Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Characters

Character: a person represented in a drama, story, etc.

I used to be a romance writer; therefore part of my job was to create characters. My favorites were Sam (Samantha) and Wade, hero and heroine of The Great Chili Caper, a mystery spoof I wrote for Harlequin Temptation a number of years ago. Imaginary characters, of course, but they have to seem realistic, so they need back stories, faults, interests, careers, traits that will make the reader relate to them and enjoy their stories.

Quite different is the memoir I've finished and am shopping, because now I'm the main character. All those traits I had to create are already there, but in fiction, if one of them doesn't work as the story progresses, I am God: I can go back and change it. In a memoir I must tell the truth. But here's the problem. How much of the truth? And what truth? Mine is different from my husband's, the other major character in the memoir. Can I rearrange the truth? Once in a memoir course I mentioned that a scene I'd written in which I accompany my husband into the cancer hospital didn't exactly happen that way, and someone accused me of being a liar. But many times I did walk into the hospital with him, so was I lying or just rearranging to make a better story?

And is what I remember the actual truth? Some things I know I'll never forget: the cold voice of the doctor who spouted out Ralph's diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia, the smell of the hospital, the incongruity of tuxedo-clad "waiters" delivering unappetizing lunches from "Room Service." But some incidents and bits of dialogue are blurred in my memory so I write them as best I can. Still, I hope the story arc makes sense and (someday) readers will identify with the main character (me).


Debra Ann Elliott said... [Reply to comment]

Great post on characters!

Dafeenah said... [Reply to comment]

That is why I tend to shy away from memoir. I want to write about my life but it's so dramatic that I want to write it"pretty" to make it palpable for the reader. I worry also of being accused of "lying".


thelmaz said... [Reply to comment]

It's hard to write yourself, with all your faults but I guess that's what makes memoir interesting.

Hart Johnson said... [Reply to comment]

Oh very nice. I think on the 'altering truth' bit... I guess I like full disclosure, but feel like a lot of times life happens in bits and pieces, and a single 'representative' scene might get things across better.

Margaret Hall said... [Reply to comment]

I have found that writing about myself, I tend to STILL make myself a "character' that is outside myself..(if that makes sense)...I have enjoyed your posting very much...


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