Tag: characterization

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March 15, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a reviewer who called “Josie Bates (heroine of my witness series) one of the best characters ever”. For an author, that is the highest praise.

Think about the millions of words written about thousands of fictional people, and then ask yourself how many stuck in your mind, reside in your heart, or continue to haunt you years after reading the book? If you’re like me, there are a handful of such characters in your memory. My list includes:

Gone With the Wind: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Miss Mellie.

Princess Bride: Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Westley

The Hunger Games: Katniss

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Lisabeth Salander

Johnny Oops: Johnny Oops (a fine Indie book)

Analyzing these characters helped me become a better writer, and here’s what I have learned. Memorable characters are:

Spiritually Unique: Villain or hero, each one has his or her own demons and desires, strengths and weaknesses. Strength on its own is uninteresting without weakness.

Physically identifiable: A great character manifests his or her uniqueness in dress, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Imagine an actor tackling your character on screen. Can you hear them? See them? Are they so real you would know them walking down the street?

Logical: A character with a unique speech pattern may amuse your reader for a while but if the words coming out of that character’s mouth aren’t appropriate to story, plot and core of that character, the affectations is illogical.

Unapologetic: Readers may not always embrace your vision, but if you give a character an unusual life, let them live it. Do not be swayed by fear of political incorrectness or tempted to take the safe route. Writing is about nurturing your bold voice.

Purposeful: A character’s journey is guided by principles born of experiences. In Josie Bates’ case, she is formed by her mother’s abandonment (personal) and her belief that the law and justice are two separate things (professional). The author’s objective is to create a passionate character who is willing to go to great lengths to protect what they believe in or secure what they desire.

For Example…

• Katniss’s (Hunger Games) and Scarlett’s (Gone With the Wind) fight for basic survival.

• Westley’s (Princess Bride) relentless search for his lost and true love.

• Salandar’s (Dragon Tattoo) desperate desire for self-determination.

• Rhett Butler’s (Gone With the Wind) code of honesty.

• Melanie’s (Gone with the Wind) passionate belief in Scarlett’s inherent goodness.

• Johnny Oops’ (Johnny Oops) wry but heartfelt search to define his teenage self.

Don’t be afraid to refine your characters. We are not born the people we will become; neither are those who populate your books. Nurture them, define them, polish them and they will live in the reader’s memory for a very long time.

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Heck Yeah! Lawyers are so Appealing

September 15, 2011 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , , , ,

By Rebecca Forster

If you are a lawyer, a judge, a clerk, a bailiff, I love you. Really, I do. And so do millions of fiction readers. They can’t get enough of you, in and out of the courtroom. In my book* you are exciting, intelligent, mysterious, courageous, resourceful, thoughtful, witty, well-spoken and you are heroic. Of course, there are times when you are vicious, deceitful, brilliantly cold and cruel and that is pretty nifty, too.

I am married to a judge (he’s pretty sedate) but he was once a lawyer and that is how my fascination with you all began. Yet, years of trial watching, staff chatting and transcript reading has created a bizarre obsessive/compulsive need to figure you all out. Since I haven’t been able to, I can at least explain why you are irresistibly inspiring to this novelist and fascinating to those who love to read about you.

1) You speak legalese. It is like French: mysterious, irresistible, intimidating. Throw in a little Latin – a quid pro quo or prima facia – and you can melt a woman’s resolve and strike fear into the hearts of mortal men.
2) You are confident. Is there a super- secret-double-indemnity-swear-on-your-mother’s-grave-and-never-tell class that teaches you how to argue any and every point of view with grace and conviction? **
3) Bad guys listen to you. They even pay you to tell them what to do. That makes you a little edgy by association and who doesn’t like a bad boy -or girl?
4) You’re altruistic, defending bad people because you believe everyone deserves a defense.
5) You’re altruistic, prosecuting bad guys because you believe in justice.***
6) You are eye-candy. From the couture clad divorce-attorney-to-the stars, to the public defender sporting a plaid jacket and pony tail and the plaintiff’s lawyer in that Italian suit you turn courthouse hallways into runway.
7) You are funny. Sometimes you mean to be funny. Either way, a funny attorney is charming.
8) You are excellent secret keepers, which is not to be confused with being trustworthy. Though I believe you are trustworthy, that is a point of debate.
9) You are curious and tenacious.
10) You are heroes and not just in the literary sense. In real life you (and your expertise) are often the only things standing between a person losing something important to them: their children, their fortune, their reputation, their freedom and, yes, their life.****

*Actually, in all my books since I write legal thrillers.
**This also means that your significant other, children or parent can never win an argument. Experience tells me, the only recourse a normal person has when arguing with a lawyer is to cry and proclaim: “You are right, you are always right.”  Works for me.
***A characteristic that make you the perfect inspiration for novels and films.
****You have my permission to show this list to anyone who questions your lovability, capability or worth. You may also use the aforementioned in advertising, closing arguments, opening statements and speed dating.

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