Tag: characters

characters

Good Bad Guys

 I binge-watched “American Greed” on Hulu tonight. The show, in its eleventh season, airs on CNBC. Stacey Keach narrates each episode which details a fraud investigation. The show doesn’t focus as much on the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who pursue the fraudsters as it does on the con artists who commit the crimes. That’s what fascinates me about the show—the look inside the mind of a criminal, what motivates a person to lie, cheat, and steal. I remember someone in one of my writing classes asked about creating an antagonist. I don’t recall the exact wording of the question but the gist was, how do you create a believable, relatable villain? The answer was, make sure the villain is the hero of his or her own story. Every villain has a reason for their actions. Their motivation for doing what they do makes sense to them even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. When I’m plotting a mystery the first things I figure out are whodunit, howdunit, and whydunit. Literature has given us spectacular villains, some as remarkable as the heroes they oppose. Professor Moriarty,  Mr. Ripley, County Dracula, The Joker, Cruella DeVil. In 2013, The Washington Post published a list of “best” literary villains.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-greatest-villains-in-literature/2013/09/12/fa7dd6c6-0e74-11e3-85b6-d27422650fd5_story.html?utm_term=.f6f39f348116 Who are some of your favorite bad guys? 

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PUB DAY!!!! An interview with Swiss Vendetta author Tracee de Hahn

 Publication day!!!! For my first book, it was the fulfillment of a dream, the culmination of years of work and the validation that I had not been crazy when I’d quit my journalism job to get “serious about writing fiction.” It was also terribly unnerving to know that my baby would now be out there, inviting judgment. I was uncharacteristically touchy the whole day, like a raw nerve. Today is fellow MissDemeanor Tracee de Hahn’s publication day for Swiss Vendetta, the first in her Detective Agnes Lüthi mystery series. Award-winning author Charles Todd called the mystery  “a true page turner” and the novel has been hailed as “tense, atmospheric and richly detailed.” She answered a few questions about her writing process and feelings about her big day for today’s blog.  Q. What was your inspiration for writing Swiss Vendetta? A. My husband is Swiss and we lived there for some years. It is a fascinating country. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful and orderly… until you notice the undercurrent of energy expended to keep it that way. The contradiction is fascinating and made me think of the elements of a mystery. There were a few other pieces that had to come together – the winter setting was inspired by the memory of a devastating ice storm some years ago in Geneva. The famous Château de Chillon on the shores of Lac Léman above Lausanne was the inspiration for my Château Vallotton (Lord Byron was also inspired by this location). After I had the location in mind, the plot and characters evolved. The crime at the center of the book came easily. Q. How do you come up with your characters? Are they modeled after people that you know? A. They certainly contain bits of people that I know, but the elements of the individuals are transformed into something wholly of my imagination. For example, one of my favorite characters in Swiss Vendetta is the aging Russian, Vladimir Arsov. His voice, his manner of speaking, and his confidence were all inspired by an Italian architecture professor I had the good fortune to know. Arsov’s life story was all my invention, but the reader will understand how the man’s presence – based on my friend’s – helped created the rest. Q. Do you picture the actress who would play your protagonist in a movie?A. I’ve thought about the cinematographic dimension of the book, but I haven’t thought about the actress who would play Agnes. Hopefully I’ll need to one day. Q. What was the most surprising thing about the book publishing process to you? A. The collegiality of the writing community, particularly those in the mystery and thriller genre. Writing is a solitary endeavor and they make it less so. I imagine that before the internet, authors wrote to one another. Now the immediately of the internet and the growing network of conferences mean that we can connect daily. There is much to be learned and this group is always willing to share. Q. Now that it’s launch day, are you happy, sad, relieved? All of the above? Why?… A. A combination of happy and relieved. I know myself too well, and while writing is solitary, a book is a shared experience. I wanted to be out and about at launch time. My publishers lined up a tour of several cities and I’ll be distracted for a few weeks. For the actual launch date, I am signing at one of my favorite book stores, in a city I love – Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. If you want to join me on tour, the events are all up on my website at www.traceedehahn.com Q. What is next for you?  A. Finalizing the second in the series and then starting the third! I think that the second is a psychological hurdle. I have a dozen ideas for the next one and hopefully the ones after that. Really, can’t wait to get started! 

