Monday, January 12, 2009

Q & A 162

In your weekly writing exercises, you invite your minions to befuddle/bludgeon/blow the character known as Evil Editor. Regular followers of your blog will be familiar with the traits of this terrifying being, and the exercises might work equally well with Batman or Sulu or anyone else whose persona is already well established. Novels are not like this. Novels are new and full of new characters, each of whom must be crafted and presented from scratch. As a discerning editor, what do you look for in a writer's emergent characterisation to help you choose whether to read on or reach for the shredder?

Actually, nowadays novels are like this. Stephanie Plum, Anita Blake . . . James Bond. Come up with a cool main character, and you get to use him/her over and over. In some cases it's not the author we love, it's the character.

As for what I look for in a character, it's someone who's not an idiot, someone who's funny, someone I would love to spend many hours with. In other words, someone like me.

Authors I've edited have, admittedly, been annoyed at times to discover that their main (and other) characters, who were in many ways similar in personality to the authors themselves, turn out to be, in the book's final version, similar in personality to Evil Editor. This may at first glance seem to be a matter of inflated ego, but I consider it a business decision. Readers are clearly less likely to buy a book whose characters are grounded in the life experiences of the author than in those of Evil Editor.


Brenda Bradshaw said...

Yup, Stephanie Plum was the first to come to mind for me too. And it's the same for the Twilight Saga. I think (but I'm not sure) that Nora Roberts' "In Death" series is all about the same people too but I've only read one, I can't be sure. I just finished the Enchanted Inc series (Enchanted Inc., Once Upon Stilettos and Don't Hex with Texas *I missed the third one in the series*) that does it too. It seems to be more popular than ever to recreate a world readers love so it's not a singular circumstance and many examples are out there.

Phoenix said...

Question poser, you are either a poor, deluded soul or an astute crafter of fiction. Discerning editor indeed! Have you READ this blog?

Or, more likely, did EE edit your question before posting it?

I'm also thinking you must be one of those literary types. How else would you not be aware of the multitude of titles (pubbed with the studios' blessings) based on popular TV and movie MCs? Or gaming-based books? Or shared-world stories? I bet you make a classist distinction between lowly commercial books and snooty literary novels, don't you?

The good news is that even you
can have a successful career as an author without ever having to emerge a character of your own. Write-for-hire positions are in great demand. Just don't forget the © when submitting your audition packet.

Sarah Laurenson said...


Oh my.


Love this one, EE.

Xenith said...

Arck. Now I'm seeing EE as the main character in my WIP. Oh dear. I do hope your vocabularly is a little, um, broader.