Monday, February 20, 2017

Rumpus Room Reads #3 - All For The Love of Daddy



Okay kids, strap on your shoulder pads, we're going straight to the eighties today with this trashy J.A.P.-tastic incest-flavored selection from Marcia Rose, "All For The Love Of Daddy," where a rich Jewish New York family of three strong loud successful grown daughters and their elegant mother all anachronistically kowtow to the whims of the deeply flawed and possibly sociopathic patriarch.  But it's just Daddy!  We all know how Daddy is!

This juicy tale definitely came from my grandma's basement, and I obviously couldn't WAIT to read it.  The card-like fold-out cover was an amazing collaborations between an author and the graphic designer responsible for that creepy pervasive eighties nail salon art.  Actually, after looking her up to confirm my suspicion that "Rose" was a pen name that dropped at least an "n" if not a "nblatt" or "nberg" from its tail, I found out Marcia Rose herself is a collaboration between a Marcia and a Rose.  I imagine these two women met in a synagogue Jazzercise class similar to the one my own mother attended when I was a child, swathed in neon spandex and drenched in Calvin Klein's "Eternity."

So on the first part of the cover, we get the enticing tagline "Daddy's girls - his beautiful daughters, his loving wife, his devoted secretary - and a lifetime of secrets . . ."  The subtly vaginal red tulips let you know there's bangin' afoot.  It doesn't take a detective to figure out that a secretary described as devoted to a man first introduced as "Daddy" is definitely living the boss-humping dream.  But first let's turn our attention to the brunette Princess Di type smoldering away above one of the extras from "Dynasty."  Don't you want to see the rest of that gorgeous tableau?



In an effort to get into what I felt was the spirit of this novel, to consume it in its natural habitat, I read this book while wearing my most "Eighties Ladies" billowing t-shirt and riding the stationary cycle at the Jewish Community Center gym.  Unfortunately, I then took this masterpiece with me into the sauna, where it rapidly deteriorated like a defrosted Mel Gibson in "Forever Young."  Lesson learned - Rumpus Room Reads are to be enjoyed at room temperature only.

Before my copy's cover completely fell apart, I snapped this pic, where you can see the legitimate branch of Daddy's family, partially disembodied and weathering a pastel windstorm of triangles and vagitulips.  "Dynasty" granny is Sylvia Strauss, the mother of Daddy Jack Strauss's three daughters.  But he wanted a boy to carry on the NYC real estate development construction company he established after WWII ("Evergreen" callback!  Why did my grandma have all these novels where the family got rich from blasting out Levittowns?  Was she secretly pining away for her lost love, the inventor of the McMansion?  I must ask her the next time I call home.).  Brown Di is middle sister Deena, a loud, colorful, funny mother of four married to a stiff conservative jerk that Daddy loves.  Deena just started taking script writing classes with a hunky sensitive younger professor and it's opening her eyes to how unhappy she is in her marriage.  Being a loud, colorful, funny mother of four formerly married to a stiff conservative jerk my Daddy loved, I could see how this story line was going to end, but I was pleasantly surprised with the whole British cruise ship captain loverboy vignette.

Haughty and hairsprayed, the blonde in green is humorless youngest daughter Marilyn, a doctor no less!  And yet she's unmarried at thirty six so she's a huge disappointment.  Sick of the constant chattery judgments of her family and of Daddy in particular, Marilyn hightailed it to a sleepy ski town in Vermont as soon as she could and rarely visits home.  Marilyn has a ponytailed goyishe boyfriend and when Deena's family life starts falling apart, she takes in Deena's teenage youngest son Saul after he gets into some sort of computer-related trouble which I didn't realize was possible in 1986.  This softens her and she ends up finally accepting the goy's persistent marriage proposals in the end, thus making her fully acceptable to her clan once and for all.

The dark haired vixen in the massive blue blazer and even more gargantuan fur coat on the left is domineering hot-tempered eldest daughter Elaine.  Not pictured is the forty extra pounds she is described as being gorgeous despite carrying.  Elaine runs a successful lingerie business with her worshipful husband Howard, whom Daddy never liked because he suspected he was secretly closeted (more on how Jack Strauss is the worst below).  Elaine's dream is to run the family construction business.  But the main plot of the book centers around how Daddy is about to sell it, because he has no sons to carry on for him!  Or does he?

