Writers sometimes get intimately involved with their characters. We will be addressing the topic of author-character communication. The “experts” tell you that you must know your characters when writing. That’s true, but how do you interact with them and do you talk to them? (There are doctors that treat people like us). There are a number of character trait forms to help you in most writing books, and there is also the back of an envelope. To be successful with your story you need interesting characters the reader can relate to and get behind. The characters must be believable, do things that are “in-character”, and right for that particular character, even if outlandish. It is a very good idea to really know your characters, especially the hero or protagonist. You need to “get into that characters head and live and see things through his / her eyes. Next, your characters need to talk to you as well. Have a dialog with your main characters to help drive your story. (I wouldn’t mention this conversation to too many people—they might outfit you with a new white padded jacket).
Below is a series of questions for consideration when working with your characters. I hope they make you think and consider how well you know your characters before you try and write them into situations they have to get out of.
When you write your characters, do you have a character profile and use it?
Do you talk to your characters when writing?
How well do you know your characters before and when you write?
Do your characters talk to you and if so, how?
Do your characters lead you in the story or do you have the story pretty well established and they follow suit?
If you talk to your characters, do you talk to them out loud or just in your mind?
During the writing process, stories sometimes change, do your characters drive this or do you just get other ideas?
Do your characters change during the story or just solve the mystery?
How do you develop your characters? Do they evolve or do you have a plan for them?
Does setting play a part of your characters personality?
Are your characters real people to you when you write?
We want the reader to like our characters, at least the good guys, how do you do that?
Do you think about your story and the characters when doing other things and not writing?
Have you ever been out in public and looking at a place or see something you could use in your story and start to discuss it with your leading character? Do people look at you strangely if you do this?
If your characters talk to you, what do you talk about?
Have you ever had an argument with one of your characters?
Do you take medication for this?
Remember, your characters work for you and they don’t cost much in pay and benefits, so treat them nice.
Remember: There are meds for this condition and doctors who treat people like us.
Have you ever rode a long journey on a train? It’s a blast.
My love for the train goes way back to my grandpa who had been an engineer for the Milwaukee Road and drove the Hiawatha from Minneapolis to Chicago and points beyond. My dad loved the train. He brought me twice to Chicago over the Thanksgiving long weekend when I was fifteen and sixteen years old.
Looking out across the plains and watching the world go by will always be in my memory. I remember riding in the dome car and eating in the dining car as well as having a soda in the lounge. Both trips, we spent two nights in Chicago. Dad knew his way around Chicago. We traveled all over the city via the L-train. It was so much fun to be alone with my dad.
The old depot in Duluth, MN, also has train rides. One year for our anniversary, we rode the pizza train! It brought us to and from Two Harbors, traveling along the coast of Lake Superior. It came so close to the water, that I swear I saw fish swim.
When my husband and I went to Norway and Sweden, we took the train to northern Norway, transferred to a ferry and then enjoyed the fjords. The trip was marvelous.
Currently, my husband and I are planning a train trip across the Canadian Rockies in 2018 onboard a train. I’m excited.
My next book is an historical mystery which is set on a Zephyr train during the fall of 1943. A body is found in the Chicago rail yard. Come and ride along with the passengers and enjoy the dining car and lounge while my two characters, Brita and Ron, search for the killer. It is titled, BODY ON THE TRACKS. It’s scheduled for publication by the end of the year. Please sign up for my newsletter on my website.
I’m in the midst of writing a novel due to be released in January. I’m also writing a paper for the library districts history symposium. Additionally, I’m thinking of taking the nanowrimo challenge this November.
So you may wonder why I chose ‘Some Thoughts on History’ as the subject of this post with the other projects on tap. Quite simply, I’m constantly in awe of what I find as I research and write. What history has to share with those who look is priceless.
I’ve chosen to share the thoughts of thinkers who also have their own ideas on the subject. While we may not always agree, to know history is to know ourselves.
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston S. Churchill
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” Michael Crichton
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell
“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” James Fenimore Cooper
“Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” Marcus Tullius Circero
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Winston S Churchill
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” Elie Wiesel
Some quotes are funny, some were thoughtful and others somewhat controversial. All are important, for history is who we are, and to delve into that well of knowledge is something that is precious to ourselves and those who will follow after.
Happy reading, and enjoy your own form of creativity for you are sharing your history with the world.
Doris Gardner-McCraw -Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History
Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann (Annie) Mosey on August 13, 1860, in a cabin less than two miles (3.2 km) northwest of Woodland, now Willowdell, in Darke County, Ohio, a rural western border county of Ohio. Her birthplace log cabin site is about five miles east of North Star. There is a stone-mounted plaque in the vicinity of the cabin site, which was placed by the Annie Oakley Committee in 1981, 121 years after her birth.
Annie began trapping before the age of seven, and shooting and hunting by age eight, to support her siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game to local shopkeepers in Greenville. She also sold the game herself to restaurants and hotels in northern Ohio. Her skill eventually paid off the mortgage on her mother’s farm when Annie was 15.
