Posts tagged ‘character development’

BLAZE BY RICHARD BACHMAN (STEPHEN KING)

Written in 1972-1973, this novel brought me a new appreciation of the ‘master’ as I have never felt before. In this story, Helen Keller could have seen the gifted writer which would emerge on the horror scene.

Surprisingly, this work, in the strictest sense, in not a horror novel. There is a dead accomplice giving Blaze, the main character, a brain-damaged man, advice, but he only exists in Blaze’s mind and memory. What I found remarkable about this work is how King creates a multi-faceted who kidnaps and kills, yet you’re able to get into his mind and past and find sympathy for his actions.

I’m not giving away any more detail. Buy the book and fill the ‘master’s’ coffers. You won’t be disappointed.

May 21, 2015 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

STRUGGLING TO GET IT WRITE: HOW MUCH OF ‘YOU’ IS IN YOUR CHARACTERS?

This is a question I often ask myself of the author while I read his novel. How many of the characteristics of a main or minor character are yours?

I’ve recently finished reading Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a strange, enjoyable read. In the book, one of the characters is the creator of the characters in the story which makes for a strange interaction. The ‘author’ character refers to elements of his past. I’ve also recently completed reading And So It Goes by Charles J. Shields, and all the facts and incidents mentioned by the ‘author’ character are also true for Vonnegut.

As in the above, what I like to do when I find an author whose work I enjoy is seek out facts about the mind behind the words by reading their biography. Here’s a sampling of whose fiction I’ve enjoyed and whose lives I wanted to discover.

I expect that you know by now that I enjoy writing horror. One of my favorite authors of the genre is H. P. Lovecraft. I have a volume of his complete works and occasionally visit the volume to enjoy a short story or one of his longer works. His writing is quite dated but I find the worlds he creates interesting.   Lovecraft gave birth to a subgenre of horror which lives on. Sometime ago I read a biography of his short life. I recall he died around the age of 49. He initially fancied himself a poet but eventually fell into horror much to our benefit.

Frederick Exley is a writer I found to be both funny and sad. For a great read, find a copy of his novel, A Fan’s Notes, a work following the career of Frank Gifford and is a weakly veiled account of Exley. The biography of Exley I read confirmed this. As an example of Exley’s outlook, in one episode of the book the main character thinks he is dying. He decides to practically take up residence in a bar and then relates how he gained twenty pounds while wasting away from cancer. You’ve got to feel sorry for the guy and yet love him. As I said, funny but sad.

Jack Kerouac is another author I enjoy and read his biography. His classic novel, On the Road, closely reflects his life with the names changed to protect the guilty.

So many authors endure lives that are far from pleasant, something I’ll touch on in a latter post concerning the merits of good vs bad in an author and his characters. But with their many and sometimes tragic faults, we readers reap the rewards of their work.

So back to my original question to you writers: How much of your characters reflect details of your life? As far as my work is concerned, there is one character in my novel, New Moon Rising, who is me, and I’d like to challenge my readers to name the character and reap a reward.

To be continued…

September 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

STRUGGLING TO GET IT WRITE: PEOPLE WATCHING

Reading as a writer, I am constantly in awe of details ‘good writers’ see in their characters. The emotions, mannerisms and body language, to say nothing of physical description, bring a writer’s characters off the paper and strut before you, and let you hear them speak when the tone of their voice is described. One of my favorite details, which I have seen a few times is: ‘His mouth smiled, but that smile did not reach his eyes.’ I can truly say that, in real life, I do not know if I am capable of detecting that emotion.

I’ve always thought of myself as more of an observer than a participant in this complex existence, but I’m beginning to find that my observations are lacking in detail, not adequately fulfilling my writer’s needs. I working on remedying that flaw, but can it really be corrected? Can your level of observation be actively increased or is it just something you’re born with?

To bring a character to life, the writer must have a clear picture of that character in his head, both physically and emotionally. The better the writer is able to accomplish this feat, the better the story. I’m in the process of struggling to slow the act of writing down, to expand on the details that bring the character to life. I tend to rush my writing and concentrate more on plot and action. I now seek a more balanced approach between character and action.

While recently watching a documentary by Ken Burns about the life of Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain). I’m sure PBS will provide ample opportunities for you to view it if you missed it. I highly recommend you watch it. One comment that struck me was how Clemens spent years observing the world around him and the people populating it long before he knew he would become a writer of fiction. For example, he would notice whether a man had his hands in his pocket or not, and what the contents of those pockets probably were.

August 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment


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