Thursday, March 12, 2009

Creating Original Characters... NOT

I have to confess. I've just had a change in heart. For some time now I have been 'reviewing' mysteries for my own learning purposes. I've been dissecting them and studying them, and I have found it incredibly helpful. I have learned so many things by watching what other people have done, seeing how they solve problems, admiring what they do well, and considering what I think they could have done better.

But I just came to a shocking revelation. These books are written by people. Who knew? And I've been encountering some of these people in other places on the web. So while I might continue writing book reviews, I'm going to step back and apply a little 'do unto others' and NOT parade what I consider an author's gravest errors all across my blog.

But I also do not have to tell you the title or the author's name to share what I have learned from reading a book. So let's give this a try, shall we?

The book I'm currently reading is entertaining, but I'm seeing some issues with character development. It's not that I don't like the characters--on the contrary. The characters are comfortable and familiar, which is something that you want in a cozy mystery. But they are almost too familiar. I've seen them before in other places.

While characters might be like those found elsewhere, it is, I believe, a mistake to make them so like familiar characters that people recognize them from the movies, television shows, and even other books from which they are drawn. They might be a certain type, but there needs to be something unique and something real about each character.

Say, for example, I wanted to pattern a character after Barney Fife. He was a funny character, and I think he'd make a great addition to my story. But rather than write in a clone named Barry, I should give serious thought to which characteristics of Barney I want to keep. Then I need to give him a unique name, and unique background, mannerisms, etc.

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