by Author Lauren Carr
Am I Crazy? No, You’re a Writer
Read any author interview about characterization. At some point, they are bound to admit that the characters direct them in their writing.
In trying not to sound schizophrenic, the author will try to explain, “I may want them to do this, but they’ll tell me they want to do that. … They’re real to me. … My characters come alive.”
Fictional characters dictating a plot does sound crazy to someone who’s not a writer.
Do you mean you have fictional people telling you what to write?
It may be easier to understand if I explain the actual process.
Let’s say you’re writing a book where you have a character that’s a spunky detective like homicide detective Jane Rizzoli in Rizzoli and Isle. She’s tough. She prefers beer to wine. She carries a big gun and knows how to shoot it.
In your plot, the killer abducts Jane, ties her up with duct tape, and leaves her trapped on a pair of railroad tracks with the train coming.
Now, you, as the writer, are planning for your book to end with your main protagonist, Dudley DoRight saving Jane from the railroad tracks and the crazed killer. Dudley has to save Jane.
Unfortunately, Jane is going to have issues with that storyline.
She’s a strong character. She doesn’t want to sit there on the railroad tracks boo-hoo’ing until Dudley gets there to rescue her. That won’t fit with her character. Not only does playing the helpless damsel not fit with her personality; it also doesn’t fit with her profession.
A woman doesn’t get promoted to homicide detective by crying “Save me! Save me!” when she gets into trouble.
What are you, dear writer, going to do?
Your protagonist is Dudley DoRight. He’s the star of your book. If you leave Jane on the railroad tracks doing nothing to save herself, then the reader is going to say, “What a wimp! How did she ever become a cop?”
This is where being a writer is fun.
While characters may take a different path in the storyline, the writer can throw up road blocks sending them in another direction until they end up where he wants them to be.
For example, you can have Jane remain unconscious on the railroad tracks until Dudley arrives, though it would more suspenseful with her screaming for her life while the train is coming.
You can have her and the killer fighting on the tracks with the train speeding towards them until Dudley arrives in the nick of time to save Jane and the killer is smashed like a fly on a car windshield; or, you can let Jane get hit by the train. (I hate killing main likeable characters in the end.)
Or, you replace Jane’s character with one who will sit there crying “Save me! Save me!”—like Penelope Peril.
This will mean a complete rewrite. However, if you want your storyline to go one way and the character won’t fit with it, it may be the way you’ll have to go. Forcing a character to behave in manners contrary to her personality doesn’t work. Readers will scratch their heads and ask, “Why’d she do that?”
I recently replaced a character in my latest mystery Shades of Murder, the third Mac Faraday book. Yep, I fired a congresswoman. She wasn’t cooperating and wouldn’t do what I wanted her to do. So, I replaced her with an executive’s wife.
How many people can say they’ve fired a politician?
It’s great being a writer.
About Author Lauren Carr:
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. A Reunion to Die For was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of these books are in re-release.
Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The next book in this series, Shades of Murder, will be released May 2012. This will be Lauren’s fifth mystery.
Lauren’s sixth book, Dead on Ice, will be released in Fall 2012. Dead on Ice will introduce a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, in which Joshua Thornton will join forces with homicide detective Cameron Gates.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Visit Lauren’s websites and blog::
Blog: Literary Wealth: http://literarywealth.wordpress.com/
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries