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Archive for 'Voices on the Waves'

It’s All In The Characters

My guest today is author Jessica Chambers. She has a new women’s fiction release called Voices on the Waves available from Red Rose Publishing. Today Jessica is talking about characters and why she thinks they’re so important.

Voices on the WavesFor me, the most important part of any novel is the characters. This is particularly true of women’s fiction—one of the reasons I love both reading and writing it so much—but I believe it applies to all genres. Why do we continue turning the pages, if not to find out how things work out for the individuals involved? Is there any way for them to disentangle themselves from the mess they’ve gotten themselves into? When will the hero and heroine overcome their problems and find love? Will the protagonists ever emerge from their adventures alive?

This doesn’t mean that a strong plot isn’t also vital. However vivid and memorable the characters, if they don’t have a goal to achieve, a problem to solve or some kind of obstacle to overcome, the novel would simply be a random sequence of events and interactions. However, I don’t feel a writer should ever rely too heavily on the plot to hold the reader’s interest. NO matter how gripping and action-packed the storyline, if readers feel nothing for the characters, why should they care whether or not they reach the end unscathed? In R. D. Wingfield’s novels, we follow Detective Inspector Jack Frost’s bungled investigations under the ever disapproving eye of Superintendent Mullet. Naturally we want to solve the mystery along with him, but if we didn’t like Frost as a character, we’d have no interest in whether or not he succeeds.

Of course, the characters don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They simply have to be real enough for us to feel a connection with them. A prime example of this is Gone With The Wind’s Scarlet O’Hara. There’s just no getting away from the fact that she’s a spoilt brat with far too high an opinion of herself, and who doesn’t give a damn who she hurts so long as she has both the men in her life dancing to her tune. Despite all her faults, though, as the novel progresses and Scarlet discovers within herself a steely determination not to be defeated, we develop a genuine respect for her and end up rooting for her to come through.

So no, characters don’t have to be likable. They do, however, need to be believable. We need to be able to look at them with all their flaws and virtues, and recognize someone we could meet in our every day lives. If we don’t believe in these people, if they don’t leap off the page with a life of their own, we’re hardly going to care what becomes of them. I recently read Beach Coma by Josephine Cox. In fact, the plot shows quite a lot of promise—guy coming to terms with the death of his wife and children, meets girl who shows him he can love again, and all the while a mystery figure wants to ensure the hero never finds out the truth of what happened to his family. The trouble is, the hero and heroin are so sickeningly perfect that I just didn’t believe in them, and as a result, was completely indifferent to either the peril facing them or their budding romance.

So, to sum up. A strong plot is vital to give a novel its structure, but without lifelike characters the reader can relate to, the whole thing will more often than not fall flat on its face.

These are my thoughts, for what they’re worth, but I’d love to hear what you think. When you pick up a novel, is it the plot that captures your interest, or is having an instant affinity with the characters more important ? Are there any novels you feel combine these two elements particularly well?

CONTEST: Anyone kind enough to leave a comment here, or at any point during my blog tour, will automatically be entered into the draw to win a $15 gift voucher for either Amazon or Barnes & Noble, so don’t forget to provide an email address in case I need to contact you. I’ll be announcing the five winners at the end of my tour on October 31st over at my blog so good luck!

Thank you so much, Shelley, for inviting me on your blog today, and for all of you for stopping by. Tomorrow, the Voices On The Waves Blog Tour continues with an interview at the home of Savannah Chase. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, my debut women’s fiction novel Voices On the Waves is available now from Red Rose Publishing