Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The one-way street called Pain

by Josh

When my characters suffer, do I? See full size image

I think the better question would be whether they feel pain when I suffer.

And I do.

For them.

Oh, how I suffer.

A centipede of late nights tramples down my waking days into a murk-bubbled swamp. The fuel of my imagination – oh, chocolate, sweet chocolate – harries the waistline of my poor innocent Levis. So much inane trivia have I accumulated to better fill out and realize my characters’ fictional lives that my brain now resembles a plastic pie piece cut in six.

Where is their sympathy, I ask you, when I’ve painted them into a corner? Are they satisfied lounging there at the intersection of perpendicular walls and fresh Sherwin-Williams? No. They expect me to somehow port them into the next room, as if the fact that I built this room assumed ample enough skill to carry them thither. Is an architect automatically qualified to be a navigator? Of course not. Do my characters care? Ha.

And how about the many times they’ve needed me to describe them? Such narcissists they are! And you better believe it’s not satisfactory to these demanding figments that I simply copy and paste a previously perfect adjectival phrase (even if their appearance hasn’t changed one bit). “Her hair was brown,” which apparently was good enough for Page 4, isn’t nearly good enough for Page 44 when her hair now has to be “chestnut” or “mahogany” or, God help me, “ecru.”

Where is their sympathy then?

Plus – PLUS – there are the very names themselves! I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve named a character Bill or Jack only to have my prose grind to a halt and why? Why? Because the character doesn’t want to be called “Bill” or “Jack” Nooo, the character would rather be called “Ophelio.”

For all this suffering, will they allow me to cry on their shoulders? No, sir. No, ma’am. Do I feel pain when they suffer? Please. They should count their blessings that I’m such a softie.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s late and I need to go fuel up on brownies so I can finish the scene where Ophelio gets dismembered. Ciao!


Still here? Good. Because I've got excellent news to report. Our own Meredith Cole has a new novel coming out this week. It is entitled Dead in the Water, the sequel to her Agatha-nominated 2009 mystery Posed for Murder, and here is its back cover hook:

Photographer Lydia McKenzie is taking portraits of prostitutes on the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when her art project takes a deadly turn. She discovers the body of Glenda, the star of her series, floating in the East River.

Lydia’s new boyfriend doesn’t want her to get involved in the investigation, and neither does NYPD detective Daniel Romero. But Glenda’s grieving mother begs her for help. So when the D’Angelo brothers, her bosses at the detective agency where she works as an administrative assistant, send Lydia out to the Williamsburg waterfront to catch their cousin’s cheating husband and bring back photos as evidence, she starts to do some sleuthing on the side.

When more hookers are murdered, Lydia teams up with a volunteer organization whose mission is to help women find a way off the streets. As she becomes more involved with the group, Lydia ends up questioning her choices, her relationships, her art, and her identity---all while she runs for her life from a killer who isn’t finished with a deadly rampage.

Intrigued? I know I am. So what are you waiting for, dudette? Go buy it!


Sophie Littlefield said...

oy joshua...describing characters is my least favorite chore...it feels like washing floors. I love naming them and would even go so far as to say i get a little help from the otherworldlies as names seem to just show up for me. But i rarely care how they look, and since i don't care it's hard for me to be specific. i know this is probably counter to most writers' experience...everyone says they run around with fully-formed people in their heads...and mine are fully formed emotionally but i am content to let them be sort of transparent blobs that the reader can attach his or her own ideas and visions to.

Long ago I used the old trick of cutting pictures out of magazines and referring back to them but that was only a cheat. Even now, when I know just about everything about my series character, I don't much care what she actually looks like beyond simple descriptors like "plain" and "not thin".

Joshua Corin said...

Sophie, I have a trick that's very similar to yours. Before I begin a novel or play or whatever, I "cast" my main characters using film and TV actors. This helps me keep track of them visually, because otherwise I'd be absolutely lost.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Fun post. You are cruel.:)

Characters are fussy, I agree. Mahogany hair, right. I do like describing them though, especially by their traits or mannerisms.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I laughed out loud when you called them narcissists! So true! Character physical descriptions are tough, especially now that Im on book three. How to keep them fresh?

Good luck dismembering Jack or Ophelio or whatever they're going to put on his tombstone.

Joshua Corin said...

Terry, I agree 100% that mannerisms are so much more fun to describe than physical appearance. Behavior is fascinating to me. Behavior is what makes a person a person.

Hair color - not so much.

Joshua Corin said...

Oh, Becky, that's implying they'll ever find the body...

Gabi said...

You and I have either got to get into some sort of Godiva 12-step program or just let our imaginary friends with funny names run amok. Great post.

Shane Gericke said...

And, Meredith's book has a GREAT cover, which I covet like my neighbor's ass and goat and stuff.

But first, Joshua, ACES sentence you wrote:

"A centipede of late nights tramples down my waking days into a murk-bubbled swamp."

Gave me the creeps reading it.