Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Between The Pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

It’s all about characters

     If you ever thought about writing a novel, the first thing that you must consider is how to cultivate your characters. I believe that the development of your characters far outstrips the plot in order of importance. If you plan on doing a series, your plots will vary but the characters need to be constant.

     To be sure, the characters can experience growth through seasoning but the persona remains intact.

     Readers like to identify with something or someone and it’s up to the author to provide an avenue for that connection. That connection doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic; it just needs to be captivating. That undertone is the single most important factor in the success of romance novels.

     People with faces score very high on the list. Characters need substance and it means a lot if they’re likeable. I like it when somebody tells me that they can picture a certain movie star in the role of one of my characters. When I hear that, I know I’ve achieved my goal.

     A name helps too. “Mike Hammer,” immediately conjures up the vision of the consummate tough guy. John Smith takes me nowhere. Be creative.

     Your character doesn’t have to be human either. Animals have had quite a bit of notoriety over the years and they’re easier to picture. When someone says Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin it’s pretty easy to pull up the image.

    Sometimes even a location can be a character. I can recall listening to Daniel Keyes lamenting that when Cliff Robertson bought the movie rights to “Flowers for Algernon,” he moved the locality from Boston to New York. Daniel asked the question. “Can’t he see that the city is a character?”

   In my series, I created a hideaway in a remote area of Michigan’s upper peninsula where the terrain is every bit as rugged as Alaska. My little deep forest sanctuary has definitely developed it’s own personality.

    As always, these are simply my thoughts on the subject and I welcome comments and questions.

2004 Past Columns

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.