May 5 – 11: “How do you separate the author from your characters?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5 This week ITW Members William P. Wood, Amy Shojai, William Dietrich, Ralph Pezzullo, Gary Kriss, John Lescroart, Thomas M. Malafarina, Rex Burns, Michael Niemann, Ted Scofield, Lisa Von Biela, Bob Walton, Brandon Hebert and Tom Avitabile answer the question on everyone’s mind: “How do you separate the author from your characters?”

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ThreeEmperors HC cWilliam Dietrich is the NY Times bestselling author of the Ethan Gage historical thriller series, featuring an American adventurer in the Napoleonic Wars. He’s written a dozen thrillers, five non-fiction titles, and as a journalist won a Pulitzer for coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He has sold into 28 languages. Bill lives in Anacortes, WA.

 

keeperJohn Lescroart is the author of twenty-four novels, fifteen of which have been NY Times Bestsellers.  Libraries Unlimited places him among “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over ten million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages in more than seventy-five countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies.  John’s first novel, SUNBURN, won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award.  DEAD IRISH and THE 13TH JUROR were nominees for the Shamus and Anthony Best Mystery Novel, respectively; additionally THE 13TH JUROR is included in the International Thriller Writers publication “100 Must-Read Thrillers Of All Time.”  HARD EVIDENCE made “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List.” THE SUSPECT was the American Author’s Association 2007 Book of the Year. John’s books have been Main Selections of one or more of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and Book of the Month Club.

Ash and Bone by Lisa von BielaLisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for 25 years, then left the field to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington. Lisa’s first short story appeared in The Edge in 2002. Her short works have appeared in various small press venues, including Gothic.net, Twilight Times, Dark Animus, AfterburnSF, and more. She is the author of the techno/medical thriller novels THE GENESIS CODE and THE JANUS LEGACY. Her noir/suspense novella, ASH AND BONE, is being released in May 2014, and her BigPharma thriller, BLOCKBUSTER, is scheduled for release in January 2015.

Eat What You Kill by Ted ScofieldTed Scofield is a novelist, non-fiction author, securities attorney and entrepreneur.  St. Martin’s released his debut novel, EAT WHAT YOU KILL, on March 25, 2014.  Edward R. Pressman, the famed producer of such films as Wall Street, American Psycho and The Crow franchise, has purchased the movie rights.  Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Ted is a three-time graduate of Vanderbilt University.  He and his wife, contemporary artist Christi Scofield, live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Legitimate Business by Michael NiemannMichael Niemann is a newcomer to crime fiction. His story “Africa Always Needs Guns” made it into the 2012 MWA Anthology. His thriller “Legitimate Business” was published in 2014 by Endeavour Press. In his previous life, he wrote a book on regionalism and numerous articles on global and African issues. He has traveled widely through Europe and southern Africa. A native German, he now lives in southern Oregon with his wife, who keeps him grounded, and his dog, who gets him up early.

The Buddy System by Brandon HebertBrandon Hebert lives in a sleepy Louisiana town with his wife and three high-maintenance dogs.  In his spare time, he enjoys being at home, fishing with his dad and dissecting fake Cajun accents in movies.  The Buddy System is his third novel.  His first, My Own Worst Enemy, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Debut Fiction of 2010 list.  His second, Odd Man Out, was hailed as a “combustible atmosphere” and “three-course banquet of felonies.”

fatal snowRobert Walton grew up in the village of Narberth Pennsylvania. He is a realtor, restaurateur, and writer, and has worked tirelessly to live up to his father’s expectations. Having failed at that, he traveled the world in search of the true meaning of life. Still, this did not stop him from pursuing a career in writing.  His next book follows Harry Thursday in a quest to solve the riddle of the Mask of Minos.

