Getting to Know Your Characters

Here’s a question I have to ask myself often—how well do I know my characters? Yes, I can describe them (features like hair, makeup, dress, etc.) but do I really know them? A few years ago I met a long-lost half-brother. We talked and he was quiet, reflecting on a father he hardly knew. But, I never understood him until he told me about a letter he had written to his father. The response he got, and the way he reacted, gave me clues about the depth of his feelings. When I saw my half-brother walk away, he had the same gait as my father and my eyes were opened fully to his character. In writing, there is that elusive search to reveal a character by his or her actions, rather than through description. They give away their true identity with a gesture, body position, speech and response. In my latest novel, many of my characters are build upon people I know quite well, but others have to be fabricated from observations, etc. My goal is to have none of my characters appear flat (as in this cartoon). And, here’s a secret, one of the key characters in my book is a little like me—Oh, very well, a lot like me!

Sentence Lengths Revisited

The standard cliché regarding sentence lengths in a novel is to vary them, to keep the reader interested in the action. I agree, but with this caveat–the sentence lengths and variation should also suit the pace of the plot. For example, in my latest novel, sentences are longer when the pace is slower, and shorter when the action or drama increases. The following illustrates this contrast (using ProWritingAid). You can guess which chapter contains fast—paced action and which is slower? This will why I ignored the red dot warning in in chapter 15! Such analysis is a useful guide to writers.

New Novel now in Editing Phase

My new novel is now ‘finished’ and what a relief after much travel and months of research. I say ‘finished’ metaphorically since this is only the draft manuscript—a rough version with completed plot. Now I am enjoying the task of reviewing the draft, making corrections and adding/deleting to improve the flow, etc. However, it is quite exciting to be so close to the final copy, and I hope to be finished in about a week. After that, I will have a few people read through and feedback comments. I very much value this part of the process before seeking a publisher, simply because fresh eyes can pick up small errors and suggest improvements that I may have missed. How happy am I with the new book? Hmm, time will tell. However, I can say that I am pleased with the plot. It was quite strange this time to figure out the final chapter when only about one third of the book had been written. Now that the plot has caught up, the last chapter only needed a few added details to make it work well. If you are interested in a peek of this new novel, or would like to add your name to an early release, please drop me a note.

3 Wise Men – Revised Thriller Now on Kindle

Today, 3 Wise Men was released in Kindle again! This is a completely revised version, with an extra 3000 words and, hopefully, more drama and tension. Most chapters had improvements and, in my humble opinion, it is a better read.

Don’t miss this chance to enjoy a great thriller, set in exotic locations in southern France and Italy. Of course, please give feedback as it is taken seriously and helps the next book too. For example, my wife and I had someone join us for dinner last night and our guest was reading 3 WISE MEN but thought a word was not the ‘right’ one. After giving it some thought – lots of thought – after they had gone, I made the change and it fitted better. The formatting was finished by today and the new book uploaded (with my friend’s suggestion) less than 24 hours later. Oh, the delights of self-publishing!

Speaking of the next book, how is it going? I’m pleased you asked. Over Christmas and the New Year, excellent progress was made and I hope to finish the draft version in just a few weeks.

New Reader Feedback and another ***** Review

Just in from Jerry D. in Florida:
“I just finished your novel! Thanks for sending it along! What’s not to like? Tech, spy craft, maths, sex, guns, exotic locales, adventure, dark and ancient secrets, weapons of war, plot twists and turns, and more!”
Thanks for your comments Jerry, and even more for your support and enthusiasm over the years. [Jerry has been such a great friend and showed me and my family wonderful hospitality when we stayed in the USA.]
And, on a side note, the following was added to the 5-star review on Amazon – “You won’t believe it until you read it – and I wouldn’t read it alone!”

Inspiration to start that new novel?

What is the kick-starter to a new novel? For me, it was the clear head and fresh inspiration I soaked up when traveling to new places. SPY CHASE lay dormant for too long, until the spark to get writing began after a few days in southern France. I am not sure exactly what it was, but I needed to be in the surroundings that formed the basis for this thriller – to soak up the details required to be authentic in the novel’s details. Some might argue that the details don’t matter – after all, it is a novel, right? Not for me though. I simply wanted to be able to put my readers into real situations and genuine locations, even down to the colors and scents that I embraced during this writing adventure. I am now in the process of working on thriller #2 but will again need to see and feel the atmosphere and specific features of new locations. Well, I must get some fares booked soon before it is too late to get started!

Stormy Clouds Gather over Italy

Cumulonimbus clouds are those rising columns of unstable air that you often sea on a hot summer’s day. In 3 WISE MEN, Jak’s flight from Rome is directed away from these ‘serpent heads’ soon after takeoff. Let’s pick up the conversation between the control tower in Rome (at Fiumicino Airport) and Jak’s flight.

[“Fiumicino tower, Alitalia ten-twenty-six. Climb and maintain thirty-two-thousand.”

“Up to thirty-two-thousand, Alitalia ten-twenty-six,” Captain Bruno replied.

“Roger, flight ten-twenty-six. Head three-two-zero to Genoa to avoid cumulonimbus storms building over Tuscany. Genoa will guide you into Milan. Have a pleasant flight, ten-twenty-six.”

“Copy, Fiumicino. Roger and out.”

As they leveled off, the cockpit brought an update.

“This is Captain Bruno speaking. We have now reached a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet and are on a heading that follows the Italian coast to Genoa. This will take us away from bouncy air over the Apennine Mountains. Although we have clear skies ahead of us, we advise all passengers to remain seated with your seat belts fastened.

“Expected landing time in Milan is now 4:15pm and local weather is cloudy with a ground temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. Rain is forecast for later in the evening. I will give you an update closer to our arrival. Now please sit back and enjoy your flight.”

He turned to the Co-pilot.

“It’s all yours from here.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

Captain Bruno released the controls, sat back in his seat and scanned ahead to a large expanse of blue sky. At 1 o’clock, a bank of dark-gray clouds rose above the horizon, their billowing serpent heads appearing angry through his polarized glasses. To his trained eye, they seemed stationary and too distant to bother them.

“It should be a comfortable flight,” he announced confidently, unaware of the severity and speed of the brewing storm – ]

3 WISE MEN is available in Kindle or paperback format from Amazon.

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