So you can read my books

Saturday, July 3, 2010


You've heard it before :

"Oh, you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?"

I'm asking that of your characters in your novel. Can they walk the walk? Does their walk match their talk?

In thirty seconds, an Intelligence profiler can create a frighteningly accurate character sketch of anyone they meet. People shout who they are without saying a word : the way they hold themselves, meet or don't meet your eyes, and the way they walk when feeling unobserved.

If you take care in your craft, you can make the reader believe your character is real, suspending that third wall between them and the pages you've written. The way someone moves is sculpted by ...

{As in RITES OF PASSAGE where McCord is in the cabin of a murdered seaman and being invited to a mysterious meeting with an Elder God by his oldest servant.}

He was a bent shell of a man, wrapped in feathered robes with Aztec markings on them. He fit in with the Victorian elegance of the steamer as much as I did, which meant not at all, but he seemed to enjoy the jarring note more. I know he enjoyed the sound of his voice more.

“The Mark of the Rabbit has come again.”

“I promise to tidy up better next time, frypan. But I have to run now.”

“Yes, to where Emperor Ketsahl Koahtl demands your presence.”

Webster frowned, going pale. “What does the Emperor of Peru want with the Ranger?”

The withered man smiled and bowed low. “I am but a poor servant, told nothing of why and much of what.”

He smiled as his eyes glistened with a cruel light. “But I do believe that the Emperor knows the identity of the murderer of Rachel Houston.”

Sir Lionel huffed, “Confound it, man! It’s obviously a trap. Steer clear of this one.”

I nodded. “Tell your master that you got too smart for your own good, and I passed up his gracious invitation.”

His fear was a yellow-green fire only I could see. But the others saw his wrinkled face pale. I noticed then how he held his shoulders - - as if they were permanently misshapen from long years of beatings. I sighed down to my spurs.

“Hold on there, partner. I’ll go with you.”

Sir Lionel drew himself up stiff. “Are you daft? No matter what is done to him, you owe him nothing. Certainly not walking into a trap.”

Greeley shook his head at me. “He would not do the same for you.”

I felt Webster’s deep-set eyes on me as I said, “It’s not what I owe him, but what I owe to myself.”

“Which is?,” rumbled the ambassador.

“To not be the kind of man that would knowingly let another get hurt if I could stop it.”


{As again in RITES OF PASSAGE when McCord is approached by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the deck of the DEMETER.}

I heard brittle laughter coming from behind me. I turned to face it.

Emerson. His disapproving hawk nose stabbed at me with only a little less force than his eyes. He strolled stiff-legged to me. I sighed. When you were young, you walked with your whole body. When you got older, you moved with just your legs.

“I was looking for Margaret," he sneered. "But this scene will do nicely enough instead.”

“If I promise to miss you, will you leave?,” I said.


{As in this scene from CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS, as Victor Standish is walking beside Sam McCord -- the boy just having been rescued from living shadows by the undead Ranger.} (The novel is told through the eyes of the 12 year old street orphan.)

I looked up at him as I walked beside him. He moved like a cat but reminded me of a lone wolf, never at rest, always alert. The shadows seemed to move aside for him as if afraid of this strange cowboy. His amused eyes flicked my way.

"I reckon if I gave you a pair of cymbals, I could arrange for you to move louder."

"Hey, on these streets, you sure don't want to surprise anybody. A guy could get dead quick that way."

He smiled crooked, "Didn't seem to work that way with the Amal back there."

He winked at me as if at some shared, secret joke. My eyes blurred. Damn it. I was too old to cry. And certainly not in front of him. But for the first time in ... hell, for the first time I could ever remember ... he made me feel as if I had worth.

Clearing my throat and eyes, I pointed to his Texas Ranger badge. "You really a Ranger?"



He shook his Stetson-covered head. "No. On medical leave."

"For what?"

"For a long time."

His wolf eyes said he was laughing with me not at me, and I frowned, "You don't have cop eyes."

"What kind of eyes do police officers have, Victor?"

Police officer not cop. I tucked that bit of information about this McCord into the dark of my mind. "They have cold eyes, sir."

"Call me Captain Sam. And you haven't seen my eyes angry."

"Oh, I saw you back there with the Amal. I know you can get angry. But not cold."

I tapped my chest. "It's like the fire inside here has died somehow. You can see it in their eyes. And the way they look at you. Brrrr. Like you were a bad piece of meat. Like they were sizing you up to see if you're worth killing or just beating up."

I ran my fingers through my shaggy hair. "I've seen them off-duty. They look at everybody that way. Why is that?"

McC-- Captain Sam sighed, "They've seen a lot of folks at their worst, son."