Dead Kill - Book 1 - The Ridge Of Death by Thomas M. MalafarinaThomas M. Malafarina has published five horror novels, five collections of horror short stories and a book of single panel cartoons; all through Sunbury Press. Thomas’s works have appeared in dozens of short story anthologies and e-magazines. Thomas is known for the twists and surprises in his stories as well as his descriptive often-gory passages. He has been given him the reputation of being one who paints with words.

Body Slam by Rex BurnsRex Burns, author of numerous books, articles, reviews, and stories, won an Edgar for The Alvarez Journal. The Avenging Angel became a Charles Bronson film. His “Constable Leonard Smith” stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine. His novels, including the latest, Body Slam, are available from Mysterious Press/ Open Road Media.

suddenimpactWilliam P. Wood is the author of nine legal thrillers, including his latest book Sudden Impact. Two of his novels, Rampage and Court of Honor (“Broken Trust”), have been made into films. He also co-wrote several episodes of the CBS-TV series “Kaz.” Wood’s nonfiction book, The Bone Garden, is the definitive account of serial killer Dorothea Puente. As former Sacramento deputy district attorney, Wood had sent Puente to prison for drugging and robbing the elderly.

Hide and Seek by Amy ShojaiAmy Shojai, CABC is the best-selling award winning author of two dozen pet books and channels her “inner pet” to write dog-viewpoint THRILLERS WITH BITE! Her critically acclaimed debut thriller LOST AND FOUND launched her fiction career in late 2012, followed in 2014 by the sequel HIDE AND SEEK. She specializes in stories that prompt an emotional response in both herself and her readers, and loves to write “furry” medical thrill-rides that leave readers gasping with delight. She’s currently writing SHOW AND TELL, the next book in the series.

The Zodiac Deception by Gary KrissGary Kriss, a former college professor and an award-winning reporter for the New York Times, was born in Brooklyn and raised in a small town in Eastern Tennessee. Kriss and his wife, Pat, live in a northern suburb of New York City. For those who want to know more can follow the progress of the book, and find extras for THE ZODIAC DECEPTION on Gary’s website. They can also find him at @garykrisswrites.

Hunt the Jackal by Don Mann and Ralph PezzulloRalph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning playwright and screenwriter. His books have been published in over twenty languages and include JAWBREAKER (with former CIA operative Gary Berntsen), INSIDE SEAL TEAM SIX (with Don Mann), THE WALK-IN, AT THE FALL OF SOMOZA, PLUNGING INTO HAITI (winner of the 2006 Douglas Dillon Prize for American Diplomacy), EVE MISSING, BLOOD OF MY BLOOD, MOST EVIL, and THE NAVY SEAL SURVIVAL HANDBOOK and the SEAL Team Six thrillers HUNT THE WOLF. HUNT THE SCORPION, HUNT THE FALCON, and the forthcoming HUNT THE JACKAL (also with Don Mann).

godparticleTom Avitabile, a Senior VP/Creative Director at a New York advertising firm, is a writer, director, and producer with numerous film and television credits. He has an extensive background in engineering and computers, including work on projects for the House Committee on Science and Technology, which helped lay the foundation for The Eighth Day, his first novel. In his spare time, Tom is a professional musician and an amateur woodworker. He recently completed his fourth novel “The Devil’s Quota.” His third novel, The God Particle hits the shelves this June 17th.

 

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25 Comments
  1. I do and I don’t. As the author, there are story elements I make up out of whole cloth, and there are story elements that are based on something I’ve personally experienced. When I use some personal experience (whether a setting, an emotion, an experience), I try to make sure I don’t write it as myself. I immerse myself in the character that is experiencing it and write from their POV. Would that character react in the same way? Describe in the same way? Likely not. So therein lies the fun!

  2. Oh this is a tough one, and I can’t wait to read other responses. Like Lisa, I do and I don’t. My thrillers feature an animal behaviorist/trainer protagonist, and include cats and dogs as intrinsic parts of the story. The books even include a “dog viewpoint” character. Animal companions are my passion and my career/business so I draw from my expertise as an animal behavior professional. People who know me often ask if my protagonist is me, but aside from our common expertise, we are very different people. She’s a survivor of some pretty horrific experiences and suffers from PTSD as a result. I’ve had a pretty blase life by comparison. Maybe that’s why I take such delight in creating these worlds, with challenges that I can vicariously experience and overcome but without risking more than a paper cut? Hmnn.

