Now I’ve gone about viewing my books as characters—and planning new ones for next year—I applied the observations I’d had from watching many, many movies and reading many, many books. I’ve already said character repeat themselves. I’ll now be a little more detailed about that.
One of the best news an author—or reader—can have is that books truly don’t have to be perfect. Except for the Bible’s author, no one has entire mastery of showing human beings and they will have their fair share of flops, boring characters, surprises, characters we hate, and characters who shouldn’t even have been there and now the readers have to try to make use of them. This means even imperfect books are fine. And it’s also fine for some to be much less interesting. Because some characters are. Not every character is a frontrunner and if my books are characters, not all of them will be in the front either. In every book are characters called “side characters,” “minor characters,” “extras,” or even the harsh “flop” and “dud.”
There are almost 50 types of stock, returning characters I’ve identified in other people’s work, and they are also in mine—within the books and even more large-scale, as the books themselves. The post is already long, I’ll just describe some broad categories and leave a really detailed list for another time.
As I stated in an earlier blog post, if all of my books are to be viewed as characters within an OVERALL story, it is very important to at least try to examine even the ones you don’t instantly feel like reading. For readers this must feel like a lot of extra work. But to return to the metaphor of LOTR, this was a long franchise of very, very long movies. HOURS. And HOURS. And along the way there are loads of characters (and battles!) that any one person would much rather skip. It takes a lot of dedication to watch the whole thing through even once.
But if you just skipped to a few scenes with Aragorn, mostly in ROTK, without ever learning much about the world, you honestly don’t have him in context as a character. You could come to a lot of conclusions about him that are invalid, drawn from the little you’ve seen. That’s fun to do and it feels much more natural since you’re interested in him. It’s also fine to do that once you do know the whole story. Doing it from the first is not a good idea because you can misunderstand everything.
This skimming approach has permeated my readers from the first. It now makes sense, in the light of viewing my books as characters they feel drawn to or not, in a very instinctive way. But it created a lot of poor communication that I didn’t even understand until I put all the books side by side. People just took a book—such as Alyce or Bellevere House or Facets of Fantasy (or just one story in Facets)—and decided it was representative of me. They could form an opinion very quickly and keep that opinion. That book didn’t “represent” me at all, any more than LOTR is exclusively about Galadriel. If you watch her scenes, you know what LOTR is about period. You don’t even have to pretend to watch the rest. This is not true.
And there will be more updates.
Once I decided each of my books was part of one long story, the task has become deciding what pieces go where rather than whether some pieces should go and some stay. I find that people don’t tend to be good listeners, but it’s not easy for me to assign a visual personality to my work. However, I found a way around this communication problem once I started to think of the BOOKS as characters in their own right.
Within each book I started casting the characters as actors, but I also began to view the books individually as if they were characters too. Reading the book is like starting to zone in on and actually listen to a character you are interested in. Skimming a book is like skimming over a character’s scenes, maybe you like one or two, but you’re actually trying to not to get involved. Complaining about a book tends to mean you feel threatened or cheated when it’s not for you—as with complaining about a character.
I now make posters arranging book covers as if they were people’s faces. It helps me pinpoint what book would draw in which person.
And there will be more updates.
I live surrounded by cultivated fields that rapidly give way to wild flowers, wild plants, and wild life. I get most of my ideas while drifting innocuously around my house and some of those ideas get into print.