Currently working with a writer on the development of a new series. Book One has to really grip the audience if the series stands a chance. This is a great first draft with solid premise, good action, clever mystery, really likeable secondary characters and a perfectly creepy villain. The problem is the MC. Because the author is writing in 1st PPOV the narrator – that 1st person person – needs to be so compelling that the reader will stick with their voice for 370 pages and come back for more. That’s a tall order. My client just doesn’t know who this guy is…yet. My job is to help him find his perfect MC.
The author is busy working on a character sketch. That’s the best exercise I know to flesh out a character. I’m in awe of those writers whose characters spring full born from the creative ocean in their head. Most of us have to work out the details that make the character irresistible. Client and I are scheduled to talk on Wednesday and in the meantime I’m considering examples: which characters do I find irresistible, and why.
Janet Evanovich’s Ranger. Why do I love Ranger? Well, who doesn’t? Why is that? Handsome? Check. Talented? Check. Decisive man of action? Check. Smart, kind. Check. Attitude? Check. Sexy? Check, check, check. It’s all that and his eloquent monosyllabic dialog. “Babe.” That says it all. Then I realize that Ranger has been crafted to perfectly fit his purpose in the story. He serves as foil, friend and unattainable hero and Evanovich has drawn him with such magnetic traits that we’ll never tire of him.
Then there are the classics: Peroit, Miss Marple. Both have distinctive talents, and an attitude that makes their approach to the problem unique. Each can be kind and caring and each is a bit obsessive. They are very familiar, like comfortable old friends and I like to visit them when I need something predictable and comfortable. The flip side of that are the characters whose make up fits the same bill but we can see them grow and change with time and circumstance. There’s a malleable aspect to Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone that keeps her compelling more than comfortable. At closer look all four of those characters share important qualities.
Flavia de Luce and Lisbeth Salander. Were two more diametrically opposed heroines ever written? Yet both characters share some basic traits. Both have a sassy intellect, are obsessively curious, have a stronger than normal sense of right, are frighteningly brave and more resourceful than a Swiss Army knife. Each of them nurses a psychic wound and each is tough but tender; both Flavia and Lisbeth truly care about the world outside themselves. And they are both sterling hell raisers.
Just considering what makes a character so magnetic to me is enlightening. To see that archetypical qualities, those characteristics that speak to all of us, can come in a million different packages is key. Miss Marple is wrapped in comfortable flannel and her qualities have been shaped to fit her world perfectly. Lisbeth is her sister at heart only she is covered in leather and streaks her motorbike through a very different world. Peroit in his silk and Flavia in her calico are blood relatives and fit their entirely different worlds like a glove.
Now when I conference with my client I have some structure to my thoughts. I can help him see that there are crucial aspects to a main character that those traits should fit his world. If these characteristics are carefully thought out and artfully drawn his MC will win reader’s hearts and keep them coming back for installment after installment. Whew! Thanks for listening.
Writers have always given us more than just great entertainment. Throughout the ages storytellers have had a major impact on society.
A long-term client has an eight-year-old granddaughter who wants to be a writer “just like Grandma”. My client asked me to give this young aspirant some advice about writing.
I’d love to hear your humorous book suggestions. I’d especially like to read a romance that will make me laugh and sigh with satisfaction.
We’re so lucky. The English language is like play dough.
Oh yes, we have strict rules of grammar, tense, POV, all the way to the minutia of intransitive verbs.
This character, Tall T Reynolds, is growing in my mind. I can see him tanned and raw and a bit dusty. I know his world is the 1940’s rural west and I know he’s going to briefly meet Lottie, a beautiful girl in a gleaming open topped coupe. Their brief exchange will never leave his mind. Soon after, Tall T will go off to war in Europe. He and Lottie will meet again in a most unexpected way.
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