“Sahno offers a compelling vision of a community whose need for companionship and support in the face of life’s struggles is stirring.”
“The characters are deep, well thought out…”
“I read this novel in a few short days, drawn in by a believable plot and characters who seem to have walked out of real life.”
“Each character had a great vision and I could see them all clearly.”
When it comes to discussing their own work, most authors opt for modesty. That’s as it should be. But sometimes one has to talk a bit about what one does well. (Or, in this case, quote a few Amazon reviewers.)
Not long ago, I posted a brief blog post about my ear for dialogue. I’m not inordinately proud of having it, as I didn’t purposely work toward such a goal. It’s natural for me, given my background and history.
What A Character
Character, however, is another matter. I’ve always been drawn to character-driven novels, even those that eschew plot in favor of a surreal approach—think Burroughs, Selby, Brautigan, and so on. For me, characters are much more essential to a novel than the nuts and bolts of a plot, even in TV and movies. I find it fascinating that recent developments in the current “Golden Age” of TV have largely sprung from The Sopranos, a character-driven series that often ignored complex plot devices in favor of great performances from compelling characters.
In my own work, I’ve gone to some extremes to develop characters that, in retrospect, strike me as pretty odd. One example that comes to mind is Miles of Files. For that novel, I had three tiers of characters, an idea I’d adopted—okay, stolen—from a lesser-known Dickens novel, Dombey & Son. Primary characters, of course, were the main focus. The secondary characters were nearly as important, but served something of a different purpose. To a certain degree, the primary, struggling characters were pitted against mainly affluent secondary characters. And, as in Dombey & Son, the tertiary characters were commentators who passed on information about primary and/or secondary characters.
I wanted to be sure each character was unique and different enough from the others that the reader could easily identify them in a few lines each time they appeared. So I assigned Myers-Briggs personality types to every character in the book, then tried to let them guide me from that basis.
And Now, For Something Completely Different
For my upcoming July release, Whizzers, I had to get into characters in a much different manner than ever before. Some of them are actual historical figures—and, of course, all the usual legal disclaimers apply—but, more importantly, many are real people from my own life.
The main character is a fictionalized version of yours truly, with some directly autobiographical elements not only from my own personality, but also from recollections of life experiences. I also drew on the life experience of other people close to me. I’d rather not write too much more about it, as I run the risk of creating spoilers ahead of my own book’s publication. Suffice to say that most of the characters in this next novel are close to my heart, and some have lived there for many years.
It’s always impossible to guess what kind of reception a novel will get, but I’m more than a little interested in what kind of reception Whizzers will get. I think the characters are so close to the bone, they’ll lift the book higher than anything I’ve done before. But maybe the subject matter will do so, too. Whatever the case, I’m excited to see what happens in July. And when the dust from that release settles, I’ll be just as interested in seeing what the characters in my next book will do. I always am.