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I thought I’d use my new novel Hemovore to talk about some writing mechanics.


Character -- quirky vs. annoying


It’s a fine line, I think, between a memorable character with a distinctive voice, and a character who annoys a reader so badly that they have to go have an Internet rant at the author’s expense. The fact that many popular characters delight some readers while making other readers cringe goes to show that intriguing and annoying are in pretty close proximity of each other on the target range.


I did a lot of tweaking with Mark Hansen to make sure he had a strong personality without turning people off. Because the story is in his first-person viewpoint, it was critical the reader cared about him, and looked on his flaws as tolerable and understandable rather than turn-offs.



He’s smart and resourceful and he knows it. One woman in my early writing group was really turned off by his, “I’ve got to do everything around here?” attitude. I opted not to tone it down, but to try to show the reason he was such a perfectionist, and to add some humor to it so that it was funny and over-the-top if he cleaned the same thing three times, and then psyched himself out into doing it yet again.


Designer clothes were always a big part of his persona, because pretty much any guy will look awesome in the right suit. I saw Mark, like myself, as someone who’d really love to be in shape, but despite the good intentions, can’t quite manage. He makes up for his insecurity about his looks by being a clothes snob. Originally, I’d stopped there. But pretty soon I realized it was a good opportunity to add another humanizing element to him, and I tweaked the story so that not only did he love fine clothes, but he was spending beyond his means to have them. (Probably dangerously close to making him a wallbanger, but the whole story went to another level when I decided he and Jonathan weren’t well-to-do. Another post on wealth in fiction later this week.)


Giving Mark the personality traits of being confident and critical shaped his arc for the whole story. He begins as someone in charge of his life, and then the control is taken away from him and he needs to learn how to rely on someone else--Jonathan. (Who turns out to be frighteningly competent in his own way, which I think is a 180 that readers will enjoy.) Ultimate control is then taken from him when he’s injured and needs to be hospitalized.


In the final third of the book, Mark needs to rally even though his entire world is upside down and make sure Jonathan isn’t found guilty of the crimes he’s been framed for. The experiences he’s had to that point have made him even stronger, even more resourceful than he ever knew he was--and a new and deep-down trust of himself allows him to ensure the safety of him and the people he cares about once and for all. If you compare Mark from this portion of the novel to earlier, you’ll see he’s less talk and more action. It’s as if hardship has grown him into the person he always thought he was.



Find the novel here


I’ll be back in a few days with another look at the mechanics of writing Hemovore.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
Character is everything -- yes, I couldn't agree more! I recently read that readers will remember your characters WAY longer than they will your plots, and I totally have to agree.

Which of course makes characterization scary and intimidating :/

As long as they HAVE personalities and not just flimsy veneers, I'm good with it. I hate it when someone's character is just "abrasive" (but for no good reason) or "spunky" (the kiss of death for me). I feel like we as authors need to get deep in side the character's heads and have a big reason for the way they act...and then never explicitly state that reason, 'cos that dumbs everything down.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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