Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A killer of a Character

I got a lot of helpful feedback on my character dilemma, which I posted about yesterday. I deliberately withheld one critical piece of information so I could get people's honest response without biasing them. Yes, my main character, Gage, murders someone rather brutally in the first few pages of the book, after making them dig their own grave and beating the shit out of them in the process. However, he does so because the other man molested and murdered Gage's young son. I figured almost everyone would have sympathy/empathy for this man. But my main issue is how soon to reveal the reason why Gage kills the other man. If I do it quickly the reader will have an early reason to sympathize with Gage, but I might get more milage and create more tension if I withhold Gage's reasons for a while. However, I don't want to push the reader too far and risk producing a negative first impression that the reader can't dispel later. I'll prbably write it a couple of different ways in draft form and then make a decision.

9 comments:

Sidney said...

I think there's a lot of potential for a, pardon the pun, killer opening with that. I think the situation can provide a lot of tension and excitement especially with a little information withheld.

Steve said...

Great idea, Charles. Go for it!

You might also find as you get further in, that one approach or the other (or a third you haven't thought of yet) makes more sense.

No matter what you'll do, you'll alienate at least some people. But flavorless gelatin is about the only thing that offends no one...

minus273 said...

Charles, I'm starting to worry about you. What's all this concern about your reader tossing the book aside if Gage seems too much a brutal murderer. That's what makes him interesting! Keep him that way as long as possible; then let the reader in on the truth! Go ahead, PLAY ROUGH with us; we're grownups;we can take it! Why do you think people read true crime? They know going in that the bad guy is going to stay bad, but they still stay until the end. If it appears that Gage is dispicable but still is GETTING AWAY WITH IT, the shock of WHY he did it will be so much more intense. Remember, YOU ARE NOT Jane Austin,and you need'nt worry about your readers getting a case of the vapors if you write a less than genteel character. I was led to believe that you are a badass leather-clad biker dude, with a great big sword! So make Gage as bad as you want to. We'll hang in there.

Susan Miller said...

I am offended by flavorless gelatin and am most happy that the revenge was the result of a parent's anger. As a mother I would love you for you to make that as brutal as possible.

Sheila said...

As crazy as it may sound, as much as I feel anger and hate toward killers in novels, sometimes I have sympathy for them as well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lol, Sid. You're right about the alienation factor, Steve. Can't make an omlet and so on. Good point, Minus273. I'm not Agatha Christie, either. I'm a parent too, Susan, and I feel the same way. Sheila, if the character is well drawn we almost have to develop complex emotions toward them.

Yeah, I think witholding the information as long as I can is best. A "Rule of Writing," perhaps, is always make the reader squirm. Don't tell them anything until the very last instant in which they "must" know it.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Wait a minute! Why not make the reader loathe the main character? Why not make them want to read further hoping the son-of-a-bitch dies, only to gain sympathy for him in a later chapter? In other words--show your main character killing someone upfront, (like you said), then ease into the justification. Something tells me you already knew this. Good luck!

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think jr makes an interesting point. It's quite a challenge to make the reader keep going by giving a villain's downfall as the main motivation when written from a killer's perspective.

You know, Poe wrote from the villain's perspective in both THE BLACK CAT, THE CASK OF AMANTILLADO, AND THE TELL TALE HEART, also..James Gardner did as many as two, maybe more, novels with Professor Moriarty as the hero, and you don't get more evil than Moriarty.

Maybe it's a question about hero and antihero.

Stewart Sternberg said...
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