Howdy! It's that time again... time for the monthly post for the awesome Insecure Writer's Support Group. I'm telling ya, the amount of support this group offers beats the heck out of the most expensive underwire bra in the world... lots more comfortable, too.
Hats off to ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, the founder of this extraordinary group, and to all of the fine folks who work so hard to make and keep it a success. If you'd like to join or would like to follow links to some other IWSG posts, please go HERE
HEY! After you read my post! (sheesh)
Man, judging by the thought for the day, that Thomas Wolfe sure knew what he was talking about, didn't he? I kid you not, while doing my current editing job, I sometimes spent days... I'm not exaggerating... DAYS...perfecting a scene until I was finally satisfied with its tone, rhythm, wording, and whatnot. Then I ended up deleting the whole darned thing. (sigh) C'est la vie.
Okay, before answering this month's question, I'm going to share a post that first appeared in March, 2011 as Keeping it Real. I was a newbie blogger then, and it only got one lonely comment, so I figured it was safe to dust it off and pull it off the shelf again.
Thought for the day: Howcum noses run and feet smell?
Remember those ads? Hysterical, right? But at least nobody could say the advertisers didn't tell the truth. They didn't try to pretend those pearls were anything more than they were. Pretty fakes.
Now there's another new commercial that totally cracks me up. Now you TOO can own a genuine reproduction of the ring Prince William gave his fiancee! Wow! It features a beautiful genuine fake sapphire in the middle, surrounded by beautiful genuine fake diamonds! And get this! It even comes with its very own letter of authenticity! (Ohmigod, how can we possibly pass up a deal like that?)
But, again, at least they're telling the truth about it. Nothing shady here.
As writers, it's up to us to create characters that are so realistic, so genuine, that readers accept them as the true gems we intend them to be. If our characters are predictable and two-dimensional, our product becomes nothing more than those genuine faux pearls they used to hawk on TV.
Based on the kazillions of books I've read, here's my thoughts on what it takes to make a character come alive for me. The two major points are:
- A believable bad guy is never entirely bad. Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector was one of the creepiest bad guys of all time, but he was also extremely intelligent and knew how to be quite charming. What magnifies the ick factor about a bad guy for me is when I can identify with him in some way, by either seeing something of myself, or someone I know, in him. Maybe he's a serial killer, but by God, he has to be home on Wednesday night to watch American Idol. He's a rapist, but he takes tender loving care of every stray cat in his neighborhood. He's a love 'em and leave 'em dude, but he visits his mother in the nursing home every Sunday afternoon.
- By the same token, the good guy has to have some flaws to be believable. It's hard to sympathize with someone who comes across as perfect. Assuming we want the reader to care about the good guy, he needs to have idiosyncracies, or flaws, or simply has to screw up sometimes. It wouldn't hurt for that drop-dead gorgeous heroine with the perfect skin to get a zit every now and then. Or for the hunky guy with the abs of steel to break wind once in a while. Or to have a crooked nose, or heck! Let him pick his nose! One of my favorite heroines is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. She certainly isn't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but she sure is believable. And likeable.
|[image courtesy of morguefile]|
Question of the month: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable with??
In a word... NO.
Wait! You didn't seriously think I was gonna stop there, did ya...?
Seriously, I'm terrible at surprising myself. (I stink at keeping secrets... I can't tickle myself, either...) However, it's equally surprising to stumble across something I wrote years ago and think, "Damn! That's pretty good!" as it is to read something I once considered terrific, only to discover it's become horrifyingly cringe-worthy. (Surely, someone must have changed it!)
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.