It’s Okay. They’re Just Storybook Characters

BooksThe other day I read an article about the upcoming fall TV season, which mentioned that an actress on a top-rated show has decided not to return. It was followed by the usual comments. Some were sorry to see her leave, others thought the show would be better off without her. One comment was a bit odd. Among other things, the woman “prayed” for the characters.

Say what?

The highest compliment you can give any actor, or fiction writer, is to tell them their characters seem real. And the keyword here is, seem. They’re fictitious characters. They’re not actual living, breathing human beings, although they may seem very real in the pages or on the screen. And while prayers for the actors, or the writers, would certainly be appreciated, praying for a fictional character is a bit creepy. It sort of reminds me of Stephen King’s Misery.

Some of my characters; Ian Palmer, Samantha Walsh, Alex Montoya, and Jason and Gillian Matthews, were inspired by real people I’ve known. Meaning I drew on the personalities of real individuals to create the characters, but they’re all fictitious and most certainly not clones of their real-life counterparts. I go to a great deal of trouble to make my characters as three-dimensional as I possibly can, and yes, bad things happen to good people in my books. That’s because plot lines revolve around tension and conflict, followed by a happy ending. I love it when readers and reviewers say they cheered for my good guys, and wanted to smack my bad guys.

I’m glad you love my characters, and I’m always thinking up new ones. You can certainly say a prayer for the real-life people who inspired some of them, but please, not for the characters themselves. They’re not real. Sometimes I wish some of them were, but that’s a post for another day.

MM

Killing Characters Off

Photo by Fotolia.com

From time to time every novel writer has to deal with the (sometimes) unpleasant task of killing a character. It’s just one of those things that happens. Killing someone isn’t easy. (Well, at least some of the time,) but the only time I do it is when it’s necessary to enhance the plot.

This first time I killed someone off was when I wrote The Reunion. I must confess, it was a cathartic experience. Jason Matthews, Gillian’s ex husband, was one of the villains in the story. Interestingly enough, he was modeled after my real-life ex. Funny how these things happen. So poor Jason, (she writes tongue and cheek), meets an untimely end, and Gillian hears the story of his demise from a police detective. Did I mention that writing it was very cathartic? Afterwards I discussed it with several other lady authors. Many of them had also killed off their ex spouses–in the literary sense, of course. The lesson here, gentlemen, is if your wife or your girlfriend is an author, be nice to her. Your literary counterpart’s life may depend on it.

 I killed off another villain in The Deception. There were three villains in this story, two of whom were women. I killed one of the women, near the end of the story. Most of the plot had revolved around her conflict with Carrie, the leading lady. In the end, Carrie won battle, however this particular woman soon found a way to get even. Yes, I could have saved it for a possible sequel, but in this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. So, rather than have the storyline repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all. Besides, she had it coming. I also thought about killing Scott, the deceptive male villain who inspired the title, but this character had children, and I didn’t want to orphan them. Scott would instead end up seriously injured. He too had it coming. However, unlike Jason in The Reunion, none of the villains in The Deception were inspired by anyone I know in real life.

In my soon-to-be released novel, The Journey, I killed a supporting character from The Reunion. This time around the character wasn’t a villain. She was a character I honestly liked and I tried to come up with a way for her to survive, but when I did the story just wasn’t as strong. Her death was an intricate part of the plot. It happens early in the novel, but she still manages to maintain a presence in the rest of the story when other characters reminisce about her, or when they describe the dreams they have about her. Like The Deception, The Journey also has three villains, one male, two female, but this time around I didn’t kill any of them. After all, I don’t want to become too predictable.

MM

The Inspiration Behind THE REUNION

Reunion Loew CoverWebSometimes readers may think plots, storylines and themes of a novel are one in the same, but they are not. The theme is the idea behind the story. It’s the point the author wants to make. For me, the theme is the inspiration that compels me to write the story. The plot is simply how the idea is expressed.  The theme, or the idea behind The Reunion, is second chances. They say opportunity knocks but once, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, it may come again.

I’ve known people who’ve been lucky in life. They met the man, or woman, of their dreams at a young age. Things worked out. They got married, had a few kids, and, with hard work and determination, they lived happily ever after. Then there’s the rest of us. Either Prince Charming took a detour, or he turned out to be an impostor, or he got cold feet. Whatever the reason, we never got to have the “happily ever after” that we were promised.

Before writing The Reunion, I had a conversation with a man who told me about reconnecting with his long-lost high school sweetheart on Facebook. They hadn’t seen or heard from one another in years, but he found her, so he decided to take a chance. He contacted her. It turned out she was divorced, just like he was, so they reconnected. So far as I know, things worked out this time around, and it showed me that second chances really can happen. Sometimes people really do get a happy ending later in life. That conversation was part of my inspiration for The Reunion.

In The Reunion, Ian, Gillian’s Prince Charming gets scared and he gets cold feet. This happens when the two characters are young. After Ian ends it he moves to another another state. He soon realizes his mistake, but believing it’s too late, he marries the wrong woman for the wrong reasons. Gillian becomes a successful artist, but true love eludes her as well. Years later, fate intervenes. They meet again, and have a second chance.


The Reunion is a story of hope. The point I am making with my story is that true love not only never dies, it deserves a second chance.

MM

No, I Don’t Do Formula Writing

No SymbolI got the nicest compliment from a woman who told me how much she enjoyed reading The Deception. She compared me to Nora Roberts, which I thought was very kind. Then she told me that unlike Nora Roberts, I don’t use formula writing. I’ll admit I haven’t read that many Nora Roberts books, but she told me that every Nora Roberts novel follows the same pattern, and that her books are very predictable. What she liked about The Deception was that it wasn’t predictable at all. The plot twists kept her attention and kept her turning the pages.