Yes, you guessed it, Daddy's secretary, a dull reserved southern blonde shiksa named Linda, has sacrificed her youth and beauty at the altar of Daddy's love for the past four decades.  She birthed his son and refused all suitors even though Daddy said he'd never leave Sylvia, and is a two dimensional whimpering pathetic mess, existing only as an object for Daddy's comfort.  I guess maybe it's a vanilla predecessor of the gross line-crossing sub/dom relationship in "Fifty Shades?"  I don't know, I got divorced before I needed to read that book (zing on married ladies, sorry not sorry).

The secret product of Daddy's union with his secretary is the utterly repulsive Lawrence, the VP of Daddy's company and also a cartoon of a selfish rich eighties jerk.  Dude has a Lambo and a gambling problem.  I'm assuming he shaves his face with whipped cocaine.  When Elaine freaks out and demands Daddy gives her a chance at the company, she discovers Lawrence is embezzling hundreds of thousands of Daddy's dollars.  Lawrence discovers the undeniable lure of Elaine's college-aged daughter Zoe's "hot Jewish eyes" and absconds with her to the Caribbean before everyone finds out Lawrence is actually Daddy's son and thus Zoe's uncle.

Somehow I find this incest subplot way less gross than Daddy himself.  Look at that little twerp, surrounded by dynamic powerful Jewesses.  The Strauss women, so strong and fearless everywhere else in their lives, tiptoe around Jack, coddling his fragile masculinity at every turn.  We find out Sylvia knew the truth about Lawrence all along, but she just swallowed it and sallied forth.  We find out Marilyn's self-imposed exile may stem from accidentally seeing Daddy and Linda kissing on the street when she was twelve then telling her mother about it in the form of "a friend of mine saw her dad . . ." and having her mother shut down and insist she ignore the whole event.  Whenever Daddy is exposed, his daughters can see his personality shift, snakelike, probing for the appropriate mask to garner the total obedience and idolizing love he's always gotten from the women in his life.  There's some serious pathos going on here.

To a female reader in the 21st century, Daddy comes off as something of a villain.  As I exercycled my way through this thing, I was sure that Daddy was going to get some sort of comeuppance in the end.  But it's all sort of a wet fart.  Daddy's confused that his "girls" are all people all of a sudden, and Sylvia's like "that's right, things are changing, your girls are all happy in a way that still satisfies 90% of your patriarchal bullshit, and now you have to retire so we can go on more cruises!"  They're all independent but they're still craving that fatherly approval, still doing it "All For The Love Of Daddy."  I left this book as vaguely dissatisfied as Sylvia must be after four and a half decades in bed with Daddy, who I have no doubt is a less than generous lover.  Yet I can't deny I thoroughly enjoyed this.  If you want to angrily snort laugh while cycling at your local JCC gym, definitely check this baby out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Winter's Tale

Cheryl Oreglia

"I am... a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles." Winter's Tale


Today started out in a deep fog, both within, and without. The drive to work took extreme caution, I was unable to see anything beyond a few hundred feet (my best guess), the landscape seemed to disappear behind an inexplicable dense mist, right out of Stranger Things. It was freaking me out. The good news is traffic was light, speeds slowed, and most drivers were intensely focused. Total bonus, I arrived at work five minutes early. 


The weather often masquerades as my personal prophet, calling me back to myself, offering an intrinsic wisdom all it's own, and much to my despair, mirroring my personal disposition. The fog, lack of clarity, the missing landmarks that usually dictate my direction, if not my sense of place and well-being, are simply gone. I’m a little lost but aren't we all? Life is not stagnate, it moves, adapts, reconfigures. The minute I get attached to a person, place, or thing it disappears (sometimes physically), but most often I’m no longer able to see it in the same form of which I'm accustomed. Nature teaches me to detach and I don't like it one bit. I'm innately opposed to change, weather permitting, I would wear the same outfit every day. This is not something I put on my resume but clearly note worthy as a writer. 

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky



When I think about the crazy weather patterns currently bombarding my state (California), the relentless storms, widespread flooding, and most recently the erosion of an emergency spillway at the Lake Oroville dam. This spillway is a pathway for excess water to drain when the reservoir is filled to the brim, designed to keep the dam safe from being over-topped by water. (Don't I wish we had the same spillway for the deluge of hostility currently flooding my social media accounts.) This is the first time the spillway has been put to use since the dam was completed in 1968. It peaked my interest in an odd sort of way, so I snooped around, and discovered nine unforgettable events that happened in 1968, at the exact same time this precautionary spillway was being created, a spillway designed to manage the overflow of unprecedented "weather," so to speak. These events changed the history of the world and I believe they are worthy of our collective view today.
  1. North Korea captures the USS Pueblo
  2. North Vietnam launched the Tet (the holiday when the north and south honored an informal truce) offensive against the United States and South Vietnam
  3. Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee
  4. Robert F. Kennedy assassinated in Los Angeles, California
  5. Boeing introduces the first 747 "Jumbo Jet
  6. Richard Nixon became the thirty-seventh president
  7. U.S. athletes take a stand at the Summer Olympics
  8. "Star Trek" airs American television's first interracial kiss
  9. Apollo 8 is the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon

