Friday, July 31, 2009

Character as a Seasoning

Developing strong, memorable characters who have an impact on readers is an aspiration for every novelist.

For a new suspense novelist, getting there can be a trick.

If my name were Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Mary Higgins Clark, I could lay some characterization down in the beginning pages of my novel. My manuscript would be one of those that agents and editors would grab off the pile and have all of their calls held while they gave it their undivided attention. For as long as it took.

And they would love every word.

But the name Peg Brantley doesn't have the same effect. I don't have the luxury to let readers get a sense of my terrific characters before something gripping happens.

In suspense, by a new author, the grip is more likely to seal the deal than the gripper.

It's important in every genre to thoroughly know your characters. In suspense, because I don't have the luxury of 'growing' them, it's even more important that they be fully realized characters from before the beginning. I know more about my guys than will ever make the final cut.

Find the secret strength in your main character, and it won't matter whether you are working with a hero or an anti-hero. Your readers will bond with both.

And something else to consider: Take your character's greatest weakness and tie it inexorably to the plot.

The trick for a suspense novelist, is to sprinkle in characterization when no one is looking.

CR: I'm about 1/2 way through the T.L. Hines. Sometimes woo-woo is fun. And he is definitely keeping me guessing. The book is called The Dead Whisper On.

It's all better with friends.

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