Well, what can I say? I strive to create realistic, three-dimensional characters, and I try to write life-like story lines, (albeit somewhat exaggerated.) As I write I tune into my character’s minds. I try to see what they’re seeing and to feel what they’re feeling. I’m concerned about the conflicts they’re facing, and how they’re going to resolve them. I simply can’t worry about having to have the leading lady met the leading man by page ten, or about having my climax occur twenty pages before the novel ends. That kind of rigidness would destroy my creativity as stifle me a storyteller.

Real life isn’t a formula, at least mine isn’t. In my world Murphy’s Law is alive and well, and I came from a family that knows how to put the fun in dysfunctional. That kind of a background can be a real inspiration for writing a good story, therefore my character’s lives don’t follow a pattern either. Murphy’s Law is alive and well in their world, just like in mine. Life isn’t predictable. Neither are my novels.

MM

You Novel Writers are Evil

Kindle CoverThat’s a fellow author said to me the other day.  Of course, she didn’t mean it literally, (I hope), although she had a point. Some of the things we do to our characters is just plain mean. Then again, some of those characters have it coming.

I was telling her about Scott, one of the antagonists in The Deception. Let’s face it. Scott isn’t the nicest guy on the planet. He’s a married man who’s put himself out as a single guy, and his actions will hurt a lot of people, especially Carrie, my leading lady. Once she and her friends figure out that Scott’s stories aren’t adding up she ditches him, and I’d planned on writing him out of the story at that point. Then another author told me, no, I couldn’t just write him off so quickly. She explained that readers would expect him to be punished for what he did, and they’d be disappointed if he were able to simply walk away.

As I explained to my friend, I decided to take her advice. Later on in the book Scott is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’ll get his comeuppance in the form of a strip search. I told her that I went online and read testimonials by real people who’ve had the experience, and I based Scott’s story on those real-life accounts. That’s when she looked at me and said, “You novel writer’s are evil.” What can I say? She wrote a memoir, and I write fiction. Here’s the except. You be the judge.

MM

* * *

Scott let out a sigh. He was trapped in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. They arrived at the jail and once again he was taken into another small room for questioning. The door opened and a thirty-something blonde woman entered, taking her seat across the table from him.

“Finally, a friendly face.”

“Hello there, Scott. My name is Deputy U.S. Marshall Diane Hall, and I’ll be taking care of your booking. After we’re finished, Billie Hughes, with the Phoenix FBI office, wants to talk with you.”

She handed Scott over to two male deputies. Once again, he was taken away be photographed and fingerprinted. When they finished he was escorted into another room.

“Okay,” said one of the deputies. “I want you to slowly and carefully remove each item of your clothing, one at a time, and hand it over so we can inspect it.”

“Why?”

“It’s routine, sir. Take off the shirt, then your shorts, and your shoes and socks.”

Scott did as he was told. When he was done, he was standing in his underwear.

“Did you not hear me, buddy? Remove your drawers and hand them over.”

“What? Then I’ll be standing here naked.”

“That’s why we call it a strip search.”

Scott removed his underwear and handed it over. As he stood naked, one of the deputies looked inside his mouth, ears, and armpits before looking down to closely inspect his genitals.

“Don’t you dare touch me!” Scott felt both embarrassed and humiliated.

“I’m not going to touch you, however, you’re going to lift it up so I can have a look underneath.”

Scott had no choice but to comply. It was a horrible experience. Once the deputy was finally finished the other picked up a flashlight.

“All right, spread your legs, bend over and grab your ankles. You’ll remain in that position until I tell you that you can move.”

“What! Are you kidding me? Why are you doing this? I’ve been accused of a non-violent crime.”

“Sorry, it’s routine. You’re going into the general jail population. We have to search you for contraband.”

Scott bent over. For the first time in his life, he knew the feeling of being violated. It was the most humiliating experience of his life and the deputy seemed to be taking an unusually long time. When they finally finished, they led him to a shower. They watched him while he showered, and handed him an orange jail suit with a pair of open-toed rubber shoes when he was done. As soon as he was dressed, he was taken to an interview room, where Billie Hughes was waiting. As he took his seat, she opened her folder, removed a photo, and pushed it across the table toward him.

# # #

It’s Jarring, Life Shattering, and It Can Happen in an Instant

Photo by Fotolia.com

I’m starting to get feedback on The Deception.  For the most part it’s been good, with some minor criticism here and there, but that’s to be expected. After all, none of us can please all readers all the time. However, one comment I’ve received is about the sudden end to one of the characters. I’m told it was jarring and over the top.

Warning! Spoiler Alert!

I decided to kill one of the characters off in a traffic accident, and no, I don’t warn you about it. That’s because it’s one of those things in life that really does happen, without warning, for the victims or their survivors, and afterwards life is never the same. It’s a reality I know all too well. About ten years ago I lost a young cousin to a car crash. It was completely unexpected. One minute he was a healthy twenty-year-old man, and the next minute he was gone forever.  My own life hasn’t been the same since 1992, when I was sideswiped by an armored car going sixty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five mile per hour zone. I came around a bend, saw him coming at me from the opposite direction, and hit the accelerator, hoping I could get out of his way in time. Didn’t quite happen. I’m still alive, obviously, but it left me with a permanent injury. Twenty years later I’m still flabbergasted about how my life was changed so suddenly.

That said, my decision to kill one of my characters in a car accident may indeed seem over the top for some of you. Others, however, disagree. Since the character who is killed is one of the “bad guys,” I’ve also been told that the scene made them fell vindicated, and they thought it was the character’s “bad karma” that got them there.

Like it or not, it’s one of those over-the-top things that really does happen to people, and it happens all too often. I guess the point I’m making is to never take life for granted. It can, without warning, come to a sudden end.

My thought for the day.

MM