“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.

isolation

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #4: Isolation vs. Solitude

I’m a loner With a loner’s point of view —Bruce Cockburn, “Loner”   Writing a novel is a solitary activity. We all know this. And while there are some exceptions to the rule—screenwriters who work on a team in a “writer’s room,” partners who write a book...

And So The Tour Ends

Well, it's finally over: the blog tour for the relaunch of Miles of Files ends today with a stop at Novelgossip, hosted by the fabulous Amy. I say fabulous because, man oh man, has she got a following! Not even four o'clock, and already 33 bloggers have liked the...

How Do You Write About Sex—Seriously, Irreverently, or Not At All?

“Writing about sex is like engaging in sex: it’s hard. Or, it should be.” —Sean Murphy   Today I want to talk about fictional scenes where characters either discuss sex or engage in sexual activity. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, because I’m working...

Miles of Files: Where Did It Come From?

I wrote my third novel between about 2007 and 2015. I can’t say it took a full eight years to write – I got stuck in the final third for a couple years – but it was an ambitious project. I’d gone from a third person novel to a first person novel, and now I was going...
reaper

COVID-19: The Reaper that Keeps on Reaping

Last week I wrote about the trials and tribulations of my immediate family. I’d love to brag about how much better things are this week, but…eh…not so much. While we were contending with my mother going from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility, we had some more...
knucklehead

Knuckleheads Who Want to Argue on the Internet: Get a Life

Back around 1990, I heard one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard a husband say about talking to his wife. I was sitting in a 12-step meeting and the man explained that certain conversations with his spouse sounded like she was trying to bait him into an argument....
gratitude

Should Every Month Be Gratitude Month?

When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. I read it daily and collected nearly every paperback volume of the cartoon, so I could see what I’d missed since the comic strip’s inception in 1950.  Certain things stuck: quotes like “happiness is a warm puppy”...
ledge

Nightmare On Acid Street

In my mind, I flash back to a time years ago, and the image strikes me with peculiar clarity—the dismal boarding house where I lived when I was newly sober, the shattering acid flashback with its neon cockroaches skittering across the dirty ceiling. Then, further back...
copyright

Does Copyright Still Matter in the Digital Age?

One thing about working as a full-time freelance writer: it’s usually feast or famine. That means exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes you’re so busy that you almost forget to market your business, and other times, you’re looking for more projects. This month is one...
marketing

Why I Don’t Want You to Buy My Latest Book—Yet

​One of the biggest challenges indie authors face is that of marketing. We ask ourselves a million questions when putting together a marketing plan, often with answers that are hazy at best. Who is my audience? Where do they find books? What marketing services should...