Tag Archives: novels

Who Loves Lady MacBeth?

23 Jun

 

Writers often create characters who are not likeable, to serve as foils or antagonists for the main characters. These antagonists exhibit qualities in opposition to the main characters in order to create conflict. Readers love an evil character. Think of the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. We love to have someone to cheer against and hope for a demise appropriate to their state of badness.

As a writer, it is fun to create a “bad” character. There is a kind of evil “bitchiness” that comes out in characters who do and say things that I would never do. I have heard the same said by actors who enjoy playing evil roles like Lady MacBeth. There is something very satisfying in the complexity of a negative character. Few people are truly evil, and the “good” people and characters have a little of the dark side hidden away,too.

Then there are some books whose characters are not likeable at all, but that still convey an important theme or idea. The Great Gatsby is one that springs to mind. None of the characters is a nice person, except maybe for Nick Carroway, the narrator, who may have gone on in life to be a good person, but the book contains an important message about materialism and selfishness.

All in all, writers want their readers to either love or hate their characters enough to care about what what happens to them, whether they survive and succeed, die a horrible death, or something in between. That is what makes a story. And even then, sometimes, the “good” don’t come out on top, and the “bad” are not punished enough for our liking. That’s life.

In my latest book, Hotel Saint Clare, I loved writing the character Crystal. While she is not 100% evil, she is a character I loved to hate.

Can you read a book in which the main character is unlikeable? Have you put a book down because you just didn’t like the characters?

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What have you appreciated lately?

23 Apr

As I was reading a novel set in early twentieth century China, I was struck by a line in which a character and her friends went out into the garden to “appreciate” the plum blossoms. We admire, find joy, look at beautiful things in our world, but how often do we simply appreciate what we see or hear? Somehow the concept of appreciation is different from all of these. Appreciation contains a sense of taking time to savor, as well as a sense of gratitude. Appreciation forces you to stop for a moment.

I attended a coffee tasting on Sunday, and learned something about appreciating a fine cup of coffee, with notes of flavor as complex as any wine. I appreciate the fine job that two repairwoman did in replacing our basement ceiling yesterday. It is amazing how much brighter the room looks. And I appreciate the sight of a fox who took a walk through our back yard yesterday morning. The bird seed attracts the squirrels, and the squirrels attracted the fox, although I don’t think he has much of a chance of catching one!

So next time your senses encounter something wonderful, take a moment to really appreciate and savor. It is part of the gift of being alive.back yard visitor

 

NaNoWriMo (What the Heck Is That?)

3 Nov

This year, for the first time, I participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This is a pretty short novel, but a darned good start.

I have been so caught up in the release and promotion of Lydia’s Story that I haven’t been doing much “real” writing lately. I have not been working on anything new. True — I have some unfinished pieces hiding away on my computer that I could resurrect and turn into something readable, but I had the urge to work on something new, something challenging.

So I am devoting the month of November to writing 50,000 words of my new project, which has the working title Magic Words. The title may have more to do with me typing the words than the actual words themselves!

I did a little basic arithmetic and figured out that to write 50,000 words in a month, I need to write 1,666 words per day. This is not out of reach. When I write a first draft, I write fast. I get the words down. And I do have a plan for this story. I know where I’m going. But since like most people, I have a lot going on in my life, I think this is what will happen: I will try to write 1,666 words each day, but most of the time, I won’t make it. Then every three or four days, I will have a marathon writing day when I will catch up with my goal. As of November 3, I have over 5,000 words.

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo? What are your tricks for reaching your goal? And does the goal matter if it gets you writing?

Too Many Ideas

1 Sep

Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I believe most writers would answer the same as I do — it’s not a matter of coming up with ideas, it’s a matter of weeding out the ideas and deciding which ones I really want to develop in a short story, a novel, or maybe even a series.

My first two novels both center around the main character Nara Blake, who is loosely based on the daughter-in-law of a friend of mine. Once I had the character, I took her from a Caribbean island to England, and after solving the mystery of a ring of art thieves in The Gate House, she moved on to discovering her great-grandmother’s secrets in Lydia’s Story.

Along the way, I have considered writing a mystery series set in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I am still toying around with something historical, and maybe involving magic, centering around the treasure King John supposedly lost in the Wash on the coast of England. Since I am a teacher, I have come up with many unused plots involving teachers. And after talking with a friend who is starting a business staging houses for sale, I think that might make a good base for a story. And then there are my mother’s letters from World War II. I would like to do something with those.

I am not the kind of writer who can sit down and write for eight hours every day. I am too restless. I need breaks. So most of my ideas will never be more than ideas. But it’s great to have this mine of inspiration. When it’s time to start something new, I just need to pull out one of the plots or characters and start developing a story.

What kinds of stories do you prefer to read? Something close to home? In a different geographical or historical setting? Do you choose a book for the plot or the characters?

Whatever the reader’s choice, at some time a writer has dreamed up an idea, and carried it through.

 

Where do characters come from?

22 Feb

My characters are frequently based on real people, but as the story develops, they take on a life of their own and bear little more than a superficial resemblance to the person on whom it is based.

In the case of Nara, the main character in The Gate House, she is based on the daughter-in-law of a friend from my days in Costa Rica. Her name is Nara, a unique name, and she is petite with dark hair and grew up in a Caribbean island nation. But that is where the similarity ends.

From that basic description, I created Nara Blake, who lives in the Gate House with her father and aunt, and whose interest in art along with her innate curiosity leads her into trouble.

Elaine, the cathedral tour guide who becomes involved with Nara and her adventures, is based on a real guide I met at Lincoln Cathedral. But of course I know nothing about the real woman’s personal life. I created one for the character in my novel.

Next time you are in a public place, look around and imagine a character from someone you see. From that person, you can create a story, or invite him or her into a story you are writing.

Here are a couple of websites I like for help in creating characters:

How to Create Characters http://kathrineroid.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/how-to-create-characters-for-a-novel/

Fiction Factor http://www.fictionfactor.com/characters.html

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica