Posts Tagged ‘believable characters’

So there I was braless in my front yard minding my own business killing things—black widows—with my deadly saber weapon—broomstick—when all of a sudden a Mexican man in a pick-up truck pulled up and got out and approached me, braless me, and began waving his arms and speaking a mix of English and Spanish—Spanglish.

And this is what I saw/heard. You … pear … (hand mimes what looks like a round shape, not hourglass but round, I tell you) … no good … too big.

Perceptive as he may be regarding my body shape, insulting a woman holding a deadly weapon is not a bright person. I may have poked him with my sword (it’s a sword now) had I not been so busy pondering his reasons for needing to bring it to my attention. Possibly he thought I was blind and was doing me a favor. Ah, thanks. Good to know. I’ll get right on it. Or, he’s from PETS (people for ethical treatment of spiders) and was trying to dissuade me from further massacre. Or, simply a community service message.

Then, as I was about to bring down my iron hot poker upon his head, it occurred to me he was offering to trim my Bradford Pear tree. He cruised the neighborhoods looking for folks outside and would stop to offer his services. He almost died for trying.

You said I'm a what?

If this post has a familiar ring it’s because I kind of do this kind of thing a lot, you know, adding fantastical elements to a very dull happening, and way outside the realm of logic and reason. You’d think I’d learned my lesson since my last publicly-admitted blunder in Believable Characters  (notice I say “publicly admitted. Imagine what I keep private).

If I read the above scene in a book—sans the part where she comes to her senses—I’d say, “Bah.” So why, why, why, did I believe it could happen in real life? (because it’s happening to me, that’s why)

Moral of today’s story: Keep it real, baby. Keep it real. (unless you’re writing fantasy, then you can do that.)

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I need a little help. I’m going to pitch to you my idea for my next novel, and you tell me if you’ve ever heard of this being done, who the author is, and the title of the book (or movie), because I have no idea how to make this work. I want to have my three main characters unlikeable—girls to women whom the reader will never like. We wish for their deaths. The only somewhat likeable character this story will have is the anti-hero antagonist, and her part is small.

This idea breaks all the rules of having likeable main characters. So I need to know if this has been done before—before I attempt it. The only comparisons I can think of right off are A Clockwork Orange and American Psycho—actually, anything written by Bret Easton Ellis has the most despicable characters imaginable. But why do we read them when all the characters are evil? Vengeance maybe? These two examples have more of a cold hearted Caligula feel to them. The acts of evil are atrocious enough to keep the reader turning the page. My characters, however, aren’t murderers so I need to keep my readers in other ways besides shock.

Disclaimer: I use the term despicable to compliment said authors above. They are talented writers who have channeled their twisted minds to good use in fine storytelling, an achievement I hope to accomplish for myself. That said, I do not like to read novels about pleasure killing. I can say I’ve done it; I can’t say I won’t again, especially if one of you recommends a book for research in hateable characters.

  I have many story ideas, but this one just won’t go away. It keeps saying “Me next. Me next.”

“Sure,” I say. “Hold your horses. I need some time.”

“No! Now, dagnabit!”

“Fine,” I say. “Just let me ask other writers first.”

“Then do it. Make it snappy.”

Jeesh. See what I mean about these people?

The only other comparisons I can come up with are teen slasher movies, where you’re okay with their ultimate demise due to their extreme stupidity. My girls will be clever, not stupid, a little heartless maybe. My anti-hero is more clever, though we like her, more evil. So in essence, there are no redeemable characters.

Any thoughts?

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Truth is stranger than fiction. We’ve all heard that one before. But I saw something very disturbing that I thought I’d share.

Across the street, and in full view of the window by where I do all my gazing writing, I saw my seventy-year-old neighbor smoking from a small bronze colored pipe. In. Broad. Daylight. This is not the wooden pipe our grandfathers smoked, nor is this a grandfather, but a grandmother.  Are you with me so far?

So she keeps taking hits from this metal contraption, tapping it upon occasion, while I keep my face smashed up against the window in disbelief. I feel a bit voyeuristic and unneighborly and unsatisfied.

Because now I need to tell someone.

Who can I call that would believe this? No one will. It’s too out of character for a mature woman who spends her days puttering in her yard and garden to be standing in her driveway getting high.

Surely there’s a good reason why her mind snapped, and I should be doing all I can to help her through her crisis. Instead, I call my mother, she’ll believe it. Mother has been threatening to snap in a similar manner for years. But just as I punch her numbers, I see my neighbor take her pipe and screw it into the ground then turn on her sprinkler system where water now flows clog-free, and my phone returns to its cradle, and my red face slides down the window to meet my slumped body on my seat.

So that, my friends, is my lesson today on believable characters. We wouldn’t suddenly have one of our fictional characters do something outside their profile. Like I tried to pull in my own writing (and with my neighbor).  Yesterday in my critique group, a member asked me if I was still submitting my book as fiction. When I said yes, she said, while this scene worked when it was told as memoir, as fiction, it’s out of character.

Ah, yes. The ole truth-is-more-believable and stay-in-character advice. I needed it in more ways than one.

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