“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.”

When it comes to discussing their own work, most authors opt for modesty. That’s as it should be. But every once in a while, you have to talk a bit about what you do well. (Or, in this case, quote a few Amazon reviewers.)

A while back, 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.

Character, however, is another matter.

 

What A Character

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 created 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 mostly affluent secondary characters. And, as in Dombey & Son, the tertiary characters were commentators who passed on information about primary and 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 most recent novel, 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 autobiographical elements not only from my own personality, but also from recollections of life experiences. I drew on the life experience of other people close to me as well. Suffice to say that most of the characters in this book are close to my heart, and some have lived there for many years.

Whizzers received the best reception of any of my novels, eventually reaching #9 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction. I think the relative success of the book is simply because the characters are so close to the bone, but maybe the subject matter did it. I can’t say I know for sure.

Whatever the case, now that I’m working on my next release, I’m just as interested in seeing what those characters will do. I always am.

speaking

On the Road: The Speaker’s Life

A few months ago, I wrote a post about annoying current expressions like having said that and at the end of the day. That post came up in conversation this past weekend on a long, long trek to Miami and back. You see, when you spend nine or ten hours in a car with...

But What If I’m Sick?

Last month my wife and I went to Thailand for a two-week vacation. This was my first real vacation in over two years, and my wife Sunny’s first visit back to her family in her country of origin in even longer. So we really needed and, I think, deserved it. And...

What a Character

I was recently reading another author's blog, and saw a post about the writing process, and in particular the naming of characters. I wondered, Are people really interested in reading about this? I couldn't help thinking that only writers are so interested in other...

All the News

It's been crazy busy for me lately, and this blog got neglected because Monday - my normal blog post date - was the 4th of July holiday. I know, I should have worked anyway, right? Isn't that what everyone does these days? Work any day and every day? Well, the heck...

But I’m Too Busy to Blog!

If you're like me, you're a committed writer: maybe you keep to a rigorous writing schedule, or maybe you have actually written a full-length book or books. Chances are good that if you're reading this, you're also a blogger. Maybe you even have a blog like this one....

Facebook vs. Twitter

The news that Microsoft will be acquiring LinkedIn just sent shockwaves through the social media world, immediately leading to speculation about Twitter. Is it going to be next? We all assume that Facebook is not for sale, but in our topsy-turvy media world, I suppose...
technophobia

Technophobia: A Writer’s Confession

To today's computer-savvy readers, "technophobia" might sound like a quaint leftover from the 20th century. You remember, right? Back in the 1980s, guys like me wrote poems of dismay about the invasion of technology into the arts. I still remember the words I penned...

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out. Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth...
collection

A Free Short Story Collection

Last week I wrote a bit about the upcoming Rides From Strangers short story collection, as I finally got the completed cover design. Today’s post is related, but with a little twist. As I mentioned a week ago, I’m offering this e-book free to anyone who joins the...
writer

Are You The Kind Of Writer Who Reads A Lot?

When I was in high school, I had a real dilemma: I loved the books the teachers assigned us, and as a result, the teachers loved me. Naturally, that meant some of the other students hated me. Now, I should clarify this by saying that I didn't always love what I was...