Misguided tips???

Some of the nicest compliments I’ve heard about “White Wolf Moon” revolve around the characters and dialogue. When I hear that the people in my book seem “so real” or that they’re “folks I’d like to spend a weekend with” I know I’ve done okay. I even had one woman tell me that if the real Evan Morris walked up her path she’d toss her husband to the curb. Now that is character identification!
I’m not sure how many plots or basic story-lines exist in the world of fiction. I know that if I settle in to read a mystery the chances are good I’ve read at least a couple with a similar story-line.  What makes each of these novels different is the skill of the author and his/her ability to present the story-line in a fresh way, with a twist. That twist is usually provided by the characters. How they react to a situation is what makes them, and the story, unique.
My characters are based on real people that I knew back then (as are some of the events) so it’s easy to picture these people in my mind and know how they will react in different scenarios. I’ve also blended a little of my own personality within each of them, male and female. It’s the familiarity factor and it also gives me an opportunity to live vicariously through each of these people, especially Evan. He is the one most like me. His attitudes and philosophies are mostly mine so it’s easy for me to identify with him which makes it easier to create a character that the reader will identify with.
People talk and so do characters. Someone told me that my dialogue is so real and natural that they felt like they were eaves-dropping. With “White Wolf Moon” it is the dialogue that drives the story. I use narrative to provide minimal scene-setting…just enough description of a beach or bookstore so that the reader can picture a beach or bookstore that is familiar to them. When it comes to describing a character I let another character internally provide the description. As for dialogue, I have no formula. I just listen to how real people talk. As well as all the “ums” and “ahs” there’s very little logic or structure to a casual conversation. It’s all improv. One word sends it off in a different direction and that’s the way my characters talk. I use a digital voice recorder and literally talk to myself (when no-one else is around) to create the dialogue. I’ll type it up then record it again, using what I’ve written as a cheat sheet. I always end up making slight changes in the delivery and changing some of the words. This usually takes me in another direction totally unrelated to the original conversation but that’s what makes it real. It was difficult and uncomfortable at first but now I can carry on a real conversation between Evan and Marie and have all the natural little quirks that make it more realistic. Again it’s that important familiarity with the people that makes this possible. My character Annie (a lady living out of a shopping cart) is based entirely on a woman I saw at a park. I didn’t have to make up anything…she’s just that real and flamboyant. Study strangers at the mall or just walking down the street…take note of their physical appearance, posture, and overall body language to create believable physical characters. Listening in on conversations and learning speech patterns will provide insights into the way we all talk and the way our characters should talk.

As Evan Morris says, “Observation is the key to everything.”

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