupOfPeopleThere are a lot of us characters out there! https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

So far on my writing journey, if asked, I think I would say “they just popped up” in my head. But I’m pretty sure the “just popping up” is based on many things—like past experiences, people I’ve met, people I liked, and people I wasn’t that fond of! Whatever that process is, I want better control over it.

Not sure I can add to what my fellow Writers in Residence have already quite helpfully said on this blog—but no matter what great advice one might get—I do know so much of writing is “personal.” I.e., you have to figure out how it helps you—by and for yourself. Sigh. It’s not math, you can’t just add up the column of great advice, come up with a sum, and you’re done.

I want my books to be populated with Midsomer Murders characters! I want my characters to be people a reader enjoys hearing from, and wouldn’t mind knowing and appreciate—well maybe not the murderers! (Smile) And I definitely think this is an important part of writing to think about… I’ve closed many a book, and turned off many a show because either I didn’t like the characters—or in some cases, actively disliked them.

So, on the road again…and hopefully something for you to think about. Not just from the “doing” perspective, but also from the experiencing side. Why did I dislike that TV show kind of thing. All thoughts welcome!

AnotherRoadSign

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] In younger days, on the road with hubby and pups, would sometimes find myself waiting, and would avail the time taking in, and talking to some of our fellow travelers. I wonder if some of those people stuck in the brain and psyche??

[ii] Not as many “destinations” as I planned at this point. I thought 20 books, ha! Only nine…  Author and friend Marilyn Meredith is my guiding light and star when it comes to “getting it done!”

[iii] As it happens, Marilyn has a recent post up about her characters. She even mentions Tempe Crabtree! https://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2021/02/mystery-author-marilyn-meredith-on.html

Here’s my latest group of characters (smile) Just out…https://www.amazon.com/Rhodes-Never-Forgotten-M-Gornell/dp/1943063605/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1613418531&sr=8-1

 

Alas……

I’ve always wanted to use the word “Alas” as a title for something because the word says so much to me, and sounds so much nicer, than therefore, thus, consequently…and for me, it does not have a negative connotation

As they often are, my posts tend toward being egocentric—having to do with something I’m dealing with. My thinking is, if I’m going through/learning/puzzling over something, maybe my thoughts will help other writers going through the same thing? So here’s the latest from my little corner of the writing world.

I’m on the umpteenth adjustment/edit of my latest, “Never Forgotten.” My first novella. And though scheduled to be out right now—unfortunately “Never Forgotten is turning into seemingly “Never Finished.”

And I blame it all on Writers in Residence!

Alas, I’ve listened to both what my fellow Writers in Residence, and what our commenters have said here; and most importantly, I’ve tried to incorporate their insights into my thinking. If that sounds like a plug, it is. My advice to myself and others, has always been, listen, listen, listen.You may not use it all, or disagree…but if you don’t listen, you’ll never know if you missed a great tidbit.

And a lot of the great tidbits I’ve picked up are not direct editing(in the traditional usage), but incorporating concepts, ideas, story-telling enhancements.  Refinements that raise your writing to a higher level. And that kind of editing, for me, takes longer than fixing misplaced commas et al. (not that I don’t do an awful lot of that)… Here’s a recent example. I had several lead characters doing the activities in one day that you or I would need at least three days to do. I noticed that in this latest edit because of Gayle Bartos-Pool’s excellent post on laying out your time line.

Here are a couple more time consuming review items that I’ve picked up on this writing trail…

    • I write in third person and as such consider I need to be a disaffected narrator of events, while also getting inside the head of the current scenes POV(usually the protagonist or villian) character and emotions. Keeping that straight …
    • And of course, have I used the best words? i.e. Holding, clasping, clutching, or grasping LC’s diary in his hand.
    • Redundancies, and its counter-balance—not clearly explaining at least once.
    • Conclusions left out, because one is assuming the reader put my two and two together correctly.
    • Pictures of characters not clearly drawn (hard one), and again, its counter-balance, letting the reader develop their own picture from people they’ve known.
    • Words inconsistent with scene POV character’s life experiences

My point to all this whining is: because of Writers in Residence, “Never Forgotten,” whenever it’s finally out, will be better for all the advice and knowledge I’ve gotten here. So, I most heartily, not only encourage other writers to read our blog (another blatant plug), but if not us, find that group, that person, that editor—that can not only give “editing” advice, but also address good writing concerns. Having a story go from your head—to paper, is not enough. I definitely want a reader to understand and enjoy my little stories. And hopefully, want to come back for more. My egocentric opinion I know, but I really think a genuine area for thought.

As a side note: being privileged enough to be a Writer in Residence, has led me into thinking about my writing a lot, and I’ve received and taken in soooooo much great advice. And finally, on the “Never Forgotten” front, my LAST(smile) pass is currently being reviewed by my trusted editor Kitty Kladstrup.

A further nugget here besides just me bellyaching about editing…is to point out that good writing, I think, takes effort and hard work. That being said, I can’t really see Agatha Christie at her Remington Home Portable typewriter agonizing over whether Hercule was sitting, lounging, arranged in his chair…  Hmmm.

Alas, it’s never a straight line to anything….

Happy Writing Trails!

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