What a Character

I love to read thrillers. They make things crisp and clear for me as if you live on the edge the whole time reading them. Maybe it produces an extended jolt of adrenalin in me. I think it’s more than that though. It isn’t only thrillers either. How do you feel when you read a mystery, or perhaps a romance?

Hell, there is a whole heard of romances, from the chaste all the way to reading the thrusting and throbbing nitty gritty. And don’t let us forget the sci-fi epic, or the fantasy book complete with dragons and wizards. I guess I should mention the action and adventure stories that wow their stories with grand exploits. There are so many genres I haven’t the time to list them all, especially if I were to dive into the sub-genres and all.

What do they have in common? Characters. There is a secret in what characters do too. It’s not so much the way the author represents their characters. It’s really how the characters react to the terrible trouble they’ve stumbled into. I mean almost anyone can say I have a tough son-of-a-bitch. But a writer would have their tough SOB groan just a little and then pull out the nail from her hand after someone shot her with a nail gun.

My editor tells me to show not tell.

I studied acting in college, and the first thing my professor hammered into me was this: if you’re acting you are wrong. It is always about reacting. It happens then that the author with a fertile imagination then sets their character’s personality, habits, and attributes by the way they react to problems. It’s their counteraction that shows them to be a smart-ass and react with a snappy little quip, or perhaps an evil bastard that reacts with an act of revenge, and then there are the big, dumb brutes, or the love to hate bitches. It’s all in how they react.

Each might have a flaw in their character too, not all but most of the better ones do. The Greeks call that flaw a tragic flaw. That was the one thing their hero had to have to make themselves human and brings their downfall. It is what made them the tragic hero. Without the flaw, the gods were punishing a man for no reason.

The flaw comes when they react in a strange or unexpected way in their personality.

How about a dumb brute of a killer who always takes the time to smell the flowers. Then there is a hardened killer ready to do her job, but she has a tender spot for cats and can’t follow through if a cat will die in whatever carnage she makes. The twist to a fictional individual is usually the way their reaction is the opposite of what you might think. Think, umm, a farm veterinarian who has a new fear of small dogs. They can still work on horses, pigs, sheep but cannot get out of his car if there is a Chihuahua yipping next to the vehicle.

Can we go deeper into reactions? How about the reader’s reactions? And this is a bit of a mystery too. Why do they react to stories the way they do?

How about all the people who love to read horror stories or tragedies? Why read those things? The stories produce untold amounts of terror, sadness, and waves of happiness. That’s right, happiness. Why would they read them if the books didn’t produce a good feeling?

So how does that good feeling happen? I suppose it might be a simple case of schadenfreude, that pleasure one feels at another’s misfortune, in this case, one of the characters, but I don’t think so. I think it’s much more. People love to visit vicariously, Feeling stronger, smarter, more clever, and yes sexier than they imagine they are in daily life. Hey, perhaps they like reading about someone that is equal to the way they view themselves. Who among us hasn’t had the remote suspicion that they themselves might be cuter, more devilish, et alia?

I’m sure most everyone reads because of the conflicts in the stories. Every good story has several. Readers want to see how the characters react to and solve whatever conflicts there are. If there is not any conflict, why read? If there aren’t interesting characters that solve problems in their own way; why spend the time reading the story? If it was the plot they thirsted after, they could get their fix by reading a plot synopsis.

I like to think my books are full of both conflicts and unusual characters. I know there are conflicts in abundance.

One of the things I like about Stan who is the main character in my Factor series is he’s unusual. He is different than most characters. The first book The Sigma Factor explains why. It took a whole novel to introduce him so it will be difficult to explain here, but I’ll try.

Stan is an amnesiac. I know, it’s a worn out vehicle, but there is a twist. Don’t you love a good twist? I do. For that split second during which the twist is employed, you don’t know what the hell is happening. It gives you a freshness about the story. Maybe not the kind of fresh you might find after a spring thunderstorm with its vibrant greens, brilliant colors of the flowers, or even smelling the wet ground, and listening to the birds as the breeze drifts through. But it freshens things up.

Yeah, anyway, the twist. Although Stan can’t remember everything he remembers some things, how to dress, speak English, read and write, and remembers lives he’s lived before this one. Whoa. What? Remember his past lives?

Yup, that’s right and their personalities reside in him now too. They carry on. They’re rude, have different skills. Oh, did I tell you Stan is a ribald bastard, both with his imagery and language? It’s the way Ol’ Stan thinks.

All of the lives bring their own brand of vitality they acquired during their own lifetime of learning, and like life, there are good things and some regrettable things. The most notable catch is the lives don’t seem to get along. They argue with each other, with Stan, and occasionally Stan lets them actually move his body. So even if no one is around there is conflict, humor, and conversation.

The last thing you need to know is that everyone wants to kill him.

Around the corner from the main storyline are some back stories. These are like a little toe dipping into historical fiction. The Sigma Factor had a chapter in a slave’s cabin during the mid 19thCentury. Let’s say there is a chapter full of struggles and conflict. In The Dao Factor, there are chapters in China/Korea circa 5th Century. You will have to buy the book to find out what conflicts happen in those chapters. There is an exception to that. A couple of blog posts ago I gave an example of the China chapters.

There is a portion that I forgot about and that is humor. Without a laugh or two throughout the book, I think the stories would be a bit lackluster. A good guffaw helps everything along, and that includes the build up to something horrific, like finding a mutilated body or jumping out of an aircraft without the customary parachute. There is a need for comic relief. A decent laugh makes everything easy to take. Take a look at Mercutio’s death soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. It’s full of puns and witty remarks that it makes his death more palatable.

Ya know what? I guess I just described my brand. It’s a beginning, and it is growing. I mean every brand starts at ground zero. Now here’s the thing; the word of a new brand has to grow. The thing has to blossom, and like everything that blossoms it has to land in fertile soil (a good portion of manure) in order to let it take root.

The easiest way to help grow an author’s brand is to read and give the book a review. It is like a hug. My book is for sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. If you haven’t read it please do. Hell, if you can’t afford the three bucks, the local library has two copies. All that’s left is a review. How ’bout it?

I have a friend who lives in New Zealand and she has a wonderful brand for her books. She’s a real firecracker and can talk shit with anyone. Her byte series is one of the best thriller series out there. Not only is she a wonderful wordsmith but she works hard, plays with a focus, and wife to her husband and mother to her kids. The woman’s name is Cat Conner and she can be reached by visiting her website at www.catconnor.com. Splendid writer. Splendid series.

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