I’m so happy to have Cassie Stocks, the author of Dance, Gladys, Dance, guest posting on my blog today. If you didn’t read my review of her book yesterday, go check it out! You can also read an excerpt HERE
Join me in welcoming Cassie -
The Problems of Characters
My name is Cassie Stocks and I have a character problem. It’s not that I have trouble creating them or that, once created, they wreak havoc on my carefully crafted story. The problem is that they appear too regularly in my beleaguered brain. If I let my mind have its way, I’d be writing Russian-style novels in which the reader would have to keep a list of all the characters in order to follow the story.
The problem is once a character occurs to me, they seem to arise fully formed and oh so interesting that to not use them seems like some form of murder. How to relegate a named person with foibles and dreams and an interesting past to the ‘Not Using’ file?
Sometimes I don’t have to, the character Girl (just about everyone’s favorite) in Dance, Gladys, Dance was originally to be a bit character, but once she emerged in all her disheveled glory, I kept on with her and she ended up being an integral part of the story (let me apologize in advance for what happens to her). Marilyn, the wildly drunken screenwriter, appeared because someone needed to answer the door in the deadbeat hotel that Frieda is taken to visit. I honestly didn’t know who was going to answer the door. When Marilyn appeared she too ended up having a story to tell that affected the main story.
I think it’s more than a little like real life. The people we meet all have their stories, pasts, dreams, interesting connections, and complex inner lives but we rarely come to know them in all their individual glory. The complexities of an inner self make people interesting. ‘Why’ is the operative question I have to keep asking myself. In real life, if I want to, I can say, “Bob is a jerk” and leave it at that. In writing fiction, if Character A is a jerk, I have to ask, “Why is he a jerk?” Did his best goldfish just die? Is he ill? Did he always want to be a ballet dancer but had weak ankles? Did he lose someone important to him and never recover? It’s a valuable intellectual/psychological exercise for me. If I can find compassion for Jerk Character A in my fiction, maybe, in real life, I can extend Bob the Jerk the same empathy. As a writer, it’s the most interesting thing I get to do, to delve into a person profoundly to discover everything about them, to stretch the boundaries of what I know about different types of people, and to discover what lies beneath the surface of their behavior.
Thanks so much, Cassie!
And now for the giveaway details. I have one copy to give away to one lucky Canadian. Comment on this post with your email address. Then, tell me what your favourite book by a Canadian author is. For another entry, tell me if you’ve ever seen a ghost! (for me, the answers are Anne of Green Gables and no) Contest ends on August 1oth. Good luck!