    I do think that for many authors (myself included), our characters are — if not carbon copies of ourselves — perhaps illustrate a part of our hidden, most secret selves whether we admit that or not. That’s part of what breathes life into memorable characters and allows readers to so strongly identify with and care about them. Find the hidden part of yourself that makes you laugh, cry, rage, celebrate, fill-in-the-blank and gift that to your character.

    So my characters and I are exactly the same…only different. *s*

  3. When Gertrude Stein was on her death bed, Alice B Toklas leaned close to her lover and asked, “What is the answer?” To which Stein replied, “What is the question?”
    This sort of linguistic confusion takes place inside my head whenever I write a character. I know what I want but not how to get it. But by taking pen to paper I become a demiurge over the characters within my novel. I build them like clay figurines, and try not to extrapolate my own idiosyncrasies onto them. Then I throw them into a world I made for them, and with luck the story takes off on its own. They interact, perhaps change, always though, within my rules.
    Or do they? Will I end up with the same person I started with by novels end? Personally, I prefer not. Still they should make progress and learn from their mistakes much as we do, or they will be less than believable..
    In my novel Fatal Snow, the protagonist starts off as a likeness to myself, but quickly takes on his own persona as I put him through trials no less painful than Odysseus,’trials I would find insurmountable, and what I ended up with was a surprise.

  4. This is a really great question because you want to immerse yourself in these character’s lives, their everyday habits. You have to become these people in order to present the most realistic situations possible.

    But, where does that stop? You don’t experiment with robbing banks to write about bank robbers, that wouldn’t be research. There has to be a difference between writing and being.

    I would describe most of my characters – principally the bad guys, who are always more fun to write – as hustlers or wannabes. Guys on the periphery of society, shysters looking to game the system. With that in mind, the easy – and practical – answer is my wife.

    While I’ll never adopt their lifestyle, I might occasionally assume a character’s attitude after a particularly productive day of writing (it’s hard to turn them off sometimes!). My wife will make sure the separation occurs pretty quickly.

    Now, I know she wouldn’t mind if I were a little cooler or more assured like the good guys in my books.

    Most of my guys are talkers, so I guess I’m lucky that all I have to do is listen and remain quietly in the background. I guess I listen more than the average person. I’m sure most of the panelists here do as well.

    I’ve known a lot of people across all walks of life over the years. I spent some years as an enlisted man in the military. Please don’t misunderstand, I have a lot of respect for military service, but you meet a large cross-section of American society in the military and, yes, that includes guys on the periphery of society. That experience alone has provided a wealth of material without having to method act my way into a character’s life.

    There is a question that comes up a lot, particularly among readers that know me personally: “How do you know about…?” It can be about anything, from what a fluffer is to sidereal astrology. The answer always is that I don’t, but that character does.

  5. That’s always an interesting challenge, although not necessarily a difficult one. All characters are the creation of the author and therefore are the result of his personal feelings and experiences. They often arise from things he has seen and people he has encountered throughout the years. An author shouldn’t end up with a book filled with characters that are all clones of himself or others; they need to be separate individuals.

    The key when writing fiction is to remember that it is a work of fiction and therefore should remain as such. You should not be afraid to add a bit of your own experiences to help make the characters more believable, but each character should have his or her own voice and own distinct personality.

    The trick I use is to think of the book less in terms of something I am creating and more like it is a movie I am seeing for the very first time. Then as I am developing the characters, I try to pretend I am meeting them for the first time and just beginning to learn about them. I start the writing process with a minimum amount of preconceived notions about the characters and let them tell me what they are about as the story progresses.

