Friday, 30 July 2010

This is NOT a Book Review...

This is not a book review. It really isn’t. So remember, when you read my next words—even though it LOOKS like a book review of a book and character I'm crazy about—it only seems that way. So...since you can't see my nose growing like Pinocchio, I'll continue.

The big focus lately in my writing journey has been on my characters. A lot of thought has gone into whether they’re real, whether a reader will embrace them. Naturally, my mind motored to other writers’ characters, particularly the ones who impressed me the most, the ones who still linger in my mind.

I zeroed in on one specific writer, a specific character. And that is the hero from LA Heat by P.A. Brown. The character? David Eric Laine. Oh, I even love his name. Not just David Laine. But David ERIC Laine.

David Eric Laine is a cop, one of Los Angeles’ finest. He’s a hunky package of testosterone in a not-conventionally handsome package. He’s not classically good looking. He’s big—what? pushing six-foot-four?—pock-marked face, swarthy, curly dark hair. Not a face that would draw stares on the street, but he IS the kind who can knock the knickers off you if you accidentally venture too close to his powerful masculine vortex, his smoldering chemistry. I believe P.A. Brown described him as a young Tommy Lee Jones. In short, MY kind of man. The kind of man I’d want to bed, to do everything to that is implied with ‘bedding’ him. The kind of man I would notice on the street, who I’d throw myself on the floor in front of in a bar.

In LA Heat, we’re introduced to the love of David Eric Laine’s life, the most beautiful man he’d ever seen—gorgeous, blond, well-dressed, classy computer geek Christopher Bellamere.

Since this is NOT a book review, I won’t tell you the story, only that this exquisite creature is the catalyst that brings David out of the closet where he’s been hiding his homosexuality. They begin a relationship that could be a ride at Six Flags—ups and down, hot, cold, crazy sexy, confusing. Christopher Robin Bellamere, in LA Heat, is a serial killer suspect, but his draw on the rugged cop is so strong that even this factor can’t keep them apart.

David Eric Laine refinishes furniture, has a modest house filled with these pieces, owns an antique Victrola, listens to 78’s of Alexander’s Got a Jazz Band Now and Chuck Berry. Diverse tastes. My man.

Laine’s not perfect, which I love about him. Sometimes I even want to kick his ass but then I think about his hairy chest and belly and his fat nipples and I forgive him.

To me, David Eric Laine is real. I believe him. I know him. I can see him, touch him, smell him, make love to him, knock him upside the Tommy-Lee-Jones-look-alike head then kiss him and make it better.

THAT, to me, is the power of writing a character. P.A. Brown did it in David Eric Laine.

Hell, I’ll even reveal a secret about myself that will tell you just how powerful this character IS to me.

Going through a particularly difficult spell of worrying recently with a family illness, I told Pat Brown that David was the kind of man I’d like to snuggle with at night. Not that he could make things go away, but he would at least be a real, solid, warm, cozy shelter to scrunch into. THAT is how real David Eric Laine seems to me. Not being able to think of any real-life men I knew to fit the bill, I instead dragged this fictional character into my mind who—oddly—is as real as any flesh and blood man I know.

I’ll even go so far as to confess that I even, for a fleeting moment—before reminding myself, for God’s sake, this man is make-believe—got jealous of annoyingly beautiful but lovable Christopher Bellamere because my dream man, David Eric Laine was with HIM and slept with HIM. Hmph!

This admission on my part will tell you one of two things: I am certifiably crazy, which may be true. Who knows? Or that P.A. Brown has painted one hell of a good character who the reader has to remind themselves he is indeed fiction. Many other readers, though, can attest to David Eric Laine’s believability and his charisma.

Like I said, this is NOT a book review. I know, I know, it sure looks like one. Why, if this were a book review, Iwould  leave a link to LA HEAT and all of P.A. Brown’s books, like THIS link: . And, furthermore, if this was a review, I'd give LA Heat a thousand-star rating. But do you SEE a rating anywhere here? See? Told you it wasn’t a review! It just….well…looks like one.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Truly Yours...

In a writers’ group recently, I participated in a really good conversation about knowing our characters, getting into their heads and—most importantly, being true to them.

The discussion began with a question of mine, a doubt about how quickly my two main characters fell in love. I hadn’t intended for them to fall with the speed of a piano from a five thousand story building. But they did. Without even consulting me, they just did it. The wonderful, inexplicable kind of love where they didn’t know when it happened or how it happened. It just happened.

In this snippet, I tried to explain it through my characters:

He rested his hand on my chest. “So we’re together now in your bed. Why are you crying?”

Because I love you, because I loved you the first time I saw you. I don’t know why, but I did. My heart ached with his beauty. Tender pain filled me because he wasn’t shocked or disgusted by my tears, only curious. I smiled. “I don’t know.”

Even so, I still had doubts as to the realism of this situation. Questions raced in my mind. Could two real people fall so fast? Should I have given them more time to develop their love? Does this happen in real life? Did I need to expand the story to create a more substantial reason for them to fall in love? If they are two men, does this make a difference in the time frame for love? Will a reader believe these two could have such an attraction? What to do? What do to?

Of course, I fell back on the advice: Be true to your character.

If the characters are spawns of my imagination—if I created them, who exactly am I going to be true to? Is there a formula, a psychology for individual characters, that a writer uses? Or is it just plain gut feeling? Questions, questions.

My big fear is that by driving their emotions and actions with my own instincts, they are merely doing what I would do, not what real people in real scenarios would do.

For example: I love to write gangsters, tough guys. The mobster guy image is only in my imagination, but do I really know what a gangster would do emotionally? Be true to the character, be true to the character, my inner voice beckons. Does that mean I pattern him after Edward G. Robinson or George Raft every time? Or can MY mobster maybe BE a teddy bear inside, be all schmaltzy, maybe even cry sometimes? A secret? The guy who’s crying in the snippet I shared? He’s a big tough guy. So maybe George Raft would never cry. My guy would.

But is it okay for him to cry? To be silly in love so fast?

This my question for you: What does being true to your character mean to YOU? Does it mean you research your characters’ types and go by actual personalities of real-life people? Do you have a rule of thumb: certain types would never do certain things?

Or do you just go by YOUR gut and put a big heaping dose of yourself into your creations? Do you let go and just let them…be?