Monday, July 28, 2014

Chat with the Characters ~ Thinking Folks

Hello, everyone!  Here's my second installment in my Hidden Orchards blog series, Chat with the Characters.  As before, two of my own characters and I are joining a third guest character for today's topic.

Please say hello to Mrs. Desiree Breman, an American lady with plenty of money, wanderlust, and brains that are just aching to be used.  She may be dripping with money, but she's from a family that no one's ever heard of, and the posh British guests at the Grand Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo will never accept her as one of them.  She's a secondary character in Mr. Scroggins' Alibi, a murder mystery that's still a concept as of right now.
Mrs. Desiree Breman - the delightful
Mrs. Desiree Breman
Next we have Sir Andre Carler from a very long backstory to the world of Rindavae.  The novel it most closely corresponds to is The Peasants of Niminwell.  Carler is a the son of a minor noble from the north, and he gained the honorary title of High Knight when his efforts tracked down the murderer of the queen's father.  Carler has plenty of mystery in his background, and he's gained the unfortunate displeasure of Emperor Jadrez for no apparent reason.
Andre Carler
Sir Andre Carler
As for our guest, we are pleased to have Miss Jane Eyre with us today.  For those of you who do not have the pleasure of her acquaintance, Miss Eyre is a pleasant yet quiet governess in a large and distinctly CREEPY house.  Her employer is also a creep (he goes with the house).  She is the title character of Jane Eyre.
Ruth Wilson, Jane Eyre -  Jane Eyre directed by Susanna White (TV Mini-Series, BBC, 2006) #charlottebronte
Miss Jane Eyre
Our topic today is called Thinking Folks.  Specifically, what do you look for in an "intellectual" character?  While action, action, action all the time is exciting, it is mentally dulling rather than mentally stimulating.  A good character has to think through the problems he encounters, but how can a character's mental process still keep a reader hooked?  What do you think, Miss Eyre?

Jane: I do believe that people willing to take the time to think as they read will not mind working with their mental faculties even during a time of pleasure reading.

You've certainly have your share of problems to think through.

Jane: They are difficult, yes, but what else can one do?  We are not called upon to make difficult decisions in times of ease and merriment, are we?

Andre: An excellent point, Miss Eyre.  But during your story, how does one stay engaged while you think these thoughts through?

Mrs. Breman: What a mouthful that is!

Jane: As I was writing my autobiography, I made certain to intersperse the necessary mundane with the more exciting and sensational.  People in general would rather read something that does not make them contemplate their own problems.  That is why so many read; they have problems which they wish to forget.

Mrs. Breman: I wonder if that is really so.  In my experience, people read for many reasons.  I read for many reasons, just as I travel for many reasons.  People are too complex for one assignment of motive.

To that I agree wholeheartedly.  But how can we make a thoughtful character interesting to the readers instead of a brainy annoyance that makes people roll their eyes in disgust?

Andre: Just as there are many motives for reading, so there are many different types of "brainy" characters.  Some we would classify as nerds, some as know-it-alls, and some, I think, as normal people who simply have to think through a thing.  Just because someone is thinking in a book does not make them automatically boring.

Jane: The topic of thoughts must have plenty to do with it.  What if the character is thinking of something interesting, such as how he is plotting to kill his next victim or escape from his employer's insane wife?  The subject instantly provokes interest in the reader.

Mrs. Breman: In fact, in any good story the author should not penetrate the thoughts of a characters unless the thoughts are directly related to the plot.  The reader should experience safety in knowing that although he is forced into the head of a character, what he sees there will be completely relevant to the story.  This holds especially true in mysteries, I should think.

Not necessarily.  Think about it.

Andre: Are you saying that sometimes in mysteries people need to know misleading things?

Mrs. Breman: Ha!  Silly me!  It's called red herring, isn't it?  People need red herrings in murder mysteries.  In fact, red herrings help the reader to think without them even realizing it.

Andre:  Something like sneaking intelligence to the reader without them knowing it?  That sounds . . . unethical.

Mrs. Breman: I hope you're joking, young man.  People who read generally like to be thought intelligent, and they generally get their wish.  Reading is a universal sign of mental activity.

Jane: Is being smart, or at least giving the appearance of being smart, now in vogue?

Mrs. Breman: I do believe you've hit upon it, Miss Eyre.  If people think that they're thinking their own thoughts, then those people must believe themselves to be smart.

Andre: That's what makes murder mysteries so interesting.  People reading them might imagine themselves to be solving the mystery along with the detective, but in reality they're thinking thoughts that the author is giving them.

Mrs. Breman:  Of course, my dear boy, that's not always true.  In a really good mystery you can solve the crime on your own using the clues the author puts forth.

Andre:  But that's only because the author gives you those clues, hoping that the cleverest readers might be able to put them together.

Jane:  It is always that way, but when people do not think as they read, the mystery just becomes like any other story.  Many times it is a thrilling and a wonderful story, but before it was a puzzle and now it is just a novel.

I think we've sort of gotten off track, not that I mind too much.  This is an interesting turn of discussion.  What are some suggestions you have, though, to keep a reader interested while the character is thinking?  Andre?

Andre: Make him think interesting thoughts.

Mrs. Breman: Is that all you have for these lovely readers, Sir Carler?  What sort of a help are you anyway?

Andre: I like to keep things simple.  I'm a soldier, not an author.

Mrs. Breman: I'm not an author either, but we were not invited here because of our authorly abilities.

That's all right, Andre, if that's all the answer you want to give.  Actually, it's the best advice, really.  We can't tell people how to write, because in the end, an author's got to discover his own niche.  No one else can find it for him.  We can inspire, but we can do the work.

Jane: Well put, I say.

Thank you, Miss Eyre.  Now, if we can get back on track, Mrs. Breman.

Mrs. Breman: I do beg your pardon.  If you were to ask me, though, I would say that a good character shows thoughts through actions.

That is easier said than done.

Mrs. Breman: If we absolutely must hear him think, then make his thoughts short and sweet, please.  I hate reading long, philosophical dissertations in the head of a character.  Most people do, I would think.

You are in essence giving Andre's advice.

Mrs. Breman: It is most unintentional, I can assure you.

Well, thanks for joining me today.  I've got to sign off now, but don't forget to go over to Kendra's blog and check out her exciting party today.

Jane: I'm not terribly fond of parties.

Mrs. Breman: Well, I want to go.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

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