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The Premise Brings Readers in, but Characters make People Stay.

Or developing your story through interesting actors for fun and profit.

Picture yourself (no, not Lucy in the Sky...with or without Diamonds) walking through your favorite shopping center on a pleasant day. I'm assuming outside since malls are out of style. You're going to buy, perhaps, but you're not in the market for anything specific.

Now imagine (we're all creative people here) you walk past a shop window, and you see something that catches your eye. Advertisements for products that are displayed inside at a very reasonable price. So you go in, and look at let's say...oh, a new rod and reel or perhaps a French maid's outfit. Being modeled by a very attractive young woman. That should cover the range of interests. So you've committed to having a closer look. Now suppose the rod and reel have a picture of a cartoon character and are made of plastic. Or the maid's outfit is...not what you expected.

Oh, and for the sake of illustration, I'm including a picture of said French maid's outfit. Please have little Snirdley and Sissy Boo Boo leave the room. I won't be accused of corrupting youth...

So the fishing pole is useless to anyone over 5, and though the maid's outfit is being worn by a very pretty model...

Ok, enough about the fishing pole, we get that. But am I saying that a pretty model can only be interesting in something...prettier? From the cover of most novels you'd think so. What do you think?

You get the idea. Think back to Ford releasing the Edsel in the late 50's. I know, it's a history book item for me too no matter what people say. They spent millions on advertising...a very good campaign though it was overshadowed by the result. An unattractive car (take a look at the grille and see what it reminds you of...) that looks like it was put together by committee. It flopped and almost ruined the company.

You can't bamboozle the public with flash and no substance. Unless you are pushing pop music. More on that later...

What a slick cover and premise promise (hmmm...) you better deliver. Your delivery people work in your book. IF you've picked the right ones.

The way I do that is to correlate the character to a real person I've know. Alright, most of my characters come to me in dreams, but unless you have a friendly muse, you'll need an alternate plan. For example, in my book, The Arizoniacs, I needed a reprehensible character to play Frank's wife. (cue shameless promotion)

Buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy this book buy...

Now, I've been married previously, and have to watch my step so I don't repeat that episode. Soooo, what I can't do is make the character too ex-wife like. Or current wife-like. So what to do? What if you'd seen this really creepy creature crawl out of the swamp, and wanted to write about it, but were afraid to offend the creature?

*The previous comment was not meant to represent any actual person, living or otherwise*

You take the characteristics your protagonist (many times the person you'd like to be) finds reprehensible and push them into this rotten character. That way, you can use life experiences to make the character real. It doesn't always work, the near-ending turnabout in the Arizoniacs (buy this book) actually happened, but people think its a far-fetched plot twist.

Oh well, just go with it...

But hold on there, they may be evil, but protagonists have feelings too!

Well, maybe not feelings like you and I, being sensitive types. not make them cardboard! And yes, the term cardboard character is a cliche, but still valid. You must make them real. Remember, hardly anyone, even socio or psychopaths think they're evil. As much as you develop your protagonist to resemble a real person, so you must (you must also?) develop the antagonist. Otherwise, you have a cliche.

Not only that, but if the antagonist didn't have some interesting characteristics, everyone would just ignore them. It's like someone who gaslights or a classic manipulator, they have to at least fake it well enough to reel people in.

So I have to develop each and every character? That could take years!

It might. You know how artsy types are. But it doesn't have to. Think of it this way. You take a photograph of a group of people (or a group photograph, reminds me of my writing style) and if you have a good camera, only certain people are going to be clearly defined (get it?).

Those are the people central to the group being photographed. The poo-bahs, the beautiful people, the people who bribed you, with everyone else in support. Ah.....

If you developed every character, the work would be confusing. You need a filter, and that you. The more central to the story line, the more clearly (not in motivation, that could be hazy) they must be developed. A really good hint is to have someone who was gracious enough to honestly critique your book say...'well that certainly came out of left field!'

You want surprises, turnabouts, twists, and so on, but no absolute where the hell did that come froms! And writers do that, all the time. And it antagonizes readers. As neophytes, we can't afford to do that. Now watch somebody get noticed doing that...

You know the characteristics you want to write about. You have examples from your life. Put them together, to make an interesting and real actor in your book. Which brings up another good point. I picture my books as movies. That is a great way to visualize.

Next Week: Further developing characters.

We touched on it, making the antagonist interesting. In Martha Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Scarlett is a really, really self-centered little twit. Smart, but a twit. With sickeningly sweet simpering when she wants something. But she sells the story. How does that happen? Tune in next week for all the answers. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Oh, and I use hyperbole on this blog. I'd certainly never (buy this book, buy this book) endorse, condone, (buy this book) or stoop to anything as reprehensible as subliminal advertising. I mean that.

Until next time, be safe, well, and above all, happy! (buy this book)

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