Jennifer Brozek | Tell Me - Donald J. Bingle

Tell Me - Donald J. Bingle

by Jennifer Brozek 19. October 2014 23:07

Don Bingle is a longtime convention buddy who is as kind as he is well spoken. I’m happy to let him tell you about the Frame Shop and why he, as an author, will never use you in one of his books.

---
Writing Characters to Fit the Plot

Every once in a while, I see a t-shirt that says “Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my next novel.” My non-writer friends think it is funny. Heck, a few writers I know have worn such shirts. Truth is, those t-shirts really irritate me. Why?

First, they disrespect writers and the process of writing. They suggest that writers don’t work and struggle and subtly mold their own creations; they just steal them fully-formed as they are walking by. This is a corollary to my irritation when I hear people—not just people, but authors—say that the characters simply tell the writer what to write and he or she just writes it down, like a scribe or personal secretary who takes dictation. Writing is simply not that easy; writing characters is not that easy.

Look, I’m not only a character, but I’ve played lots of different characters (about six hundred different characters) in classic roleplaying tournaments), from dwarves and elves and orcs to spies, princesses, occultists, librarians, paladins, thieves, mercenaries, monsters, pirates, artists, clerics, mages, kender, femme fatales, little kids, clones, and aliens (even sentient weapons and insects). So I know about getting into character and creating dialogue and actions that remain true to that character’s personality, abilities, and world view. I understand how certain behavior or dialogue may not ring true for a given character. But, that doesn’t mean it springs forth from the ether and doesn’t take any effort to create. Even if struck by sudden inspiration, a writer must craft an idea and word and place it so as to effective for his or her purposes in a story or novel.

Second, they misunderstand the relationship between characters and plot. When I was writing classic roleplaying adventures, one of the key components was building characters with the correct skills, equipment, abilities, personalities, and motivations to be able to take on the quest and, with difficulty, be able to handle the tasks necessary to succeed. On top of that, the characters had to have a reason to stay and work together, but enough conflict to make the group dynamics interesting.

The same is true in writing stories and novels. You just can’t drop your buddy, Bill, into whatever you happen to be writing. Your psychotic neighbor, Adriane, also isn’t a natural fit to be a mob boss or liche queen. The characters need to have motivations, quirks, flaws, personalities, abilities, and speech-patterns which are appropriate for the setting and story you are telling. Sure, everyone’s a product of their environment and their experiences, and there may be aspects of characters, turns of phrasing, physical features, personality quirks, flaws and phobias, and minor vignettes or small pieces of business (business in the theatre sense of identifying or defining physical movements) that are translatable into your writing project. But that’s different than wholesale incorporation of a real life person into a story.

Since my most recent project, Frame Shop is a mystery/thriller set in a writers’ group and I am, not surprisingly, in a writers’ group, this topic has been much on my mind. I confess that I hid much of this project from the group during most of the primary writing to avoid speculation about whether this or that character was, or was based on, this or that real life person. I showed the group action scenes or bits of dialogue between one of the writers and a hit man, but I never asked the group to review the scenes that take place at the writers’ group, itself. Even then, when I sent the full draft to a few beta readers who are in the group, cautioning them that I build characters with the characteristics needed for the story, the first responses I got were all about who they thought the various characters resembled.

For the record, none of them are meant to be anyone I know. Sure, some are of the same age or sex or artistic specialty or profession as people I know, but one or two superficial attributes does not a three-dimensional character make. To the extent the characters were based on anybody, I’d have to say they were all based on various aspects of me (including the hack writer, the aw-shucks NYSE best-seller, and the self-doubting, shy memoirist), especially the unlikeable ones.

So the next time you read a book or chat with a writer, give the author a bit of respect, because writing, especially good writing, takes some work. And, if you think you recognize a personality characteristic or quirk or bit of dialogue from real life, chalk it up to their ability to weave their experiences into credible, realistic fiction, not laziness and theft.

Some writers only write what they know, but plenty of writers make up most of what they write. As I put it in a bio once:  “[Donald J. Bingle] has written short stories about killer bunnies, civil war soldiers, detectives, Renaissance Faire orcs, giant battling robots, demons, cats, time travelers, ghosts, time-traveling ghosts, barbarians, a husband accused of murdering his wife, dogs, horses, gamers, soldiers, Neanderthals, commuters, kender, and serial killers. Of those subjects, he has occasional contact in real life only with dogs, cats, gamers, and commuters (unless some of those are, unknown to him, really time travelers, ghosts, demons, serial killers, or murder suspects).

Sorry, but no, you won’t be in my next novel.

Aloha.
Donald J. Bingle
Check out the Kickstarter for Frame Shop.

Tags:

Comments are closed

Latest Releases

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/MakedaRedCover200.jpg
Shadowrun: Makeda Red
Buy Now.

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/IronDawnCover200.jpg
BattleTech: Iron Dawn
Rogue Academy 1
Buy Now.

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/ElderGodsFrontCover200.jpg
A Secret Guide to
Fighting Elder Gods

Buy Now.


To Fight the Black Wind
Arkham Horror novella

Amazon | FFG


The Prince of Artemis V
All ages comic book

Amazon


The Nellus Academy Incident
YA Battletech
novel
Amazon | DriveThruRPG | B&N

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/Last-Days-of-Salton-Academy_200px.jpg
The Last Days of Salton Academy
YA Horror

(Out of Print)

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/NeveLetMeOmnibus200.jpg
Never Let Me
YA SF-Thriller Omnibus

Amazon | Barnes&Noble |
Permuted Press

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/NeverLetMeDieCover200.jpg
Never Let Me Die
YA SF-Thriller Novel
Amazon | B&N |
Permuted Press


Never Let Me Leave
YA SF-Thriller Novel
Amazon | B&N |
Permuted Press


Never Let Me Sleep
YA SF-Thriller Novel

Amazon | B&N |
Permuted Press


DocWagon 19
Shadowrun novella
Amazon | BattleShop
DriveThruRPG


The Karen Wilson Chronicles
More InformationBuy Now.


Apocalypse Girl Dreaming
Fiction collection
Amazon | B&N |
Evil Girlfriend Media

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/pix/JazzAgeCthulhu200.jpg
Jazz Age Cthulhu
Amazon | B&N |
Innsmouth Free Press


Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has netted her a Hugo Award nomination as well as an Australian Shadows Award for Grants Pass. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, and Predator. Jennifer is also the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions, and was the managing editor of Evil Girlfriend Media and assistant editor for Apex Book Company.

Jennifer has been a freelance author, editor, tie-in writer for over ten years after leaving her high paying tech job, and she’s never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.

"I see story ideas. All the time. They're everywhere. Just walking around like normal ideas. They don't know they're stories."