Traveling show marksman and former dog trainer Frank E. Butler (1847–1926), an Irish immigrant, placed a $100 bet per side (worth $2,181 today) with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost that Butler could beat any local fancy shooter. The hotelier arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Annie, saying, “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year-old girl named Annie.” He soon began courting Annie, and they married. They did not have children.
Here is a picture of the Buffalo Bill Traveling Wild West show which she participated in.
Oakley continued to set records into her sixties, and she also engaged in extensive, albeit quiet, philanthropy for women’s rights and other causes, including the support of specific young women she knew. on a comeback and intended to star in a feature-length silent movie.
Her health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio, at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her body was cremated in Cincinnati two days later and the ashes buried at Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio. Assuming their marriage had been in 1876, Oakley and Butler had been married just over 50 years.
In the third First Ladies mystery book series, I feature Edith Roosevelt: the Clue of the Dancing Bell. It begins with a National Park Exposition in St. Paul, MN where a murder occurs. Needless to say, the Annie Oakley imposter is considered a suspect. Many imposters factor into this mystery, including Teddy Roosevelt.
The links for my website, Barb’s Books, and Goodread’s are below.
Yesterday I posted a question on two of my Facebook places where I appealed to those who are readers. I asked them:
“What would you consider to be the maximum amount of main characters you’d be comfortable with in a historical adventure novel?” (NB I pronounce the ‘h’ so I don’t use ‘an’ before the word historical)
I had some excellent and varied replies, one from a fellow Wranglers who contributes to this blog. It might just be the friends who replied but I was delighted to find that, on average, they said they felt comfortable with at least 3 main characters and a few others who play minor roles. Since I’ve currently got a good cast of characters in my ongoing manuscript, I’m feeling totally relieved! What isn’t so easy for the author is to ensure that each character’s POV (point of view) is clear and not a dog’s breakfast.
Only one person categorically said they preferred a novel to have only 2 main characters. I wasn’t surprised by that response because I’m fairly sure that person tends to prefer historical romances which have a slightly different remit from general historical novels.
Speaking broadly, I’d say Historical Romance needs to have 2 main characters, the whole story being constructed around their developing romance. Another element to historical romance is that it must have a happy ending and the expected norm is the happy ever after for those 2 main characters, who will love each other forever.
Historical Novels are something else and it’s a genre that’s harder to define. Again, this is a broad definition (and may easily be disputed by many) but I think a historical novel needs a setting that’s in a period of history (often no earlier than 50 years before the publication of the novel) and is a story which conveys the day to day elements of the political, social and living conditions of the time. It’s a story which has realistic detail, is credible and faithful to the era as is known. It’s often centred on identified historical figures, or a known historical situation. In many historical novels there are a lot of characters but that’s not the same as them all having their own POV as the story progresses because they might just be people who are mentioned as the tale unfolds. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel has multiple characters, and many confusing POV shifts, so and I found it quite hard to keep things clear as I read that story.
Historical Adventure is probably even harder to classify. Taking the ‘adventure’ part first—broadly speaking, it’s a series of events and challenges which happen out with the daily norm for the characters involved. The protagonists find themselves in unusual, sometimes unexpected situations of danger. There tends to be a lot of physical action involved as characters resolve their predicament. The historical context generally places the protagonists in a known era where they battle their wits against the conditions they find themselves in. This might make the elements of historical accuracy become overshadowed if the action happens to characters that are not known figures in history texts. I’ve also found that it’s perfectly possible to have many characters, though it’s all about whose point of view is being presented by the author.
If I lined up my cast it just might resemble something like this image of the cast of The Three Musketeers film of 1921. Thankfully most will just be ‘popping in and out’!
Then we come to Historical Fantasy Adventure. Those that I’ve read often have multiple characters inhabiting their version of a historical setting with similar characteristics and events as Historical Adventure. However, when it comes to POV what is the tendency? Is it for each character to have sections where they are centre stage and their POV is the ongoing one for that section? J.R.R.Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings has an enormous cast of characters but since it would have been an impossible task to present it in Frodo or Bilbo’s perspective then Tolkein opted for a Narrator and wrote in Third Person (Omniscient) so we get all thoughts and feelings from that one perspective. This can be odd at times!
Add a dash of romance into the historical adventure and it means you have to have at least 2 of your characters involved in their developing relationship alongside a whole gamut of people and other happenings.
I asked the question on Facebook because I’ve a lot of characters in my current writing—Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series- which is a Historical Romantic Adventure. In my series the initial main characters in Book 1 make reappearances in later books, though other family members ‘take their turn’ at being the main characters. As I write Book 4, I presently have 3 main characters and 2 others who have ‘episodes’ where I’m also writing in their perspective. Whether or not my final manuscript will be the same, is yet to be determined. What I’m trying very hard to avoid is a dog’s breakfast of points of view!
In an effort to clarify characters for my readers, I intend to include a ‘cast of characters’ at the beginning of the novel, as I had in Book 3. I might even draw a family tree structure for my Garrigill kin for Book 4 as well as maps of the country as I did for Books 2 & 3.
Now I’m wondering what your answer would be to the question? “What would you consider to be the maximum amount of main characters you’d be comfortable with in a historical adventure novel?”
