Monday, August 19, 2013

Bringing Characters to Life

I was a first hand witness to something strange today. I literally saw characters come to life. And I'm not using the word literally as hyperbole. Here's the scoop:

someecards.com - I love that we can talk about fictional characters as if they were real and you still think I'm sane.
Recently my author friend, Jay Mims, guest posted on this blog for his book, Five Santas. His main character is a private investigator named Dan Landis. Well, today I got one of those emails that tells me I have a new comment on my blog post. Here's what it said:

Jay, 

My name is Dan Landis , I am a private investigator here in the state of Idaho and have owned an agency for 8 years. I thought it was so cool to see you wrote a book about me. I would love to meet you. Look me up sometime at D.L. Investigating llc. here in Idaho. 
Thanks 
Dan Landis PI.

I thought it was Jay joking with me. Come to find out, there's a real PI in Idaho named Dan Landis. I think Jay Mims has some sort of magic mojo to bring his characters literally to life. I wish I could do that! 

The idea got me thinking. What is it that makes our characters real, so real that teenage girls fall in love with them or so real that readers feel contempt for the antagonist and go around talking about him or her wherever they go? I know I've done it. I've read characters that became so real to me that I treated them like real people. 

1. Dialogue. I think one thing that makes characters real, at least for me, is dialogue. Can I tell a character's personality from the way they speak? Can I identify them by only reading their speech? So when I'm writing, I try to make sure that each person has a particular way of speaking.  

2. Actions. I'm talking the little actions. Those tiny idiocyncrasies that make a person real. Like the way my dad twists his moustache between thumb and forefinger when he's reading. Or how my mom will wipe her hands on a dish towel and carelessly toss the wet rag over her shoulder. These little details, interspersed throughout a book make the characters more realistic.

3. Flaws. Let's face it, nobody's perfect and if our character comes across to the reader as the perfect little kid or the stereotypical whatever, it's fake. The reader will see right through that. So no matter how 'goody two shoes' girl X is, she must have something that will bring out a devilish side of her. Or maybe that mild mannered guy who seems to have everything together is really impulsive and it's that impulsivity that gets him into the conflict. 

So readers, what is it for you? What makes characters so real they jump right off the page? For me, I'm going to start talking to Jay Mims to see what his secret is. After all, I've never had my characters contact me online!


Check out Jay's book. 

The Five Santas
Dan Landis is slumming it as a security guard at a department store. The money’s nice, but he also made sure Abbey has a job in the gift wrapping department. Dan chases a thief into the alleyway, only to discover the body of Santa Claus stuffed behind a dumpster. One body leads to another, and pretty soon Dan’s up to his ears in Yule Tide murder. He’s hired to protect the department store Santa, who appears to be more then meets the eye, but as the bodies keep piling up, Dan begins to smell something rotten in Denmark. Abbey being arrested might have something to do with that.

Open Book Society says “The author, Jay Mims, offers the reader a charming protagonist, whose wittiness defends against the violence surrounding him.”
Author Elizabeth Seckman says, “If you miss Moonlighting with Bruce Willis, you'll want to meet Dan Landis.”
And Jean The Book Nerd says, “Mims has provided us a great holiday/murder mystery story that is surely appreciated.”

6 comments:

  1. My name is Jay Mims, and I approve this message. Also, I love Jessie!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay. That is just to awesome. I would probably be worried the guy would sue me though. lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! Weird, right?

      Delete
  3. I would never sue Jay Mims. Ha ha . I was just so excited and amazed when I found out that there was an actual character in a book with my name and my profession. After reading the books Jay sent me I also find out that Dan Landis and myself Dan Landis are kind of similar with regards to our personalities. Thank you for your blog. I will follow it from now on. Although I have spoken with Jay on occasion, I would like to meet him someday. I think it would be a cool experience.

    Bye for now

    Dan Landis PI
    D.L. Investigating
    boiseinvestigators.com
    dlinvestigating@yahoo.com
    Boise, Idaho

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would never sue Jay Mims. Ha ha . I was just so excited and amazed when I
    found out that there was an actual character in a book with my name and my
    profession. After reading the books Jay sent me I also find out that Dan
    Landis and myself Dan Landis are kind of similar with regards to our
    personalities. Thank you for your blog. I will follow it from now on.
    Although I have spoken with Jay on occasion, I would like to meet him
    someday. I think it would be a cool experience.

    Bye for now

    Dan Landis PI
    DL Investigating
    boiseinvestigators.com
    dlinvestigating@yahoo.com
    Boise, Idaho

    ReplyDelete