Posts Tagged ‘Reading


Drawing Book Characters from Real Life

I’ve recently discovered that it’s a fairly common practice all across the romance interwebs to align certain characters with their celebrity counterparts. Some writers draw on pictures for inspiration, while others go so far as to study the mannerisms of their favorite actors, actresses, or the parts these professionals play. Although I’ve never done it myself, it seems like a really good way to create believable characters; whether you’re trying to emulate Hugh Grant’s bumbling speech or the way Jason Statham can blow stuff up without even batting an eye, it allows writers to infuse a real human element into a book.

The reason I don’t do it is that it never really occurred to me to give it a try. When I read (and when I write), I rarely create a solid vision of what the characters look like. Like they exist in a dream, my characters are fuzzy impressions in my mind, faceless beings whose souls I know intimately, but whose bodies could belong to just about anyone. In all honesty, I think I do this because I live in an age when half of the books I read are turned into movie adaptations, and keeping my impressions intangible allows me to enjoy the movie versions, since I’m open to what the directors interpret for the characters without ruining my own internal vision of the book.

I will confess, though, that I did once run into a real life version of one of my heroes. It just about floored me, too, because my hero is not…ordinary. Or rather, he is ordinary (for the romance genre), in that he’s over six feet tall, muscular as hell, and gorgeous. You know, the alpha combination that doesn’t usually exist in real life, but that we love to oogle on the book covers all the same. To top it all off, my hero is of mixed Pacific Islander and Japanese descent with a kick-ass tattoo across his back. And I kid you not: I saw this exact man walking across a parking lot one day. Shirtless. (Hey, it was summer and we were at a theme park.) I almost wanted to take a picture of him, if only to prove that a man like that really could exist!

Anyway, because I’ve spent most of my life NOT assigning physical counterparts to the characters I encounter in fiction, I’m not likely to start any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the fact that other writers do it. It’s fun to discover just who an author had in mind when they created so-and-so, and to see how that image differs from one I might have. It adds another layer of complexity to a book, and I’m always game for that.


What’s the Highest Compliment You Can Give a Book?

I’ve heard a number of authors claim that they would rather have their books elicit a love/hate response from their readers than get a warm, bland reaction all around. Other authors claim they don’t care what the public outcry is, as long as their books sell. Still others crave pure, overwhelming appreciation from the masses (okay, maybe we all want that…).

The truth is, there is no way to get a unified response to a book. Readers are as diverse as snowflakes, and there is simply no way to please everyone. Whether you prefer plot-driven books with plenty of action or slow and steady romances that are all about overcoming emotional barriers, there are enough writers – and readers – for just about everything.

As both a writer and a reader, I find myself in an interesting position when it comes to enjoying fiction. I’m pickier, certainly, than when I was just a reader – not only because I don’t have as much time as I used to, but also because I know how to better appreciate a writer who is really good at his or her craft. I’m also much more analytical when it comes to plot. I can tell when the writer has really thought out all the winding details of a complicated plot versus when he or she has simply tried to make everything fit, logic and reason be damned. It can be difficult to get past poor writing or poor conflict, and I have been known set aside books after a few pages if I just can’t get past these issues.

Sometimes, though, these issues don’t matter at all. And that’s what, in my mind, makes a book great.

I recently finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl. I read each one within a span of 24 hours, and wholly neglected things like my own writing, housework, and parenting in order to do so. Both books sucked me in from almost the first page, telling the story almost effortlessly, toying with my heartstrings without me even realizing they were doing it. They were good books, period.

Looking back, however, I can find several issues that should bother me about them. I didn’t necessarily like the way the ending played out in The Help (some farcical humor and too many perfectly tied loose ends), and there was your standard sexually-obsessed supervillain in Talk Me Down that has become just too gimmicky in the romance world for my tastes.

But you know what? I don’t care.

Both books transported me to a different world long enough for me to turn my critical eye off; I skimmed over sections that might not have been as strong as the rest of the book and went along with silly plot devices for as long as I needed to. And that, to me, is the highest compliment of all. If a book can get this writer to turn off her inner critic long enough to just enjoy the ride, that’s a pretty darn good book.

What about you? As a reader or a writer, what is it that make you sigh, clutch the book to your chest, and just beam for a few minutes while you soak in the happily ever after?


April 2020

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