(Mike Staton you are excused, if you wish, since you’ve already commented.)
Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures is set in first century northern Roman Britain whereas her contemporary romantic mysteries are set in fabulous world-wide cities, Topaz Eyes being a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014. The Taexali Game, her Teen time-travel adventure, is set in third century Roman Scotland. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Scottish Association of Writers.You can find her at these places:
What is it about the New Year that has us all making plans for what we will accomplish in the months to come? Is it the idea of starting over? Probably. I would submit that we should treat each day as a start over. A re-creation if you will.
We all need recreation. But do we take the time to realize what recreation is? It is re-creating. I suggest we think about how we re-create our lives when we take that time off.
For me recreation is reading or writing. Sometimes it’s research or speaking. Each time I sit down at the keyboard, or get in front of an audience I am not only enjoying myself, but I’m re-creating myself. I’m adding to what I am.
A friend suggested if I write my memoir, I should title it, “No One Told Her She Couldn’t”. She’s heard me say it many times, and you know what, she’s right. I’ve done so many things in my life because I figured , why not?
Recently I’ve self-published a novel. It was not in my plans, for I love my publisher. I did it because I had the chance to write a series along with ten other authors about a family. It was a challenge I didn’t want to pass up. We all have our stories up for pre-sale at $.99 until our release date, then it goes to $2.99.
So, as you can see, each day, each time I breathe, I re-create myself. It gives me joy and let’s face it, it is lots of fun. In my lifetime I’ve had the chance to experience so much because I was open to the recreation.
Think about what you do for fun, your re-creation. Don’t just make goals, resolutions, etc., use everyday to re-create your life and have fun while doing it. Who knows where you will be on December 31, 2017, but what fun you’ll have getting there.
Since my A First Ladies Mystery series is set in a dollhouse,
I thought it’d be interesting to learn the history of dolls.
Doll origins date to the beginning of time. Women passed their dolls
down to their daughters as toys. In ancient times, they were considered
part of religious rites and ceremonies. Greek literature supports this theory.
Nurenburg, Germany, records show dollmakers in the early fifteenth century.
Dolls have been handmade for centuries, using clay, fur, wood, wax, clothespins,
rags, cornhusks, and let’s not forget the Russian stacking dolls.
This names a few of the types of dolls.
A few days ago I was challenged to come up with a list of ten books that have stayed with me and changed my life. Initially I was nonplussed at the request, wondering how to winnow the thousands of books I’ve read down to just ten. I also realized I had to create categories to provide a focus.
Not to make a big deal out of a Facebook challenge, I finally decided on Books That Influenced my Writing Life. And I also noticed that often it was not individual books but authors or topics that have been important. So here is my idiosyncratic list.
Black Beauty. I was born crazy about horses. My favorite toys as a kid were a mismatched family of stuffed horses that I slept with every night. So of course my favorite book would be about the wonderful animals. Anna Sewell’s plea for better treatment of horses was contained in a sentimental story and proved quite effective in changing people’s ideas at the time it was written. The specific things that bothered her are no longer applicable today but Black Beauty remains a childhood staple.
Smoky the Cowhorse. Like a lot of young girls I avidly read the Black Stallion and all its myriad of clones and loved the stories. At the same time I knew they had little relation to real horses. Not so the Newberry Award book by Will James. It gave a great picture of how a horse thinks and reacts to things. And what made it even better were the true-to-life illustrations by James.
Tales of the Knights of the Round Table. That probably isn’t the correct title but I loved the stories about the brave and noble knights of Camelot. I adored fairy tales and fantasies and gladly charged into battle with Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad. And I’m afraid I look for similar real-life heroes.
Johnny Tremaine. I’m not sure if Johnny or Little House on the Prairie came first but I became addicted to historical fiction—all eras, all places. I loved reading about how characters lived and worked in past times. As I got older I transitioned to more adult fiction such as the stories of Anya Seton, who wrote lovingly researched historical romances, although she considered them biographical novels.
Lord Peter Wimsey books. Oddly enough I never particularly cared for mystery stories until I discovered Dorothy Sayers’ tales of an insouciant, aristocratic sleuth and his super-competent manservant. Prompted by the original BBC series, I looked up the books and fell in love. Then I discovered Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters and I was totaled hooked. Historical mysteries. What could be more fun?
Romance novels. I came somewhat late to the romance genre—not counting the Seton books. The early stories with the brooding, domineering hero and the subservient heroine were not my cup of tea, but when the stories changed to more realistic characters I became interested. Nora Roberts wrote stories I could get into. I particularly liked the ones with a paranormal theme—witches, Irish fairies and such. I could believe her characters. Since then I’ve discovered many wonderful writers, too many to mention. But one of my particular favorites is Jayne Ann Krentz. I encountered her via her Arcane Society novels and fell in love.
So that’s my odd list of books, authors and themes that have stayed with me and influenced my writing life. I written about horses and noble heroes, paranormal, mystery and romance. The only thing I haven’t yet done is something historical—which my husband keeps bugging me to do. Who knows I may have an American Revolution mystery waiting to emerge.
What about you? What books have been important in your life?
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