Oh my, oh my, "the more things change, the more they stay the same," Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. We have yet to overcome racism, defuse global hostilities, harness technology, mediate political conflict, or curb gun violence. We're in the middle of a political shit storm which drags me right back to the scriptures. “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that is was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?' He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still! Then the wind died down and was completely calm." [Mark 4] Prophets appear (or wake up) when chaos peaks because we're in need of new direction. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their resistance to his teachings and lack of faith. "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now," Martin Luther King warns. The wisdom of prophets is often realized long after they suffer intense opposition and premature death. When will we wake up?


The headline today reads “A nation divided by weather.” I think our divisions run much deeper than the weather, Martin Luther King teaches, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight... that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." The challenge he puts to us all is one of personal integrity and faith. Will we ever be culpable of calming our own storms?


“Rain makes me feel less alone. All rain is, is a cloud- falling apart, and pouring its shattered pieces down on top of you. It makes me feel good to know I'm not the only thing that falls apart . It makes me feel better to know other things in nature can shatter.” ― Lone Alaskan Gypsy


I'm Living in the Gap, visitor always welcome, drop by anytime. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Re-Evaluating the Political Apocalypse

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Note:  Due to an unforeseen emergency, Abby was unable to post today.  Instead, we'll be flip-flopping with Steve's already planned post for next Monday, President's Day.  Tune back in then to see what Abby has to say this month.

Happy President's Day, everybody!

In case you haven't heard we here in America, um, got a new one recently.  He wasn't really elected democratically, and he doesn't really do anything presidential, and he's not even really a good figurehead, so I'm not sure if he strictly counts, but, uh...we've all got to put up with him.  For now.

One of the more interesting things about this election to me on a personal level is how it rather instantaneously changes the entire course of my novel EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED.  If you haven't read it yet, EKD is a near-future sci-fi story where the USA, after being devastated by internecine nuclear war, now looks like this:


But things aren't going to happen that way now.  It's not that I no longer think civil war is possible (unfortunately) it's just that the route I outlined in my novel has been bypassed.  (Yay us, I guess?)

I actually wrote EKD in 2009, just as the Tea Party was beginning to take to the streets in protest against President Obama, a years-long movement which seems to have been conveniently forgotten by a vast swathe of folks who are rather jarringly and suddenly anti-protest today.  Well, I suppose they have their own alternative facts to hew to.  Anyway, considering their wildly irresponsible and often violent rhetoric, it was my expectation back then that the Tea Party would balloon and deepen from simple protests into ever-more-dangerous levels of resistance, with the only real steam valve being a right-wing president being elected in 2016.

But the intelligentsia has been promising us for years that America is demographically no longer capable of electing a right-winger president.  Which basically stood as a dogmatic matter of faith for the entire news media and anyone with vaguely leftward leanings until November 8 when it shockingly (sort of) happened.

My guess in 2009 was that when President Obama was replaced by yet another Democrat out-and-out war would start.  In case you couldn't intuit the origins of the post-national flags on the map above, in my universe a scuffle started on the floor of congress, resulting in two opposing congressmen ripping a flag in half.  That would lead to declarations of secession from the South, spurred on especially by Texas, which already has a simmering undercurrent of secessionist sympathy.  From then on the left-leaning (or Blue) states would be in a border struggle with the right-leaning (or Red) states.

(Side note: for our international readers, this is probably intensely counterintuitive, as in most countries red = left and blue = right.  In the U.S., the reversal was a complete quirk of fate.  Since our flag is red, white, and blue, historically during elections the country started out white in electoral maps and then was filled in state-by-state as results came in with either blue or red representing Democrats or Republicans.  From the dawn of color TV, the choice varied year-to-year and station-to-station.  During the historic 2000 election, however, the outcome was disputed for over a month and networks gradually began to use the same, reversed from European-style, color scheme, as they continued to show the electoral map on a daily basis for weeks after Election Day.)

