Monday, June 7, 2010

Real People

I'm the daughter of a World War II veteran (paratrooper, U.S. Army, 1941-1947). My husband graduated from Texas A&M, a member of the Corps of Cadets and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He missed Vietnam by a few months. The last school I taught at I had the privilege of working with a man who was a former CIA operative. He served overseas for several years and through quite a few difficult missions.

All real people.

All people who have influenced my life to varying degrees, and merged into the person I created to be my main character in The Cost of Love--Dean Dreiser.

When our manuscripts are rejected, we receive comments like "I couldn't connect to your characters," or "The writing was fine, but it wasn't quite right for us." In truth, often our writing suffers from being stuffed with paper dolls. There's no excuse for that, since our lives are full of people who live and laugh, suffer and bleed, sacrifice and sometimes die in the process.

Whether we're writing a romantic thriller or a paranormal, we are responsible for filling our writing with people; after all, it's the people our readers care about. Best to make them real, make them breath.

All you have to do is look around you to find the inspiration. Recently I heard a song by John Rich, and it brought back to me in a few words all these people and what they had been through--my father, my husband, my friend, and yeah--my character, Dean. Real people with real stories.



Anonymous said...

You've hit the proverbial nail on the head, Drue. Ask any non-thriller reader who David Morrell is and you'll get blank stares. Ask if they've ever heard the name Rambo, and you get immediate recognition. Memorable complex characters are the key. The more I write, the more I'm convinced of that! Great post!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

You're so right, Drue! Character is everything. If readers don't connect with the main character(s) then most of them will put the book down. The characters have to appear real. Romantic fiction requires larger than life characters populate the novel. However, we can draw on the characteristics of real people to flesh them out.

Terry Odell said...

Good characters can carry a weak plot. Weak characters can't carry a good plot (with a couple of aberrant exceptions that turn into best-sellers that make you want to pull your hair!)

Anonymous said...

FINALLY, blogger is healed. THIS has been an interesting day. If you've been trying to comment and can't - I believe you can now. Thank you everyone, for your patience.

Bailey Stewart said...

First, I came over here to see your dad. As the daughter of a WWII vet, I am always interested in other pics of "the greatest generation". My dad was army too, North Africa. And to your topic - I quit writing a book once because I hated the hero and he couldn't be fixed. If you don't like your characters - your readers won't either.

Anonymous said...

Bailey, I'm so glad you stopped by. We have a special bond now - daughters of that generation of heroes. My dad certainly wasn't perfect, and neither is DEAN (my main character). But it's not a character's perfection that makes you root for him--it's his basic character. I had readers email me in the middle of reading The Cost of Love and say "If you killed Dean, I will never speak to you again." If I can make that kind of connection, I'm happy.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Drue: I don't usually read thrillers, but you make it sound like the protaganist is a blend of real people. I'm going to add this to my TBR pile.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joyce: I wouldn't know how to write about "imaginary" people. lol. Thanks for commenting!