Do readers see the characters in your head?
July 18, 2016
THE WRITER SEES THE STORY vividly in his or her own mind. It plays like a movie. Maybe it’s more like an old-fashioned newsreel.
The writer sees it so clearly. That’s not enough. Now the writer has to transform the story and the characters into the head of readers.
The writer becomes the camera.
That is always my person concern. Can I make sure the readers see my characters as clearly as I do? If not, all I have given them are stick figures.
And that’s the death knell of any book.
My new novel, Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, deals with the trials and tribulations faced by Casey Clinton, a hotshot young high school quarterback being victimized by a never-ending parade of coaches, alumni and unscrupulous college recruiters.
Here is how I described one of the recruiters meeting Casey for the first time.
“Wilson Walker’s my name,” said a small, dark man, his back turned to the rain. He was smoking a cigar and wearing a Rolex watch.
Casey had never seen him before.
Walker shoved a business card into Casey’s shirt pocket. “I’ll be seeing you,” was all he said.
Jesus, where did all these bastards come from?
Walker winked and strode briskly away. His black hair had been styled. His graying mustache was styled. Hell, his eyebrows were probably styled, too. His red jacket and black trousers had obviously never been sold from a rack, and his patent leather shoes had an unmistakable European flair. The gold chain around his neck was linked together with huge nuggets. He was a man with a price tag, and he looked expensive. He even smelled expensive. Why, Casey wondered, did he feel such a sudden dislike for someone he didn’t even know?
The man obviously didn’t mind the rain.
He walked out into the storm without hesitation.
It didn’t rain on men like Wilson Walker.
Of course, the trials of a high school quarterback would not be complete without an encounter with an older but beautiful woman who knows a red-blooded American boy can resist just about everything but temptation.
This is my description of Casey’s first time to cross paths with the femme fatale.
That was when he saw her, a pale, ghostly figure moving in and out of the darkness with each distant flash of lightning.
She was no more than an image on a roll of black and white film, leaning against the fence and drifting in and out of the misty fog that had overtaken the Alabama countryside.
Casey stood mesmerized.
He had no idea how long she had been standing there, watching him, her eyes shadowed by the black umbrella that shielded her face.
He waited for her to speak. Only the faraway rumble of muffled thunder sounding almost apologetic interrupted the awkward silence that separated them. For a brief moment, the fog cleared, and Casey’s quizzical eyes met her stare.
Karen Proctor was wearing a curious smile. Or maybe it was a sad one.
Then the fog gathered around her again, and the image of her face began to slip back into the grasp of the darkness.
Casey felt his muscles tighten as he stepped toward the fence. “What are you doing here?” was all he could think of to say.
“Watching you.” There was a hint of music in the deep sultry sound of her laughter. Karen held out her hand to him.
“Why are you watching me?” Casey asked, his throat dry. The bourbon had numbed his senses.
“I’ve been watching you for a long time.”
Casey suddenly felt ill at ease, although he didn’t know why. “You’re gonna get wet out here,” he said.
“Maybe.” Karen shrugged, and her unruly dark curls fell thickly across her shoulders, framing her oval face. It appeared almost opaque in the darkness and the fog. She was a small woman, slightly past thirty years old, with fragile and delicate features. Her eyes flashed with flecks of green.
Casey had heard rumors among the waitresses down at the Dairy Freeze that Karen had been a fashion model in Dallas before she gave her wicked heart to God and became the prim and proper wife of a fundamentalist Baptist preacher.
Poor Casey, he never had a chance, not with recruiters trying to give away fast cars and a femme fatale trying to let him borrow a little love.
I see those two characters vividly in my head. They won’t leave. I hope they have been able to crawl into some corner of your head as well.