Or rather be caught dead than doing.
Character development is a complicated aspect of writing. Like in our own lives, a glaring inconsistency draws a ton of attention, especially on paper (or e-ink).
This post was long overdue, and a minor criticism at my last writers group meeting motivated me to tackle the subject. What was the criticism? My protagonist, male…a former deep-cover operative, pulled a bottle of Riesling out of the refrigerator to share with his wife. Apparently, men don’t drink Riesling. Not even in 2005. And I thought it would go nicely with the Thai food they were eating. I was a little defensive, maybe a little hurt…I like Riesling (not a first or second choice, but it does pair well with spicy food). Alas, everyone agreed that a beer was more appropriate. This is a character compromise I am more than happy to make…if only this was their only suggestion about my new story, Black Flagged. PREVIEW.
This is a pretty minor criticism compared to some of the critique I have received over the months regarding the protagonist of my first book, The Jakarta Pandemic. Alex Fletcher, decorated war veteran, and former Marine Corps officer, grates on some peoples’ nerves! Who has the most trouble with this character? Conservatives. Alex takes a few jabs at Fox news, here and there. And, he’s a vegetarian that has installed solar panels on his roof. He also keeps his guns responsibly locked in a safe (until there is a definable danger), and doesn’t immediately kill any potential hazard to his family with extreme prejudice. I have also been accused, in a few of the reviews, of pushing a liberal agenda through this character. Huh? Did I mention that Alex is pro-choice and supports gay marriage? No, I didn’t…so I though I was safe from the appearance of political partisanship in the book. Apparently not. Probably a little naive on my part. One reviewer, who loved the story overall, said that the “author was conflicted,” because I created a character that didn’t comfortably fit into ANY political classification. I’m actually proud of that.
Still, all of this raised some awareness about character actions, and I do keep this in mind while writing my next book. I have dozens of characters, all with their own thoughts and rationales for what they do. Once again, I miss the good old days of The Jakarta Pandemic. It’s pretty difficult to keep a character “in line” throughout a 300-400 page book, so this will be one of the primary focuses that I assign to all of my pre-readers (those that will read the first edition before it goes to print), writers group and EDITOR (that’s you Felicia).