  6. While writing the 1st third or so of my debut novel, EAT WHAT YOU KILL, I struggled with separating myself from my protagonist, Evan. At the time, however, I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t until later in the book that I figured out that the early version of Evan wasn’t the accurate version, and I went back to correct the problem.

    How will I avoid the issue in the future? Well, once I realized I was having trouble separating myself from my main character, I wrote a detailed biography of him. Most of the bio isn’t in the book. But it cleared up the character in my mind and helped immensely. Going forward, I’ll write the biography much earlier in the process.

    (As an aside, the other way I’m avoiding the problem is writing a sequel. Evan will be back in book #2, at the request of St. Martin’s, my publisher. That certainly avoids the issue!)

  7. At the most fundamental level, I can’t. After all, I was the one who invented the characters. How can I separate myself from them? And yet, I have to let them lead their own lives, make their own decisions, or at least let the reader experience those decisions and lives as genuine choices of the characters. That’s the fundamental paradox of writing.

    To deal with that conundrum, I work hard to develop characters that aren’t like me or people I know. Which isn’t difficult. I’m a recovering academic, so my life doesn’t exactly serve as a blueprint for exciting thrillers. Yeah, there’s always that crazy uncle, but truth be told, he wasn’t that interesting either. I have traveled in a lot in places that are off the beaten path, and those impressions serve me well for creating a sense of place.

    But when it comes to character development, I try to imagine the kind of person who would serve the story best in any given role. Once I arrive at a general idea, I create a rough mental sketch and begin writing. While writing, I try to employ empathy. I ask myself, “What would a person like that feel in those circumstances?” “How would she react to those words?” “What would he do when confronted with those facts?”

    For example, when developing my protagonist Valentin Vermeulen, I wondered what kind of music he would like. I decided on punk, specifically The Clash. I’d never listened to punk before, so it wasn’t a familiar genre. As I revised the novel, I began weaving bits of lyrics into the story. I grew to like a The Clash, but I still only listen to it when I write. That’s how my characters begin to develop their own lives and before long, their actions and reactions gel into separate personas.

    At least, that’s my theory. To quote Old Lodge Skins from Little Big Man, “… sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.”

  8. The big difference between an author and an actor is that the author can hide so much better. Unless you want to be forthrightly the point of view that the audience hears, you can deploy an army of surrogates and straw men. You may be all or none of them in terms of your own perspectives on the story’s events as they roll along.

    Authors generally who use characters as simple mouthpieces are not very good. Tracts and op eds are swell, but they aren’t fiction.

    I think an author, again unlike an actor, must work from behind the stagecraft of a story. Poor Starbuck laments that the crew of the Peqoud has disappeared so that only one man remains: Ahab wears the crew like a glove. The successful story hides the fact that one will has contrived and is contriving everything. A reader must fall into the illusion of a real world. So the author is never separate from his or her characters but the trick is making it look like that is just the opposite.

    My latest novel, SUDDEN IMPACT, features cops, judges, lawyers, bums, and crooks all caught up in the frantic hunt for the hit and run driver who killed a beloved hero policeman. My hope is that the reader Starbuck would never realize there was one voice being heard. Each character has their voice and course.

    1. Some excellent points here by a fine writer. Perhaps it’s my affinity for the Russian School(s) of acting but it it’s always seemed to me that the theories/techniques of of such greats as Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov have much to offer the author in search of character creation.

      However, there is a caution: while we know the benefit of the actor/author becoming the character, we know less about the dangers of the character becoming the actor/author.

  9. Like my fellow thriller writers, the short answer is that you can’t. All writing taps the author’s personality and soul, and draws on his or her experiences and readings.

    Yet if our characters were merely veiled versions of we sedentary scribes, literature would be boring indeed. Good characters usually lead more perilous and less settled lives than everyday folk, exaggerating the challenges and rewards people face. All of us desire something and are often frustrated in achieving it, but a thriller ramps the stakes as high as possible.

