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Showing posts from June, 2016

The Protagonist Back-Issue

We've written a lot about protagonists over the years at the Blood-Red Pencil. Here is a selection of oldies-but-goodies: Maryann Miller : Ask The Editor - How bad can a character be? Kathryn Craft : Busted!—Janet Fitch caught championing an unlikable protagonist Patricia Stoltey : One Method of Creating Characters in Fiction Dani Greer : Hearing Voices: The Sound of Kindness Shon Bacon : Building Character Helen Ginger : Putting Yourself into Your Book

Creating Original Protagonists

A few reviewers of my books have asked, rhetorically, how I come up with such original characters. We, as writers and readers, know there is no such thing as an original character. My protagonists have all been written before in one book or another, going back hundreds of years. My only recipe for creating characters is to make them human, with all the flaws of real people, because, you know, no one is perfect. It’s challenging to write a character who might not be likable—an unrepentant, high-priced call girl ( Hooked ), a brooding, bordering-on-surly man who spent fifteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit ( Murder Déjà Vu ), a cheating wife ( Indiscretion ), or a con artist psychic ( Mind Games )—and make the reader like and even root for them. There are even times when my villain elicits pity, but not for long. Villains are people too, remember, and should be more well-rounded than just evil, though I have a couple of those too. Where do these people come from?

Too Much Information

Click to enlarge I’m blown away by the amount and variety of information available on the web. For instance, the scanned archives of the UK Meteorological Office tell me gale force winds blew across England on April 8 th and 9 th in 1928. It so happens that my story requires a sunny period just then (It’s all tied up with the date of Easter and therefore the Easter school holidays, so I can’t change the dates). What’s more, there were thunderstorms on the 10 th . And talk about floods of detail: “much rain occurred widely” on the 2 nd through 5 th , especially in the Southeast, where London is, the setting for the book. Oh well, gales or no gales, the temperature was above normal from the 6 th to the 9 th . In the old days, I could make the weather whatever I wanted and never think twice about it. Now, I shall make it what I need—and feel guilty. And wonder whether I ought to appease the Weather God and possible research-minded readers with a disclaimer at the end... At

Are Your Protagonists Powerful or Pitiful?

Grist for the writing mill springs from a variety of sources: strangers, situations, people watching, news or human interest pieces, others’ books, family members, history, personal experiences, and the list goes on. When an idea sprouts from one of those seeds and takes root, we then face the task of choosing the right protagonist(s) to tell our story. My first novel has one protagonist, several strong supporting characters, and multiple points of view. The second has three protagonists, also multiple points of view, and is growing into a series despite my reluctance. The three simply have more to share than can fit comfortably into one volume. Because the protagonist can make or break a story, even if it is plot driven, we need to give serious thought to this vital element. Will our intended audience connect with him or her? Is she a fully developed, three-dimensional character with endearing qualities and annoying faults just like us? Does he stand up off the page and invite us in

Fishing And Writing

It's been a while since Slim Randles has been here with an update on how Dud is progressing with his book. He's been writing his for more years than most of us put into a single book, and he shared some of his thoughts on the writing process in a post here on October 2013 . He still isn't finished with his book, but, then, he seems to be having trouble with his characters. This is probably a good illustration of the importance of putting believable protagonists together. (See how I slipped the June theme in here.) Dud was down at The Lunker Hole on Lewis Creek before it even turned yellow in the east. He had some thinking to do, and, as everyone knows, there’s no better way to think than fly fishing. And The Lunker (and it’s capitalized on purpose) is a good trout to think by. Why? Because everyone also knows you’re not going to catch him, so it gives you thinking time. Just about the time Dud could make out The Lunker’s rock at the head of the hole, he had gotte

A Protagonist Doesn't Have to be Perfect

Image by Susan , via Flickr I watched the movie adaptation of Brooklyn the other night. In it, the protagonist snubbed someone. I admit the person snubbed could get on anyone's nerves. Still, the charitable thing to do would have been to be nice to that person. The snub made me lose some respect for the protagonist. Since up to that point I really liked her, a dilemma presented itself. Could I be charitable enough to forgive her shortcomings? If I didn't, wouldn't I be following her bad example? When I thought about it, I realized real people aren't perfect, so why should I expect a book or movie person to be ideal? If a fictional person is too perfect, that can be just as irritating as one who slips up. Still, there's only so much I'll forgive about a book or movie protagonist. Once that line is crossed, I'm very disappointed. I can't tell you exactly when or how that will happen, because I never know. If an author or script writer is adept