Tag Archives: characters
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Sedona watched as Bev opened her backpack and removed the blanket which she spread out on the rooftop. She tossed her backpack at the top of blanket. “Are you serious?” she asked with some dismay. “How can you possibly sleep with,” she glanced behind her only long enough to confirm the body was still where it laid, “a dead body only a few feet away?”
“Easy,” she grunted as she lay upon the blanket. She laid her head atop the backpack removing the baseball cap on her head in the process. Just before placing the cap over her face to block out the sun, she looked playfully at Sedona. “The dead body won’t try to eat me.”
June 18th seems to be something of a magical date for me. It’s already cause for celebration: one year ago on that date I had a heart attack. That makes the date a poignant reminder that life is short.
This past June 18th (at 2 a.m., no less) I completed the first draft of Nero’s Fiddle, a novel I began writing a couple months after getting out of the hospital. The tome currently weighs in at a hefty 150,000 words.
My characters (two women and two children) have made it from Cleveland, Georgia to Washington, DC, by foot 99.9% of the way, within the allotted time frame: 25 days.
It wasn’t easy.
They’ve blown up a gas tank, were attacked by feral dogs, were almost raped and were held captive for a few days by some unscrupulous characters. All for a cause.
They had to have a cause. Without a cause, what would have been the point?
Writing the first draft was the easy part. The real work lies ahead: proofreading, editing and rewriting. Believe it or not, there is more to add than there is to cut.
In July my best friend and I (also named Penny) are driving the route my characters took. This will enable me to supply geographical descriptions and add names of towns they will pass through. These descriptions guarantee additional word count.
There will be the rewriting of a number of sections as well as some additional drama to add. I suspect this will be a larger tome than I initially thought it would be.
I’m not attempting to set some word count world record which simply isn’t possible. There are just so many things that happen to these characters that this cannot be a simple three-hundred page standard-sized paperback.
Why do these things happen? That’s the reveal I’m not revealing.
Got work to do. Update later.
When I was in third grade, I wrote a story and let one of my classmates read it. His name was Bruce Taylor, a chubby little kid much like myself but he was one of the nicer kids in my class.
After he read the story he handed it back to me. He’d rewritten it. At the time it kinda ticked me off. Not because he had rewritten it but because he did it in a rather mocking way.
Looking back, I see now he was trying to get a point across with humor.
I had created witty dialogue between two characters: one a mafia-type boss, the other his underling. I cannot for the life of me recall the dialogue or the subject of conversation.
What my friend, Bruce Taylor, did was poke fun at the fact that I had not included descriptions of clothing on my characters.
I hadn’t given it that much thought. After all, everyone knows characters wear clothes, right?
Years later, I have come to realize that I do, at times, fall short when clothing my characters. It doesn’t mean they’re naked. It just means since I see them fully clothed in my head, I make the assumption the reader does as well.
It is erroneous thinking on my part. Just because I visualize my character wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean the reader won’t see her or him in a sundress or a three-piece suit.
It’s important to look at your characters closely. Analyze not only their physical description but the clothing she or he wears on their backs, as well.
Clothing description doesn’t have to be that detailed, unless your character is a meticulous dresser or dresses gregariously like Gregorio in Sword of Tilk Book Two: Strange Land. Gregorio purposefully wore very colorful tunics and shirts to attract attention, even of the negative sort.
All it takes is a quick mention of “She was comfortable in ragged jeans and an old t-shirt” for the reader to see what your character is wearing.
Sometimes the clothing she or he wears can also help define the character or give a little insight into her or his personality. For instance, “He wore khakis and a Polo shirt even though it was Saturday,” tells the reader this guy doesn’t lounge around in his PJs even on the weekend. It gives the impression he may be too cultured for cut-off blue jeans and holey t-shirts.
By the same token, “She appeared in court wearing faded jeans with holes in the knees and a halter top with no bra” shows a degree of disrespect for authority, even though this manner of dress in a court of law may seem the norm these days.
So, when you go in for the editing session, pay close attention to what your characters are wearing. Don’t let them walk around naked. Get some clothes on ’em!
Yes, I have wept over the death of a fictional character. I say that, trusting that I am not the only one!
The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are issued the challenge to get to Washington, DC within 25-30 days to stop a disastrous incident. They must walk almost the entire 600 miles.
Thus far, the novel stands at 60,000 words. The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are close to halfway to their destination. One of the characters has disappeared. His disappearance is on purpose: to allow the story to focus on Captain Beverly Mossberg (former military), her two kids and the tagalong stranger, Sedona and the relationship between the four, particularly the relationship between Bev and her kids.
I recently encountered a dilemma in the writing. I wanted a particular reaction from the lead character, Bev. However, the reaction I wanted would leave her children thinking her a coward.
The scenario: Bev encounters no fewer than a dozen men molesting a young woman. All men are carrying guns. Bev has her own gun and is an expert markswoman but the odds are not in her favor. As with most women (including myself), her initial gut reaction is to charge into the fray, gun blazing. Doing that however would risk the lives of her children as well as risk making them orphans. There’s no help in sight: Sedona is akin to Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West and there’s no way to call for help.
Initially, I wanted Bev to reluctantly walk away, feeling it was the only way to protect her children. The more I considered that option the more I realized how unsatisfying it was. It would create a great deal of conflict between Bev and her kids, especially her twelve year old daughter, which would make for great drama, but it didn’t present Bev as the kick-ass solider I knew her to be.
I asked a few women their opinion of the situation and what they would do. Most of them found it as problematic as I did. Their initial gut reaction was to start a gunfight but, with kids in tow, they’d be afraid to. All of them were opposed to the idea of walking away but none of them would put their children’s lives at risk by attacking the men first. All of them felt, as I did, there had to be a viable solution.
I did what I always do when faced with such an enigmatic dilemma: I sat on it for a few days and asked my muse to work on it for me.
My muse came through. Yes, Bev initially is going to walk away. But one of the men stumbles upon her and the others when he walks into the woods to relieve himself. When the man threatens her daughter, Cap’n Mossy is forced to react. Her actions not only enable the girl to get away, she also takes care of the threatening men. In addition, the solution presented to me by my muse allowed me to satisfy my desire to have Bev blow something up. (Make no mistake, Bev wanted to blow something up, too).
And that’s all I’m going to reveal about that.
It pays to ask the muse for help: to stand down from the writing even if for only a short period of time. It’s that subconscious thing at work again: that part of the brain that works non-stop on whatever dilemmas we’re facing and sometimes offers us solutions to difficult situations.
I just need to train it to work that way in real life.
Main Characters: You do everything you can to raise them right, and as soon as they hit the page they do any damn thing they please.