Monday, September 9, 2013

CONTINUING CHARACTERS


 
 
CONTINUING CHARACTERS
By Gayle Roper
 
Did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ended up hating Sherlock Holmes? Agatha Christie also developed a severe dislike for Hercule Poirot.

Why would a writer dislike his or her own creation? Because the characters were too unique.

The following quotes are from Murder in a Minor Key by D. A. Crossman, and they all reveal much about the lead character in what was to be a series. I love Albert; he’s very unique. I submit he may be too unique to carry a series.

(Albert) was struggling to keep from forgetting the next two measures. If only he hadn't spilled beer on the tape recorder. They said that's why it didn't work anymore, though he couldn't see what one had to do with the other.

"Middle Ages," Albert echoed again. He'd discovered that echoing things made people think he was listening, leaving his mind free to dwell on music. Most of the time it worked.

That evening Albert found a tin of sardines and some peanut butter for supper. There wasn't any bread, but the sardines and peanut butter worked well anyway. He found some milk and some Ding Dongs too. Several days' debris had fetched up on the Naugahyde recliner; he pushed it aside, made room for his feet on an upright trumpet case, and began his dinner.

(Albert goes to the police station to visit a friend in jail ...)
He hadn't been prepared for the search. He didn't watch enough TV. It was embarrassing and they seemed suspicious when they couldn't find anything in his pockets but a sax reed and a tidal chart. It took him a long time to remember where the chart came from, then he realized he must have gotten it when he went to see his mother in Maine last year. He used the sax reed as a guitar pick. They asked him why he didn't have a wallet or any money. He said he didn't own a wallet. He didn't need folding money or credit cards. They didn't fit into cigarette machines.

He dialed "O".
"Thank you for using AT&T, may I help you?"
The last time Albert had called the operator it was a woman and she just said "operator".  Now it was a man, and he gave a speech. Albert fought the urge to hang up.
    
(Albert goes to the college library to look for help in his detecting)
A cursory search of the school library came up blank on the Hardy Boys, despite boasting seven million volumes. Nevertheless they had a copy of The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Ten hours later they wanted to close the library. They insisted. It never occurred to Albert to take the book home. He tucked it back on the shelf.

He had meant to buy a light bulb, but they didn't sell them at Dunkin' Donuts. In the past he had simply transferred bulbs from room to room. Now there was only one left, by the bed. He'd have to move soon.

Albert went quietly with the young sergeant who smelled of Aqua Velva. Albert had always liked that smell. He wondered why some people had it and others didn't.

He had always lived alone, even growing up with his mother and sister.

(Albert returns after a stay in the hospital).
He arrived late for his first class to find someone else teaching it. It was the right room, the one with the cracked window, they were the right students, as far as he could tell, but there was someone else teaching them. He was just about to leave, to go find another job, when one of the students rose and began clapping, then another, and another, until they were all on their feet.  Albert looked behind him; there was no one there. Even the teacher was clapping.

"Welcome back, Professor," she said as she stepped aside and gestured widely toward the lectern.
Albert hesitated. "Where was I?" he said.

Gayle here again:
Albert is great fun, but the author has created a problem for himself in terms of a series character. If Albert becomes aware enough to continue to solve murders, he will have to lose all the characteristics that make him the naïve charming absentminded professor. He will have to become aware, alert to life around him. Then he will no longer be Albert. A search on Amazon shows there is one more Albert book, Dead in D Minor.

The lesson for us all is when we create our characters, we must be certain that their character arcs don’t destroy the very qualities we gave them. We must also certain we can live with them for several years. We will be keeping close company for that long even if it’s only a three book series.

 

 

 

 

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