Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Good Read and a question from the e-mail

Chef Merle Blanc, he has the nose. And when millionaire Bernard Goldberg dies during his wedding luncheon in the chef's restaurant, Chef Blanc's nose, he smells the murder! 

What greater insult for Chef Blanc than that someone would be so callous as to commit a murder in his restaurant during a wedding reception he has so painstakingly prepared. But the doctors and police believe Goldberg's death was natural. Can Chef Blanc keep some forty guests and employees in his restaurant long enough for him to don his apron and cook a killer's goose before closing time? 

Question from the e-mail:  People in my writing group complain that my main character is too much like me. They keep saying, "She needs to be herself, not YOU!" Any ideas  on how I can do that???

Answer: We all are who  we are.  Yes, we have imagination, or we wouldn't be writers. But we also want our stories to "ring true." To do that we  have to imagine how someone else would think and feel. Most of us can do this by imagining how someone who is a different person than ourselves can think and feel...  

One way to practice this is to listen to others' opinions. It's easy when someone gives out an opinion with which you disagree, to shrug it off and figure you know better. Instead, ask them WHY they feel that is true. Then listen. You may certainly disagree with their opinion, though if you want to learn this technique, you won't say so. Instead listen to their reasons for why they formed that opinion. What beliefs caused them to think that way? WHAT IF your  character held those opinions? Then she surely wouldn't be so much like you...

Another old and useful trick is to sit down and "interview" your character as if you were a newspaper reporter who was going to do a news piece about her and whatever happens to her in your story? 

First make up a list of questions you'd want to ask. Then talk to her as if she were a real and separate person. Then listen in your creative persona for your character's thoughts and feelings and write them down, just as if it were a real interview. That, too, is a way to learn more about your character's differences from yourself.

This is a hard lesson for most of us. Some people are never are able to imagine how another person would think and feel and that's not always a bad thing. Many writers base their characters' experiences on their own. Dick Francis's jockey characters are almost always based on his personal experiences. He was a jockey. They are, or have been jockeys. 

Tom Clancey once worked for Naval intelligence. He knows how that works, and THE  HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, certianly shows that, though his character may be very different from the real Tom.

Clive Cussler was an underwater demolitions expert with NOAH. His character, Dirk Pitt, drives Clive's antique cars and knows a lot about explosives. But he is quite a bit different from the author, too.

These are all successful writers who are using their own personal experience as a background for their stories.  So don't be too discouraged. That technique can work for you, as well. 

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