Tag Archives: character study

I’m going to Hell. (A character Study)

As an author, I like to study people who are very different from me.  I try to figure them out… what makes them tick… why do they do the things they do?  Why do they think like they do?

I started pondering this last week when I wrote the last lines of my “Book Banning” article, and asked you guys not to bash any of the groups (probably religious groups) for not liking the books on the list.  I was thinking over why it was so important to me to make sure that no one singled out a religion.

Several years ago, I found out that I’m going to Hell.  Someone who is unfortunately bound to me by marriage informed me of this.  Kind of makes things awkward during Thanksgiving dinner.

Hmmm… Didn’t the Pilgrims come to America to avoid religious persecution?

Let’s think about that…

Until I met this guy, I was the most religious person I knew.  My friends and co-workers knew this.  They always apologized when they cursed in front of me (jokingly) and many asked me to pray for them if they were in need.  No problem for me.  I’m happy to do it.  God and I are pretty tight.

But now, apparently, I am going to Hell—so, I asked this guy “why”.  What do you believe in that I don’t?  Through discussion, I found out that we both believe EXACTLY the same thing.  So, why am I going to Hell?

Because I do not worship in the same church he does.  And apparently, everyone but his church is going to Hell.

I hope Hell is a pretty big place.

Unfortunately for me, this snowballed.  I moved.  Now I find myself in an environment where almost EVERYONE around me believes this, and they openly condemn my religion.  Holy cow!  Talk about the “Don’t know don’t tell” policy.  I’ve learned to live with this, though.  Rather than “coming out” and putting my head on a block for being “that religion” I just keep my mouth shut.   (Yeah, sounds meek, but it’s just not something I want to deal with.  It’s personal.  Politics and religion – keep it to yourself.)

What really bought this to my boiling point, was a recent dinner I had with a bunch friends.  Out of the blue, they started bashing my religion.  It was mild, and none of them said I was going to Hell, but it shocked me.

These people didn’t even think to ask if anyone was of that religion before they started bashing.

Now, I could have answered all their questions, and set them straight.  In retrospect, I probably should have— but in an eight-on-one situation, self-preservation instinct took over.  I kept my mouth shut, and just “observed”.

From a character study perspective, I try to understand how people like this can think of themselves as so much better than anyone else.  How can they quote scripture, while going against scripture at the same time?  I’d love to really get inside one of these people’s heads just to “understand.”

Any one of them would make a great character in a novel.  Talk about adding tension!  The problem is without completely understanding how these people are wired, I am not sure I could do them justice without making them seem like….  Ummmm…  Well…  let’s just say without letting my personal opinion of their outlook slipping in.

Creating a monomaniacal villain is easy.  They are a little tainted in the head.  That’s accepted.  But these people are “normal”, but really contradictory.

How do I create a character that thinks they are humble, preaches how humble they are, but actually has the worst case of a superiority complex I can think of?  Hmmmm.  Tough one.

I wonder though…. I hope I’m not the one with the superiority complex because I don’t think everyone in the world is going to Hell.

Since I am in the minority now, maybe I need to do a character study on myself?  Maybe I can ask the Little Blue lady from Mars to help me.

Lesson Three from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Action Action, where is the Action?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine ?

I’ve heard contradicting opinions on this.  Some people say exposition is important.  Some people say don’t start right out with action because you don’t have a character basis of who to “root for” yet.  Personally, when I’m reading something, I want to be slapped in the face immediately with excitement and fill me in on the boring stuff later.  So, when my BP (Beta Partner) had a story that started with tons of talking and setting, I said, “okay, according to what I’ve read, this is okay,” but, being the good beta partner that I am, I let her “have it” and told her I was bored.  But, all the exposition stayed (with some trimming to six pages).   (I’m not saying she trimmed for me…  I believe she has five beta partners, so I’m sure there were a wealth of comments to revise from.)

 Unfortunately though, the publisher found it to be an unnecessary character study and suggested cutting the first five pages completely.  What was after these five pages, was a brief conversation of a dream that actually had relevance to the story (almost a page long) and then the action started.

The publisher’s commented that the first five pages were not engaging.  What I got out of that, was that they didn’t want to see a few kids hanging out and talking.  They wanted something to HAPPEN.  The story actually does, I must admit, start right where they suggested… The dream is a foreshadowing, and then the action that is the catalyst that changes the MC’s life forever happens right afterwards.

***Always start the story as close to the life changing event as possible***

So, what gets lost in the first five pages?  Well, the set up of the friendship between the two MC’s, which can be played out pretty quickly in the next pages, and (ouch) a lot of setting.  To me, that’s no biggie, but my BP is a big setting person.  She likes her imagery.  Now she needs to work in her sweeping mansion and grounds into the action scenes or between them.  It will be a little work.

Moral of the story:  Setting is important, but not too much up front.  Make sure something happens in the first page or so to drag your reader in.

Also see my post on how I changed (and am still changing) my first page after a contest judge didn’t find my first page exciting enough— and there was hardly any setting there at all!

Go back and make your first few pages ROCK!  If you don’t excite the reader right away, they might put your novel down and buy something else.  **GACK**