    Moreover, my hero Ethan Gage operates in the Napoleonic era, with simpler technology and earlier world views. So one way I can separate him is by reading accounts of the period and capturing the attitudes of that time. Ethan feels insecure because the world had less security then. He shares my interest in science, but not so much environment because it had not yet developed as an issue.

    My protagonists often have the outsider observer view I had as a journalist. But they are different in that they are encouraged to act in response to what they see. I scribbled. They shoot. (Sometimes.) And they react powerfully because their life and love is on the line.

  10. I’m not sure you ever can totally separate authors and characters. Instead it may be a matter of how many degrees of separation you maintain, or try to.

    I believe that most characters in fiction, at least those which aren’t historical figures, start out with some of an author’s DNA even if it’s just a trace. Eventually these characters grow into their own, capable of taking a story in story into new and unexpected directions. Still, the DNA remains, and always will. That connection, for better or worse, is irreversible. An author can disown it, although “deny” is probably the better word, but literary genes don’t lie.

    Of course, the relationship between authors and characters is one of the classic backstage dramas in literature. Take Nabokov, for example, responding to E.M. Forster, who said that at times his major characters took over and dictate the course of his novels. Nabokov called “characters getting out of hand” as “that trite little whimsy,” which is “as old as the “quills.” In contrast, Nabokov said this was never a problem for him, and proclaimed, “My characters are galley slaves.”
    Now granted, Nabokov didn’t particularly care for Forster, admitting to reading only one novel by him, “A Passage to India,” which he disliked, and saying that he sympathized with the book’s characters should they attempt to gain autonomy and “try to wriggle out of that trip to India or wherever he takes them.” (Forster made no secret of his own dislike of “Lolita” and this undoubtedly added a touch of the personal to Nabokov’s response.) Still, “galley slaves”? I’m afraid I’m not that rigid. Besides, slavery of any sort is anathema to me. While I greatly admire Nabokov, I also feel sorry for him if he really consigned his characters to such rigid literary predestination (even Calvin provided some leeway). Such extreme control can have a chilling effect on these moments of spontaneity and surprise that are two of the greatest riches in the writing treasure chest. Aha is reduced to Ho-hum.

    I really get a kick (thrown in for the clinically cliché deprived) out of the writing books that offer a convenient list so you can fill in every salient trait about characters from their gender to how many times a week they fantasize about barn animals (don’t ask me where that one came from) prior to starting your novel. This may work for some, but I think most will discover that, when the writing’s done, these lists only serve to show how little you really knew your characters during the planning stage. Characters aren’t solitary creations—even the dullest ones. They interact, not just with other characters, but with settings and situations. And if you’ve anticipated every single permutation that can occur, then perhaps you should consider becoming a mathematician or an actuary.
    Character creation can also be a form of self-analysis. Consciously or not, we imbue characters with traits that we possess or would like to possess. At heart I’m a Jungian, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt (cliché #2) or disdain: character creation also allows us to draw out archetypes from the unconscious, reify them and then dialogue with them, directly or vicariously. An anima here, a shadow there. . . .

    This isn’t to say that characters once created should then run wild through a plot. Hardly. Authors still need to have the upper hand, winning most of the battles. But it’s a delicate process involving reasoned and judicious control. At the same time it takes a tremendous amount discipline not to become a helicopter author, never able to acknowledge the autonomy of your characters, never able to let go. Still if you’ve created characters that you don’t want to release totally from your life, that you continue to think about even after you’ve finished writing your book—hey, congrats! That means there’s a damn good chance readers will have the same reaction. Congrats again! You’ve done your job.

    Now, as a reward for those who have read my foolish scribblings all the way to the end, a reward. Seek out Andy Breckman’s “Railroad Bill” or, as some know it, “Railroad Bill and the Kitten,” either his own version or that made popular by Livingston Taylor, which gets to the heart of the question posed much better than I can.

