So you can read my books

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Under what conditions does a person continue to be a person?

Under what conditions does he or she stop being a person?

As a young man, Hitler dreamed of being an artist.

There are private collections of his artwork kept all across the world by different individuals ...

for whatever reasons prompt such people to collect those paintings.

Do they look at those works of art, trying to picture the mind of the young man who put brush to canvas? To see if they can spot any indication of the monster he later became?

Rene Descares' maxim : I think therefore I am.

Does what we think determine the person who we are? Do our actions dictate that? Or is it a meld of the two?

A zombie. Could we call that a person? It is hunger with a mouth and two legs (usually).

Yet, haven't you met people consumed by the hunger for fame, wealth, social status to the extent that they will sacrifice their wives, their children, their health to obtain them.

Do they quality as a type of zombie, emotional hunger driven with little thought for others?

What tells you more about a person? The way his body works or how his mind works?

I would suggest that language is where our being lives. There is the language of words, but there is also the language of action.

I say "I love you" but I forget your birthday, I humiliate you in public, and slap you in private. The language of action is more persuasive than that of words.

Novels are the only medium that portray the mind well.

Only novels expose the secret life of a man's character. Do you know your hero/heroine well enough to portray his/her character with a few deft eye lifts or sighs or the finality of a signing of a divorce decree?

The best novels show a mind in conflict with itself, dark urges contesting over the feeble protests of decent ones. You, as a reader, will find the deepest connection with the character when his or her deepest thoughts are explored.

But they must resonate with truth -- the truth of what it means to be human. What are your character's deepest thoughts?

They will be about his worries, fears, and hopes.

If you can write a short , genuine-feeling paragraph of the worries, fears, and hopes of each of your characters, they will come across as real in your novel.

And those paragraphs will help give you a sense of self for each character -- and how each one of those characters interact, mesh, or strike sparks off the others in your novel.

How do you write a genuine summation of your character's worries, fears, and hopes?

Once in New York City, a rat was filmed caught in the middle of a busy street. It tried to dart from one side to the other, only to nearly be run over. Again and again, it frantically scrambled to the safety of the curb, only to miss death by millimeters.

Finally a whizzing tire caught the rat, sending it spinning and tumbling. It stayed in one spot cowering. A man with folded newspaper in hand ran from the sidewalk, scooped up the fearful rat, and tumbled it into the dark safety of the sewer grate.

The man smiled big, got on his bike, taking off. The camera crew called after him. "Why did you do that?"

He smiled embarrassed. "I've been scared like that, too."

If you can get your reader to think "I've felt like that, too," your character's worries, fears, and hopes will feel real to him and her.

Hope this helps your writing in some small way, Roland


  1. I love the rat story. It's a great example to prove your point!

  2. Thanks, Holly. I'm glad you liked it. I imagine that rat told that story over and over again to his children and grandchildren!

  3. Great rat story. Thanks so much for the post! I needed to hear this today. Glad I stopped by! :-)

  4. It's interesting to try and get inside our characters' heads well enough to be able to write empathetically. Real people (or fantasy people, come to that) experience all of the possible emotions, but to convey the story in a way that gets the reader to share those emotions is a challenge. The ability to do so is a must for an author.

    Thanks for a stimulating article.

  5. Yes, actions do speak louder than words, espeically in revealing one's true character.

    And I agree, as indicated, a novel allows a reader to comprehend the motivations behind the actions--not words one may utter to explain motivation--which may be true, false, or somewhere in between.

  6. JM : Glad I could help in some small way. May all your publishing dreams come true.

    ony : Thanks for visiting and commenting. I read your post. And if Keats could write an ode to a Grecian urn, you certainly can write one to your old faithful computer companion! LOL. Have a great Sunday.

  7. Terry : Thanks for reading and enjoying -- and commenting, too. I think one of the reasons we enjoy watching DEXTER is the voice-over which carries on the truth behind his actions. And the humor, dark though it is, doesn't hurt either.

  8. So true,

    It is very important to get inside the head of the character. How else are you going to relate to them.

    Insightful post, Roland. Very well done.


  9. You're right - if our readers can't identify with SOME aspect of our hero, then they'll neither connect nor enjoy the story.

  10. Michael : Thanks for the kind words. I guess that explains the voices in my head : I'm listening to the different thoughts of my many characters.

    Or I'm going nuts. LOL.

    Alex : Yes, I've read a much-praised novel, only to leave it feeling unconnected to the hero that I didn't very much like. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  11. I'm so glad I read your post today! I can absolutely relate with the rat. And yes, our actions speak volumes about who we are. Not just what we say. As I tell my children, "Do what you say you are going to do." Thanks for following my blog Roland! Happy Sunday.

  12. Lisa : Thanks for enjoying my post so. I think all of us can relate to that rat at some point in our lives. Have a healing Sunday, Roland

  13. My books rely heavily on the reader's ability to connect with the main character.
    However, at the moment, all the animal lover in me can think about is that poor rat!! Don't just film him - help him!

  14. Great post, Roland! I am a psychologist by training (a researcher, not a therapist) and I know more action is reaction than we choose to believe, but i think the personness comes in our ability to rein that in. Yes, we are all socialized to REact in certain ways, but so are pets--that part is NOT the person. (just as the greedy tycoon may have impeccable manners) so yes... in our thought processes.

    I like though, that ability to make the reader FEEL it. I always know if I am crying while I write that it is powerful stuff.

  15. I love the man and the rat story. That is so poignant. It really makes me think about making my hero sympathetic. Thank you!

  16. ...very insightful post about character building, Roland.