Monday, September 14, 2009

Fictional characters need to be real, too!

I've probably mentioned this before, but I'll do it again. My "training" is as a journalist. That's what I went to college for. It's what I did the first seven years of my "working" life. It's what I knew I was supposed to study.

And now I use that training to write fiction.

That may sound odd to some. Journalists are supposed to be impartial and objective. They are supposed to only report and let the readers make up their own minds. (Notice, I did say supposed to. I won't pretend to think that actually happens all the time. But that's how the trade is supposed to work.) On the other hand, some people may believe my journalistic training has only prepared me to write fiction.

Either way, my training has helped me breath life into my characters. Part of my training was done by the military — yes, I'm a DINFOS trained killer. So for years the government paid me to write about missions and aircraft. I quickly learned those are boring. It's the people who accomplish the missions and the people who fly and maintain that aircraft who are interesting. One of my instructors used to say "people like to read about people."

So my characters have to be real. Sometimes they're based on people I know. Often my characters are a mix of two or three people. My good guys aren't perfect and my bad guys have some redeeming qualities. (Hey, another writer once told me "the bad guys are the heros of their own stories.")

No one wants to look at a two-dimensional picture — one where there is no depth or contrast. The same is true for works of literature. Our characters must have depth and contrast and feelings and passions or else they don't work.

I'm curious, though. Who are your favorite fictional characters and why? Let me know!


P.S. Welcome Nerine and Melissa!

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