Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tom Selleck and Jesse Stone Set Examples for Characterization

Sharing with Writers and Readers has a guest blogger today. PM Terrell is a well-known novelist. Today, she's talking abour characterization, something we haven't mentioned in a long time on this blog.  The more writers know about it, the better--of course. But knowing more about it also increases the pleasure of reading for readers.


I fell in love with Jesse Stone after watching Stone Cold starring Tom Selleck. I bought every book in the Jesse Stone series. It didn’t matter what plots Robert B. Parker dreamed up for Jesse. The point was I would have followed him wherever and whatever he did, because I was hooked on the character. He was full of flaws and yet he was a good man, someone I wanted to succeed.


I feel the same way about Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series. The plot didn’t matter as much as the characters and to this day, I still find myself quoting Gus and picturing him in my mind’s eye with that cocky shake of the head or his habit of sucking his teeth.


So when fans began writing me about the characters in my suspense/thriller Exit 22, I understood the connection. There are certain characteristics that can jump out at a reader; for example, the sociopathic assassin in Exit 22 knits baby booties in between killings. For some fascinating reason, that heightens the terror for many readers. Brenda Carnegie, a gorgeous woman who has no qualms about wading through alligator-infested swamps, has become an icon of a self-assured, fearless woman that fans want to read more about.


Exit 22 has inspired a series called Black Swamp Mysteries, a name taken from the black waters of the swampy Lumber River that snakes through southeastern North Carolina. In the next book, Vicki’s Key (due for release in March 2012) I introduce a character who jumped off the page at me and changed the course of the entire series.


Dylan Maguire is an Irishman who comes to America under mysterious circumstances. I found that his nationality made for some dramatic changes in the way I wrote his speech patterns and even the phrases he uses. Spoken by an American, they seem unnatural; spoken by an Irishman, he becomes irresistible. In the original draft of Vicki’s Key, he was meant to be a character that was just passing through. But when the editors and advance readers read the draft, they convinced me that he had become so real to them that he had to continue throughout the series. Like The Fonz in Happy Days, he had emerged in a starring role.


What makes a character memorable? It can be the exotic, like an Irishman or the Shawnee warrior in my book, Songbirds are Free. It can be a tragic back story that makes them who they are. It can be the sense of adventure and courageousness that perhaps we wish we had ourselves. Or it can be the unexpected, like the knitting killer.


And once those characters grab you, there’s no letting go.


~p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twelve books. Exit 22 Kindle edition is on sale through October 31 for ninety-nine cents. The next book in the series, Vicki’s Key, will be released in March 2012. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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