Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Creating Credible Characters

When interviewed by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love for BreakIntoFiction.com, author Jane Porter had this to say about the craft of writing: “Great fiction requires great characters. Avoid stereotypes!”

That’s exactly what I tried to do when I created Dr. Ben Benjamin for the short story “Hickory, Dickory, Doc”. Given the plot and the setting, my veterinarian needed to be both an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’– someone who was part of the Maryland horse country crowd, but didn’t wholly belong to it — in order to be a realistic protagonist for this particular story. I also needed his status to be obvious from the start.

To accomplish this, I began my tale by introducing Ben in company with Lawrence Wainsworth III. The very name ‘Lawrence Wainsworth III’ conjures up images of landed gentry and old money. Toss in the fact that he owns a blue ribbon-winning horse named King Tut and you can pretty much figure good old Lawrence isn’t worriedabout where his next meal is coming from.

Ben is totally unlike Wainsworth when it comes to social status and monetary worth. Rather than describe the difference through a lot of background narrative, I chose to let Ben explain his position in the community in two brief but telling sentences. His comments are in response to Wainsworth’s description of an argument that occurred during a chic party at the local country club.

“Who was I to doubt Larry’s story? He’d been a ringside witness to the main event, while I, Dr. Ben Benjamin, youthful veterinarian to some of the most pampered horses in the state of Maryland, hadn’t even been invited to the Hunt Club Ball.”

Ben’s social standing is now clearly delineated for the reader; he may walk and talk with the rich and powerful, but the young vet is still considered by them to be a servant, albeit an educated one. Ben’s financial condition is likewise revealed in his own words when Wainsworth asks a favor of him.

“I hesitated only a second. Lawrence Wainsworth III was a good guy. He was also a very wealthy man. Visions of unpaid student loans danced in my head as I screwed on a smile and replied, ‘Sure, Larry.’ ”

Creating credible characters is always a challenge. Often, the best way to answer that challenge is by letting the characters speak for themselves.

*****

"Hickory, Dickory, Doc" is available as an ebook download at the ridiculously low price of $2.00 at http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b77000/Hickory-Dickory-Doc/Mary-Welk/?si=0

Try it! You'll like it! :)

*****

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