  11. Flaubert, when asked on whom he modeled his protagonist Madam Bovary, replied “Madam Bovary c’est moi.” I think most characters in fiction are the result of authors looking within themselves to explore their own feelings. They place their characters in a specific situation and then analyze how they would feel if they were that character in that situation. Sometimes what the author-as-character feels is close to what the author would really feel; at other times, the author’s imagination fills in what the imagined character would feel. But always at some level the author is answering the question, “What emotion is ‘X’ feeling, and how can I convey that emotion convincingly?”

  12. ITW ROUNDTABLE

    When I first started writing, I thought I had a wonderful natural writer’s voice, and so I wrote everything in the first person. After all, some of the great books of all time were in the first person and it somehow just felt “right,” and certainly easy, to just sit down and write in what I though of as my authorial voice. Somehow I believed for quite a long while that there was a distinction between the “I” telling the story and the “I” who was supposed to be a unique fictional character. In plain truth, though, that difference was ephemeral. I always tell beginning writers to eschew the first person for this reason. Gradually, after I started writing in the 3rd person, I came to realize that the author’s voice in fiction is best when it is invisible, i.e. when the author is a true narrator of the actions of the characters, who in turn are fictional creatures with their own discrete lives. Once recognition and control of that reality became part of my writing process, I began to publish. But there was one other area where my personal author’s voice kept trying to force its way into my characters’ personalities, and that was in dialogue. I kept noticing that sometimes my characters would fall into my own personal speaking rhythms, and eventually (since I resist criticism even if it’s me doing the criticizing) I added another layer to my rewriting, and that was in the realm of dialogue — I had to constantly be aware that the person saying these words was not me, the author, but a separate person altogether, my character. Get to know who your characters are, then write about them, not about yourself looking at them, and let them speak for themselves, not as your mouthpiece.

    1. Dr. Lescroart speaks the truth. Where’s the fun in either reading or writing if all that’s going on is the wheezing from a self-satisfied authorial voice? Unreliable narrators are magnificent tools, see “The Good Soldier” as just one example, but the narrator speaks from his own place in the universe, not the author’s narcissism.

      I haven’t had John’s courage or talent to write in the first person. My experiments, like the great medico, Dr. F. turned out badly, i.e., false. A little read author today, W. L. Heath’s first and best novel was “Violent Saturday”( also filmed) and he took the saga of what turns out to be a botched bank robbery in a small Southern city into the full tapestry of a community. He didn’t write in the first person but he set up a whole parade of people in the city who are fated to come together in the bank at the moment of the robbery. Maybe one or,ore of these people were Heath, but you’d never know it: each is alive and unique and real as individuals. Quite an achievement in a short novel.

      Wilkie Collins was right. People like reading abbot other people. They don’t embrace reading the clunky noises from an author who can’t stay in the wings.

    2. You’re so right about those discrete voices. I wrote in my response to the question about the importance of character autonomy. But very often, as you point out, the rhythm and tone in dialogue, consciously or not, mimics the author’s. A very nuanced thing, hey, this dialogue differentiation, but oh so important. And, like certain words we consistently spell wrong because they look right, the voices of our characters sound different to us even when they’re not. Very hard to remove our perceptual blinders.

      1. “Very hard to remove our perceptual blinders” Amen. And Thank God for editors or any reader who you trust that doesn’t know the story and where you are going.

        Also I find going away from the work and coming back to a different medium helps me. I write on a lap top. But the screen has it’s own perceptual bias. After a few weeks, I print out on paper, and a whole new ‘take’ emerges. Maybe it’s because my first form of reading was on paper, but I see (and hear) things in toner, I never saw in plasma.

  13. Again, great subject. Some of my characters are instinctively born. Others are intellectual creations. At some level my story is all about something happening to someone. In that instance, the someone is instinctive: I just know who he/she are, what they do, like, want, hate, need. The story is shaped around him/her and ‘versa-vis-a’. Even if at the beginning, all I have is my inciting incident, their patterns, personalliy and demons arise from that thematic root of the story.