"I bet you have, too."

His eyes grew so sad I thought he'd cry, and he whispered, "Yes, Victor. Yes, I have."

"But your eyes stayed warm."

He smiled as if it hurt him. "I've also seen a lot of folks at their best ... even when it killed them."


{As in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURE when McCord and Renfield, the vampire priest, leave their meeting with R'yleh, the leader of New Orleans' colony of Soyoko {evolved raptors.} They meet a wheelchair-bound Maudie and her little dog, Tufts, in search of the Ranger to seek his help for the Convention Center being overrun by drunken young gang members.}

Maudie jabbed a gnarled forefinger at Renfield. “I heard stories about you and the cowboy. How you fought the Nazis, mobsters, commies, and crooked politicians. You mean to tell me a bunch of wet-nosed, drunk punks are too much for the two of you?”

Renfield closed his eyes, probably seeing many of the same ghosts I was seeing, and murmured, “And there are rows upon rows of the graves of innocents who paid the price for our so-called heroics.”

“So you just gonna throw those poor little girls to those raping bastards and to hell with the --”

She looked over my shoulder and went terror stiff. Tufts froze and began a low growling. I turned. R'lyeh. She was standing at the edge of the garden alleyway and swaying slowly.

Slit-eyes studied Maudie for long, hungry moments. They reflected the cold fire of the full moon. The moon of death and endings. Those eyes seemed to murmur of her race's beginnings that lay lost and buried back beyond the dark oblivion of pre-history before there were mammal hands to chisel words into rock or brush blood upon cliff faces.

There was something familiar to the way R'lyeh moved. Then, I realized what it was. I recognized the rhythm. I turned back around, studying Maudie’s neck pulse. Crap. R’lyeh’s swaying was matching the beat of the woman's heart.

I rose slow, ignoring the pain in my right knee, and faced the Soyoko. “She is not prey.”

“Why not? She is old, dying. And you heard her. There is no law to stop me.”

The angry rumble of the thunder above seemed to merge with the sound of my voice. “There’s me.”


There are more things that affect the way your character moves : attitude, health, environment. Look at the characters in your novel : do their movements reflect the different elements of their world, their nature, and their expectations? If not, polish those movements. Your novel will shine the better for it.


Study the facial expressions and the body movements in this music video to see better what I am saying :


  1. Characters who walk their talk is a specialty of mine. (Not arrogant in any way here ;-D) I default in the grammer department. And I can see your characters hold their own just fine. You are prolific in your word count AND imagination arent you? ;-) Great examples and so true a subject.

  2. I knew they needed to be true to who and what they were, but I never thought of it in this depth. Thanks!

  3. Words Crafter : Thanks for your many comments. I appreciate them. I am just at the tail end of an 8 day work gauntlet with half of it on first call. Today was a 10 hour straight, 300 miles, plus Bacterial Testing, Day. Whew! I have scant time to sleep, much less write how much your and others' comments mean to me.

    Nicole : It's not bragging if it's true. I try to help my fellow friends out there in blogdom. And if any agent accepts me, yes, I do have several novels completed for them -- plus some I am working on. May your publishing dreams come true. And you, too, Words Crafter.

  4. A few of my characters need to get on their feet. They are a little wooden, and need to get a life. :)
    Interesting post, thanks.

  5. Very interesting post, since I never really thought of my characters that way.

  6. ...a person's movements are affected by their age. So true. My lead character is a ten year old boy. While I'm still fine-tuning a few scenes, he's a young man unsure of himself, who hesitates first, yet moves with bold, and at times awkward assurance. He sometimes speaks before first considering the consequences of his words.
    Luck is on my side for once, for there's a ten year old living under my son and current pre-teen tutor. Studying his facial expressions and actions have been most crucial to the development of this manuscript. Yeah, he'll be included in my acknowledgements:)
    Great post as always, Roland.

  7. Great post! We really have to understand the whole person to have them across clearly on the page. How someone holds himself is probably one of the best ways to illustrate his character.

  8. Not to brag; but I think my strongest writing strength is my vivid, realistic characters. Many people have said so. That is also one of my weaknesses. Every movement and nuance is dictated by their history, their experiences, their emotional and physical well being.

    In a memoire, with my subject matter - marketable. But "normal" people don't want to read such realism in a fiction novel. (shrugs) I'm hoping I can invest that imagery and characterization in characters for a fantasy novel. Something less real, less close to home.

    I'll take lessons from your excerpts and advice dear Roland, and hope some day to measure up.

    Thanks for this song; and the sentiments it stirs in my soul. I'm a romantic at heart - though few would believe it.