Presumably the federal government would have remained in Blue hands, being located in the solid Blue stronghold of Washington D.C., on the border of solid-Blue Maryland and disputed Virginia.  But with most military bases being in Red areas, the nuclear and conventional arsenal of the United States ended up divided - and used against one another.

But...with the outcome of the 2016 election going the other way, that won't happen now.  At least not the way I predicted.  

The political apocalypse I envisioned seems to draw nearer every day.  And yet things are in a constant state of flux.  Yesterday's impossibilities are today's realities.  Today's third rail issues are tomorrow's inherited wisdom.

What about you?  What do you think the future holds?  Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I'm Terrible With Names

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday from a writer friend looking for name suggestions for a character. She gave a few details about the character's personality, and her friends and fans filled her feed with suggestions. Sixty-eight and counting last I looked! Pretty impressive-- especially since I can't come up with sixty-eight possible names, period.

Which got me thinking about naming characters, in general. I use the ultra-scientific method of going with "what feels right." In my first book, my main character is named Zosia, which is the Polish equivalent of Sophie. It was important for her to have a Polish name (her mother was Polish), but that was my only requirement. A Polish friend of my grandmother's when I was little was named Zosia, and when I looked up the name and found out it means "wisdom" I was sold. Also, it conveniently shortened to "Zo". Again, super scientific.

My hero in that book was originally named Liam Flanagan. He was Irish and I LOVED his name. Until my editor said, "Liam seems to be a really popular name right now. I think you'd be better off changing it to something else, especially since Zosia's so unique." What??? I'd written and edited this book as Zosia and Liam's story and now I had to make it Zosia and Random Guy's story? I didn't, of course, but that's how it felt. And when Liam became Finn, the readers of my then-unpublished book were none the wiser, but it took me awhile to get on board.

Fast forward four more books and my method is pretty much the same. There are names I'll forever avoid because of various associations. (Lucy, although a lovely girl's name, is the name of my dog. She's blond, friendly, very outgoing...and a Labrador retriever.) Surnames are hard and I get a lot of inspiration on this front from Facebook. I'm very much against names that are hard to pronounce just for the sake of it, so taking a syllable or two of an existing name sometimes works. Or even borrowing a first name. 

Of course, there are authors who choose their character names carefully, looking at meaning, historical usage and popularity. I'm always super impressed when I read an interview with a writer and he/she is asked, "How did you name this character?" and their answer is well thought out. As in, they have an answer and can give reasons. (I also thank my lucky stars that I'm never asked that question.) 

Which leads me to my question for you: if you were asked, what would your answer be? Do you have a very unscientific method or are your character's names deliberate?

Monday, February 6, 2017

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Chevonne Watson

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! So apparently I was meant to post an interview today, and I completely forgot (it's
been a hectic couple of... weeks? months? years? Fine, I'm just forgetful). However, the blog schedule never specified what KIND of interview.

So here I am, interviewing a character of mine: Chevonne Watson! Chevonne is the protagonist of several shorts of mine: "The Adventure of the Silicon Beeches" (freebie on Wattpad, Barnes & Noble, and a few more online retailers... will be free for Kindle as soon as Amazon gets its act together), "The Note on the Blue Screen" (part of Crazy 8 Press's forthcoming Love, Murder, and Mayhem anthology), and "The Case of the Missing Sherlock" (part of the second Brave New Girls anthology, coming this summer!)

And without further ado, here's Chevonne!

Hi, Chevonne! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the world you live in?

Sure, no problem. I live on Aryus, a planet in the Interstellar Confederation best known for hosting the headquarters of VH Labs, one of the galaxy's leading research and development firms. And also my employer. I'm a member of their Young Geniuses program, which means they plucked me out of school early with the promise of getting to work on real projects. I'm a biomedical engineer, and they gave me my own lab and let me work on whatever project I feel like. Basically, they put me in a sandbox hoping I'll discover or create something brilliant that the company can take credit for. That's fine with me, though it's a little weird having to go to work and pay for things and such like a real adult. But I like the freedom.

How did you meet your roommate, Sherlock?

I didn't so much meet Sherlock as stumble upon her. But let me back up. Several years before I joined VH Labs, they completed a years-long initiative called Project Sherlock, which was their attempt to create an artificial scientist. The technology to create humanoid AIs has been around for decades--and these AIs look so much like humans, you can't tell them from regular people by looking at them--but no one's quite figured out why some gain humanlike sentience while others remain mechanical. The engineers behind Project Sherlock were trying to create an mechanical being that would do science all day with the ingenuity of a human but without any pesky human traits. But they failed spectacularly... Sherlock did turn out to be a brilliant scientist, but she also ended up having a stubborn personality. She refused to obey orders and pretty much did whatever she want... sometimes with disastrous results.