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In Praise of Difficult Women

I like difficult women. Females unafraid to say exactly what they are thinking. Girls willing to bend the rules to do their version of the right thing. Strivers. Overachievers.People who will go to battle for what they want and who they love.  I like sensitive women. People who get insecure and jealous and angry and sad–the host of negative emotions that we all feel at some point and, too often, are encouraged to compact into our guts and cover with a smile.  Above all, I like complicated women. The kind of people who can be forthright, giving and kind in certain situations, but have days when stress makes them dismissive, selfish and dishonest–maybe even with themselves. I like women with chips on their shoulders and things to overcome. Vengeful and forgiving. Kind and selfish. Open-hearted and cagey.  These are the women that I write. And, they’re not always likable.  There is much debate over what makes a heroine in thrillers. Should the good girl be someone with whom the largely female book reading audience can root for the whole way through? Should she be a paragon of morality that has to fight through a dire situation? Or, should she be an amalgamation of positive and negative qualities? The kind of person complicit in her own misfortunes?  The recent success of books like Girl On A Train and Gone Girl have shown that readers will relate to fundamentally flawed female leads. Rachel Watson, the protagonist in Girl On A Train, is a raging alcoholic who drinks to the point of blacking out on a regular basis. She throws up on the stairs in a house she shares with a generous friend and is too drunk the next morning to clean it up. If that isn’t the roommate from hell, I don’t know what is. While author Paula Hawkins gave us some reasons to excuse Rachel’s behavior, it’s not until the end of the book that we have a full picture which, I think, would make even the hardest hearted readers forgive the main character. Until then, though, Rachel is a hot mess that few people would bother to befriend in real life.  For those who haven’t read Gone Girl, I won’t explain anything about Amy. But I think Gillian Flynn created a truly amazing character who isn’t particularly likable in either stage of the book (pre-reveal or post).  Plenty of people disagree with me. They want their heroines to be people morally worthy of their emotional attachment. If they’re rooting for them to win it’s because they are unequivocally deserve to.  What do you think?   

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Where do characters come from?

 Since I’m writing fiction, they are invented. Let’s make that clear. On the other hand: what does invented mean? I was trying to explain this to friends over the weekend and they had the inevitable questions about names and physical descriptions and other particulars that define a character. The easy answer is that my characters are amalgamations of people I’ve known. Someone’s eyes are mixed with another mouth and yet a third’s hair color. Voila, a fictional character. After all, I need my characters to do what I need them to do. We can skip the whole ‘my characters led me….’ discussion here. Yes, characters develop their ‘own’ personality and there are moments when you realize that what you’ve written doesn’t sound like them. But, trust me, I’m ultimately in control. They do not seize the keyboard (although if they would, that would be lovely. Ah to wake up and find that next scene written!). Back to the point… and the question posed over the weekend. A friend suggested I include one of our mutual friends in my next book. It was meant as a nod to someone we both admire, something he would think was fun and flattering. But wait. Does that mean I use his name and he’s a one-line character, a waiter in a passing scene, for example. My friend is most definitely not a waiter so it would be a fictional part, but he would read the name and know that I’d included him. Later, I jokingly asked if he would want to be the killer or the victim. He picked victim, specifically requesting a glamorous demise to start the book off in style. Now I have to draw the line. You see, I might not be able to separate the character from the person. I would want the real person to identify with ‘their’ character and, guess what, that would mean I’m no longer in control. I could drop the name of a contest winner in with no problem. I create the character and then assign the name. Both are ‘fictional’ to me. But to blend the fiction with the reality could be tricky. Anyone ever named their victim after a good friend? How’d that turn out?  

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