It All Starts With Character

by | Jun 8, 2020 | Articles | 0 comments

“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.

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