Tag Archives: creating characters

Ways to introduce minor characters in your novel-part one

Every tale needs a protagonist and antagonist, a hero and villain, a good guy and bad guy. But a tale also needs minor characters, maybe just a character in a barbershop, something to divert or give a change of pace, a set-up for what is to come. Consider this scene for my work-in-progress. My lead character, the good guy, is investigating a murder in a small town in 1927. He goes to a barbershop to get a haircut, one in which he will learn something from the barber that will help him in his search for what happened. But we might want to delay that a bit because you don’t want to cut to the chase, you want to give credence to everyday life. So here is a scene where I introduce a minor character.

When the second man got out of his chair and paid Delfare, the proprietor of the shop, I was told I was next. I looked at the man sitting by the window, about 5’8” with a bald head, maybe about thirty. He was wearing Levi’s, a green wool shirt with red suspenders keeping his Levi’s in place, his large blubbery gut sagging over the top of the Levi’s, covering his crotch like giant padding. He had to sit straight, his feet spread to accommodate what seemed to be emergent fat.

“Oh Hargrove don’t mind, do you Grover?” Grover shrugged his blubber.

“Grover is a fixture here aren’t you? He got in the way of a falling tree, thumped him on the head real good. Grover can’t work anymore. He gets bored, comes in here to partake of town talk. He gets bored every day, don’t you Groves?” Grover sighed.

The scene creates verisimilitude, it delays the heart of the scene, and every tale needs sidebars and small little diversions. And this seemingly innocuous character could play a pivotal scene later.  After all, he is hanging around a barbershop, hearing all sorts of gossip and rumors. It could be this innocuous character could play a big part later. And this is one way to set up the reader for what comes later, for they already know about Grover Hargrove.

You won’t find Grover in Silent Murder, but you will find my protagonist and what happened before he got to this small town.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

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What writers can learn from J. Henry Waugh

My favorite novel of all time, always will be, is Robert Coover’s “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh proprietor.”  It was written in 1968 and I discovered the book a few years later. I was attracted to the book because J. Henry Waugh was my kind of guy. He lived in a small apartment over a bar where he met B-girls. But more importantly he invented a baseball game played with dice. He created fictitious players on fictitious teams, keeping detailed statistics. He took the game one step further by creating charts which determined not only the players ability on the field, but what happens in his life off the field, including death.

Waugh is an accountant, paying little attention to his job, preferring his baseball pennant race. I love this guy, because I play Strat-o-Matic baseball games and as kid I played Negamco and invented another baseball games using a deck of cards. And I also prefer to pay, like Bartelby, little or no attention to my job.

But something goes wrong in the baseball game that demoralizes  Waugh. A rare dice and chart roll changes the game forever, as well as the characters he has created. The odds of it happening are off the charts, so to speak. And little by little the characters Waugh has created take center stage with a life of their own and Waugh completely disappears from the story.

Some critics have said the book is about creationism. If one sees the writer as a God I would agree. In the book Waugh is God who creates character/players whose failure, success, indeed their lives are represented by dice and charts, the two working together to determine the character’s fate. So why does Waugh disappear from the book? I believe it is because the writer wants his characters to live, to engage the reader, and the writer should be far in the background, invisible to the reader. J.D. Salinger would love J. Henry Waugh.

What writers can learn  is to create characters that live and breath, are real and engaging in a story where emotions impact the reader. And of course, in playing God, to disappear from your creation, let your creation speak for you. Of course if you see J. Henry Waugh as Yahweh, a Hebrew word for The God, then write your own dissertation. Long live J. Henry, wherever you are.

My baseball e-book novel that I disappeared from: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393439117&sr=1-3

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