Thursday, February 13, 2014

People, Not Characters

Ernest Hemingway once wrote: "When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature."
In my novels I've tried to create living people, which means they are a mixture of good and bad, of noble and despicable qualities. They have many flaws, but they're also capable of kindness and grace. Like real people.
I've gotten some feedback from readers through emails and reviews on Amazon, but last night I had a chance to speak to some readers face to face, and I got some valuable insights about my characters.
For the first time ever, I went to a book club where the members were discussing one of my books, "Rose Of Skibbereen". I was nervous about going, but the members put me at ease right away, and it ended up being a truly enjoyable experience.
It was a special evening for a fiction writer, to sit there and discuss my characters as if they were real people. The members asked me questions about why Rose did something, or what was Peter thinking when he made yet another foolish decision, and as I gave them my answers it occurred to me that it was like explaining why someone in my family did something.
And that was the best part, because I realized the characters had come alive for these readers. They were not caricatures or cardboard figures, they were living people, warts and all. People whose lives you can get caught up in, which is why we read stories in the first place.
I couldn't be happier about the book club meeting last night. It was a special experience for an author, and I'd love to do it again. So, readers, if you have a book club and you'd like to invite me, contact me at mcdonnellwrite@gmail.com, and we can discuss the logistics. If it's possible for me to come, I'll be there.
I love discussing my people.