If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Characters Who Are Not Characters


Character Who Are Not Characters

Sometimes the most essential character in a story is not a character at all. The effectiveness of Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” would be lost if the protagonist awoke to find himself under a child’s swing instead of in a torture chamber. Like “To Build A Fire” by Jack London, the unique environment is the major entity in the story and the sole human character has to react brilliantly or die.

I cannot imagine Sharyn McCrums’s Nora Bonesteel outside her beloved Appalachians or Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak away from her rugged but welcoming Alaska home. They are part of the natural landscape.

Is there is a better opening passage than the start of Raymond Chandler’s, Red Wind?

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends with a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen. You can ever get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

Here’s a challenge: Open a novel with an equally enthralling weather report.

For other authors Like Adrian McKinty or Nevada Barr the changing human and natural settings combine to test their characters to the core.

In Nancy Pickard’s The Virgin of Small Plains the tornado dominated the action, like an experienced actor or actress cast in a walk-on role who has the presence to draw the audience or the camera away from the lesser performers cast as stars.

Weather, mountains, wars or natural settings, what non-human elements became characters in your favorite stories?

14 comments:

Ramona said...

Warren, I have one that doesn't quite fit into your categories, but it does. I'm doing a short story about a guy who is very slick and his possessions reflect that. The opening is in his condo, where he is surrounded by cool stuff that's a reflection of his self-image: very mod-con and showy, but also superficial and shallow. At the moment, I'm researching guitars. He has one on a rack, but of course he can't play it.

Pauline Alldred said...

The Perfect Storm works for me. There's the storm and the sea, both powerful elements that overwhelm the human characters. And the human characters are very human.

Warren Bull said...

Ramona, That's a great example. I had not thought of that. I want to read the story when it's finished.

Warren Bull said...

Pauline, Right it makes us reflect on our place in nature and about the fragility of life.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Setting is an important component in any novel. It creates an appropriate atmosphere.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE TRUTH SLEUTH
STACY'S SONG

Warren Bull said...

Quite true one mark of a new writer is his or her generic setting.

Ellis Vidler said...

Beautiful opening you quoted, very powerful. And yet, by today's standards, opening with "There was" and "It was" in the second sentence is enough for someone to reject you. Sometimes the standards just don't cover it.
Weather is a challenge. I'll have to think about it. Good post!

Lou Allin said...

How about a bush poodle pup trapped without shelter in a blizzard with the main character? I love putting my sleuth in jeopardy and letting her save herself.

Warren Bull said...

Ellis, That is an interesting thought. The Maltese Falcon starts with a lengthy description of Sam Spade (who looks nothing like Bogart) it would make it past the editor today.

Warren Bull said...

Lou, That would reel me in. You met the challenge.

Polly said...

Ellis makes an interesting point about today and yesteryear. A while back, at our SinC meeting, someone read the opening of a book, I believe it was Chandler again. It was a long description of a Victorian house. It went on for pages. That wouldn't fly now either. Sadly, too much emphasis is on getting right into the story, i.e. murder, and all that atmospheric setting business is frowned upon. It takes a very skilled writer to make a passage like that interesting these days, and acceptable to the publisher.

Warren Bull said...

Polly, I agree. I wonder if our whole society and way of life have sped up. People seem will to trade money for speed in all kinds of ways,

jamesdorrwriter said...

The noir fiction of 50-plus years back offers a great example of setting being all important,with the added feature that much of the "darkness" may be implied rather than directly described. What exactly would a phrase like "mean streets" mean (as opposed to cuddly streets maybe?), but in its context the reader knows.

Warren Bull said...

Noir fiction is a great example. Thanks, James