    Then I need to bring in others, odds are they are the intellectually born characters. Created and molded to fit the part, with a few random elements thrown in so they don’t appear to be perfect fits. In the end, all characters are parts of us, but their birth is a function of the story and arc of the plot.

    Somewhere in the second draft I go on pattern recognition patrol, does she sound like him, does he sound like me, do they think like me? I might change a rythm of speech, bring in a cultural difference, go back and make him/her an old soul, a sage, a sicophant, a doubter, a beliver as subtext. It is that subtext that creates an elastic arc that a character can snap too and will serve well to seperate the voicing and actions of these characters.

  14. One of the things that I find so interesting about this whole author-as-narrator question is that it really comes down to a matter of technical control. We all know that there’s no great writing, there’s only great re-writing, and here is where the author has most control over his/her closeness to the characters. I think that both Tom and Bill have it exactly right (and I hate saying that, especially about Bill, aka William P. Wood) when they’re talking about such things as “intellectually born characters.” Great characters often have similarities to their creators, but it is up to us as authors to differentiate themselves from not only ourselves, all all other characters in the story. It’s endlessly fascinating to me that you can talk about plot and character and all the other ins and outs of storytelling, but in the end it always comes down to the actual words, the rewrites, the corrections, so that your characters remain interesting and, more importantly, discrete.

    1. Here, also the old rule about conflict can be instructive. As we learned early on – a scene where both or all the characters agree and no one changes their opinion/action is a scene to be deleted. In the conflict between characters or their goals, the character of the Character can be revealed, hence some thread of discreteness is maintained. Again, I refer to the subtext of dynamic between the wants, needs, hopes and desperation we imbue in the character.

    2. Again John is right on mark with his observations on rewriting. The only caution I would offer is the same that I raised with respect to character creation/development/emancipation and that not to over-exercise control. Some authors, in the red-pencil light of day, may try to “refine” their characters, but in the process of polishing they remove the patina of individuality without even realizing it. Being uncomfortable with a character is not necessarily a writing flaw. It can, instead, be a mark of writing success. The ability to distinguish between the two can determine whether you hold or lose your readers.

  15. It’s worth noting that at least one author, and a supremely successful one, decided he couldn’t separate himself from his character and apparently didn’t even want to bother with the effort to do it. Mickey Spillane not only wrote Mike Hammer into existence but went on to play his own creation on film.

    I can’t think of another writer who was so blasé about the conflation of him and his creation. Chandler never impersonated Marllowe and even if Hammet was an op, that was an early incarnation from which he drew incident and characters. Should readers be encouraged or led to believe a character is no more than the very finite author? No. The best writing convinces a reader characters are on their own, puttering and stampeding around according to the imperatives of their lives and personalities.

    On a very small personal note, I confess to sitting in the courtroom audience, at the director’s urging, in the movie version of my book, “Broken Trust” . I didn’t portray any character but I sat alongside the very fine actor Fritz Weaver who was playing a character I wrote. It was two in the morning and very hot on the set and Tom Selleck, playing my conflicted judge, soldiered on with a toothache. On the whole, it’s more fun to write a scene than be in one.

    1. I agree William. As I wrote my novel I saw it as a movie,in a sense when I could.(I still see it as a Cohen Brothers film). But perhaps the problem transitioning book to film would be watching some hack actor re-interpret your beloved human that you worked so hard to create. Which begs the question; are our characters meant to be brought to life?
      I don’t mean to deride Tom Selleck. Any actor has the potential to make an author moue if he gets his hands on it.
      Don’t you think that is why the God of the Old Testament was so angry? Because he saw what we had done to his creation?

  16. Tom’s nice comment about conflict reminds me of Wittgenstein’s advice to seek truth/knowledge not in the similarities between things but in the differences. It’s something that authors could well keep in mind, not only with regard to the relationships between their characters but between themselves and their characters.

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