So they shut her down and closed the book on the project. I accidentally stumbled into her in the Obsolete Equipment Storage Room shortly after I joined VH Labs. I felt bad for her, so I fixed her (it was really hard). And she's been my roommate ever since.

How much does your roommate have in common with the fictional detective she was named after?

Too much. Way, WAY too much. Though honestly, I think a lot of it's on purpose on Sherlock's part.

Project Sherlock was just meant to be a clever name that referenced the fact that the AI would be solving mysteries--albeit of the scientific sort. I have no idea why the people who ran the project decided to model their AI after a teenaged actress, but they did. Which is why I now live with an AI girl who looks my age but shares a name with a fictional man.

Anyway, after learning who she was named after, Sherlock decided to try her hand at being a private detective. I think it started out as a joke, but now, she's really into it. And she's really good. Unfortunately, she insists on boasting to me about this whenever she gets the chance.

Oh--and she likes to say "Elementary, my dear Watson" just to piss me off. It's not my fault I was born with the same last name as her namesake's fictional sidekick. And she keeps dragging me into her cases, though I refuse to be her sidekick. I've got my own life to deal with.

What are some cases you've been involved in?

One involved a boy with partial amnesia who came to us because his parents weren't acting like his parents anymore... Sherlock and I ended up going on a field trip to the private starship they lived on to get to the bottom of things. Oh, and once, Sherlock went missing, and I had to figure out where in space she went and why in space people started trying to kill me after she disappeared. That one was no fun at all.

Okay, maybe a little.

What do you do when you're not solving mysteries with Sherlock?

Like I said, I'm a biomedical engineer. The great thing about the Young Geniuses program is that I get to work on whatever I feel like. Lately, I've been specializing in bones... trying to figure out how to make them heal faster and such.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Just that I'm not as boring as Sherlock makes me seem... Unlike her, I'm actually sane. Well, most of the time.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I say, dear man, Google this

Do you know what I Google the most? Actors’ ages. Yup. I can’t watch television anymore without my laptop, so I can see how old the actors are. I’ll say to my husband, “He looks my age. But, is he?” Then I Google, and feel smug when I discover, “Hey, I’m right.” I’m also that nutjob who can tell when a European is putting on an American accent. Call it a useless talent, but I have it.

So, for my Google Search post, I decided to do the search string:
 Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 4.40.44 PM.png

Fun fact: I taught English As A Second Language for five years (I have a master’s degree in it!), so I pride myself on my ability to selectively hear accents. Another interesting tidbit, if you came to the US from another country before puberty, you usually lose your native accent. After puberty, you retain it a bit.

Anyway, I’m going to fill in as Prof. Google right now and answer those search strings.

Which accent is the sexiest?...Hmmm. For me, it’s mostly about the foreign flair. I love a Scottish brogue. Argentinian accents are pretty hot. South African lilts are quite sexy (looking at you, Trevor Noah). Even a tough-sounding Broolyn-ese can be sexy if it’s on a sexy human.

Which accent is the best?....New Jersey, hands down. I kid. We don’t have sexy accents. Jersey folk like to think we don’t have an accent, but we know that’s not true. When I was traveling through Paris, a tour guide from Texas remarked to me, “Oh, you’re from Joisy?” I said, “We don’t really say that.” And he said, “Yes, you do. I’ve met a lot of you.” Oh, really? I don’t say Joisy. And now that I’ve been out NJ for 8 years, I’ve lost a bit of my accent. I say orange instead of ah-range. I say mirror instead of meerah. But I still stay “draw” when I mean “drawer.” That won’t ever go away.

Which accent is the most attractive?..I think a southern drawl oozes charm. A Texas twang is nice too. A posh British accent makes me feel like I’m an extra on The Queen, so...I’ll go with that one.

Which accent is followed in India?...I had to Google this because I wasn’t quite sure what the question string was getting at. Turns out, British English is the answer. Makes sense. India was colonized by Great Britain.

