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

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

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. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Free will characters

We got such good reader response from her first guest blog that I asked Gayle Carline to give us another, which she has graciously done. Her most recent book is The Hot Mess. You can view the trailer here.

~ Jim

When I started writing stories, I had this idea that, much like God, I would create characters I could manipulate in whatever situation I invented. Imagine my surprise when they resisted. The hardest part of learning to write fiction was to understand that my characters would not always obey me.

Perhaps I should have remembered the story of Adam and Eve and free will.

Not surprisingly, when I talk to non-writers about one of my “make-believe” people giving me grief over a scene, they smile nervously and back out of the room. Who can blame them?

For the record, just because I treat my characters as if they are real does not mean that I’m crazy. Looney as a toon, maybe, but not crazy.

I thought I’d give you all a little exercise to show you how characters are born in a writer’s imagination and how they shape the story, as opposed to the story shaping them. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Ready?

Think of someone you know. It could be a family member or a really close friend. Write down five of their personality traits. Maybe they’re fun-loving or sincere or even tend to be negative. Write down five things they like to do, like listen to music or swim or read. Now, write five things you can’t imagine them ever doing. What, they’d never run off to Vegas with an exotic dancer?

This is the way an author’s mind works. When I write about a character, I’ve already established their likes and dislikes, and their moral boundaries. If it’s a minor character, I do this with a few notes. Major characters, however, get a lot of attention. One of my favorite things to do is to write a journal as them. I write about their histories, their hopes and dreams, and establish their voices.

Usually none of their journals makes it into the story line, but now I know what they will and will not do, and I know how they talk, which makes it easier to write their dialogue.

My protagonist in the Peri Minneopa Mysteries is a 50-year-old woman who has retired from the housecleaning business and gotten her private investigator’s license. She is a smart cookie who is not a thrill seeker, however she is stubborn. This is the quality I utilize when I want her to go where she doesn’t belong.

A perfect example of her rebellion against my writing is a scene from Hit or Missus. Peri is following a wealthy, possibly cheating wife, and needs to go into a posh country club to get information. A subplot of this story is that Peri is having some self-esteem issues due to getting older, so as she walks toward the entrance, she looks at her reflection and sees that she is wrinkled and frumpy and perhaps inappropriate for the country club set.

I wrote and rewrote this scene several times, because I kept making her turn around and get back in her car and it wasn’t working. Finally, I realized my mistake. Peri’s stubborn streak would make her dig in her heels, lift her chin, and march forward into that club.

Which is what she did, promising herself to go shopping later.

Writers, what tools do you use to bring your characters to life? And Readers, do you mind if we’re a little nuts?
Gayle Carline was a software engineer for over 20 years until she chewed her way out of the cubicle and became a freelance writer. She quickly became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine and has been writing a weekly humor column for the Placentia News-Times since 2005.

These days, Gayle’s time is divided between writing mysteries and humor. Her Peri Minneopa Mystery series stars a housecleaner-turned-detective who solves crimes in southern California. She has also released two collections of her column readers' favorite essays. But what she really wants to do is direct…


KM said...

That's a fun exercise.

I have characters that won't do what I want them to, either, even when I try to patiently point out to them the error of their ways. I get the feeling that, while I am aware of what they are doing, they may not even know I exist.

Gloria Alden said...

I've written biographies for many, but not all of my characters. That way I can picture them in my mind and know what makes them click. I especially write bios for all my murderers and find much to like about them.

Gayle, I loved Freezer Burn, and it's been on my to do list to order others in your series for some time now. I hope to get to it soon.

Kath Marsh said...

I've written bios for characters, but i LOVE the idea of having them write journals! Genius. Thank you.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

One of the keys to characterization is motivation. I need to understand each character's motivation upon entering a scene. When I struggle it is often because the motivation is muddled.

That's when I ask my characters to explain themselves - sometimes using a journal type exercise to let me know what's going on with them.

Afterwards, the scene flows much more smoothly.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

Hi Gayle,
Loved the idea of characters journaling! And Peri sounds like a character I'd like to get to know. Thanks for stopping by.

Gayle Carline said...

I've been trying to leave comments this morning, but my computer has been a brat. I blame Windows 8.

KM - I completely understand. Sometimes I think my characters act like I'm not even in the room!

Gloria - Thanks for the kind words. I like Peri and her pals, and will be writing more. I've got an idea for a new one, but I have to finish this horsey mystery first.

Kath - Bios work for a lot of my minor characters, but I'm always afraid my dialogue will suck, so part of the journaling process is figuring out what their voices sound like, what's their go-to phrase or curse word, etc.

James - yes, EXACTLY. And thanks so much for the blog invite!

Shari - Thanks for having me. Your group is a lot of fun. I read your posts all the time, even if I don't stop to comment.

Warren Bull said...

Ha! My characters won't do thongs just because I want them to. They tell me what to type. As an experienced writer I can tell when an author tries to drag her characters around like they are puppets. The story goes flat and the characters escape from the scene as fast as they can.

Paula Gail Benson said...

I love all these comments about independent characters, particularly since I'm grappling with one now. Great ideas, Gayle, about how to let them speak for themselves.

Gayle Carline said...

Warren - isn't that the truth, about the author as puppeteer? You can have the most clever plot on the planet, but if the characters are not three-dimensional, it just doesn't work for me.

Paula - The trick is to let your characters act naturally while trying to maintain what you think is going to be the plot (and subplots). Or you can just go rogue and see where your characters take you!