Okay, lovely readers, what accent makes you weak in the knees?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Striving for Imperfection


I read a lot of books in 2016 (at least compared to my usual level of reading), and something started to become clear: Current fiction has a lot of ‘perfect’ characters. Most of the time the perfection is represented in appearance—piercing green or blue eyes, framed by a perfectly shaped face, topped with a mop of soft locks that are always perfectly tousled. The male protagonist has abs that could be used as a washboard, completed with that enviable ‘V’ just above the belt, and is over six feet tall. The female is dainty with kissable pouty lips, and she fits perfectly into the nook of her lead male’s arms. And she’s made even more ‘perfect’ through her obliviousness to the fact that every man wants her.

“But wait. These ‘perfects’ are humanized by their character flaws. Right?”

Umm, maybe. The thing is, many times their flaws are also pretty perfect—at least for the sake of the story. They are often assigned to the character for the sole reason of supporting the plot. There needs to be conflict, so our perfect male is too arrogant. There needs to be tension, so our perfect female is too trusting. It reminds me of that ridiculous question during job interviews. You know the one I’m talking about:

“What’s your biggest weakness?”

Of course you’re going to respond with a perfect flaw. The one that doesn’t actually make you look bad. “I’m very dedicated to my work and have difficulty shutting it off at the end of the day.” Or, “I can sometimes be a perfectionist.” I feel like that’s what we’re often getting these days with characters. It’s like we readers asked this same question and were given the sugar-coated perfect answer in return.

As a reader, I’m sort of becoming exhausted by all the perfection. Why? Well, mainly it’s predictable. One of the things I love about reading is getting lost in the story and having it take me somewhere unexpected. It’s as though the writing community has assumed the majority of readers can only care about one certain type of character so that’s what we get. My other fear is that it’s a result of writers who are so focused on churning out book after book as quick as possible they don’t take the time to let new characters develop. They just recycle the old ones—give them a new name and new hair color and no one will notice, right?

I’ve started to avoid certain books where I know there is a high probability of excessive perfection. And to be clear, Im not just talking about romance novels where good-looking characters are practically a prerequisite. Perfection popped its pretty little head up across all the genres I read last year (and in both traditional and indie published). I did stumble on the occasional book where perfection was presented in some form but not dwelled upon. For example, the ‘perfect’ features weren’t mentioned every time the two primary characters saw or thought of each other. It saved the book for me a bit because it gave me the freedom to forget and picture the characters as average as I liked.

As a writer, it has me thinking. I’m not immune to wanting to write about dreamy characters. Marcus from both Kingston’s Project and Kingston’s Promise is my version of hot, hot, HOT. Although, I did try to avoid talking about it every moment his name appeared on the page (thanks to my beta readers for helping to keep me in check on this!). His primary flaw is his vulnerability to his father’s disinterest. My female protagonist from those same books, Sarah, is good looking but isn’t a knock-out. Her primary character flaw is that she holds on to guilt like it’s a life raft. I know these flaws aren’t unique, and I’ll admit they do benefit my plot to an extent. But I wasn’t thinking about the annoyance of perfection and the attractiveness of imperfection back then like I am now. And, yes, I do understand that many times it’s the flaws that actually drive the plot. I’m not saying flaw assignments should neglect the plot completely. I guess I’d just like to see more depth.

My recent frustrations have pushed me to want to do better in creating imperfect characters. I view it as a challenge in many ways. It’s sometimes easy to become invested in characters who are attractive or have predictable flaws, but I like the thrill of trying to make the reader root for the love interest who doesn’t look like he just stepped off the center pages of an underwear advertisement. I also like the challenge of representing a more diverse set of characters in my books. Humans are complex by nature. Many of our flaws are similar and predictable, but many more are unique and subtle. Some of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this past year had characters who were very average or very complex and unique.

Last week in my critique group we spent a little time talking about villains. Someone commented that the most realistic villains tend to have one redeeming quality. It was a serendipitous conversation given my recent thoughts on perfection. A perfectly evil villain can be just as annoying as a perfectly perfect hero. I don’t exactly have a villain in my current WIP, but Grandpa is pretty darn close. When I drafted out his character profile, I did give him an opposite viewpoint (I won’t call it redeeming because I’m not sure yet if he will earn redemption). My plan was to slowly reveal that side of his character later in the story but not give it away entirely. I still don’t plan to give it all away, but after last night’s discussion I realize it might be better to start introducing it sooner in the story. If I don’t, I may end up stripping him of his shot at redemption without intention because readers may not see him as realistic.

So that’s my writing challenge for this year—creating imperfect characters my readers will love better than any perfect character I could give them.

Who’s with me?


~Carrie
 
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