Sunday, March 20, 2016

Relationships Make Characters Interesting

I doubt many novels have been written about a hero/heroine who didn’t interact (actually or virtually) with other people or animals. Think about it. Relationships, not really appearances or jobs, make characters (lovers, families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or enemies) interesting to readers.
You can add depth to your characters by considering these factors. 
1) How do your characters communicate? Characters communicate through actions as well as orally. For example, a wealthy male protagonist might seem more lovable if he did a load of laundry for his partner without being asked than if he bought a dozen roses. Characters not interested in a relationship interrupt, raise their voice, doodle, look at their watch, or pick at their nails when others are talking. They nag their cohorts. These are good traits for character development, i Saw You in Beirut, JL Gregervillains.

Don’t fall into the Hollywood cliché of having the hero or heroine “just know what his his/her partner wants.” Psychologists are convinced this is unrealistic.

2) Do your characters share goals? Allies or lovers, who have no shared goals, are not realistic partners on a long–term basis. The dissolution of shared goals (divorce, business failure, or war) is the basis of strong plots. Authors tend to build more psychological tension into their novels when they allow characters to mourn the loss of a shared relationship.

If one of your character steamrolls the rights of others to attain a shared goal, you have created a villain.

3) All relationships involve a struggle for control. If you doubt the statement, think about raising children or training a dog. These struggles, when mainly petty bickering, can add humor to fiction, or they can foreshadow a crisis.

Please tell me about ways you use relationships to develop characters and plots in your novels.

I tried to consider these factors above as I developed the characters in I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT. For example, Sara Almquist, my protagonist, and Eric Sanders may to seem like a romantic couple, but they share common goals and even submerge their strong personalities enough to rescue a nuclear scientist from Iran. Available at Amazon: and on Nook:

Monday, March 7, 2016


Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Was he right? All publishers seem to agree publicity (now politely called a platform) is necessary for sales.

Is publicity really just a form of advertising?
That question demonstrates I’m no expert on communications and perhaps a bit cynical. Here’s what one expert said, “Advertising and publicity are two very different communication tools, even though both employ the mass media as a vehicle for reaching large audiences… Advertising buys its way into the media… Publicity is presented by the media because it's newsworthy."

What works in advertising?
Probably millions of words have been written on the topic. These two ideas may be useful to authors.

1. Extend engagement. Consumers are more apt to buy a product if they spend more time looking at an ad or better still interacting with the advertiser.

Accordingly, I am starting a CONTEST: WIN A CHANCE TO BE A CHARACTER IN MY NEXT NOVEL. To enter, post a comment to this blog or any of my guest blogs during the next six months. I’ll draw the winner out of a hat and name a character after them in an upcoming book in my thriller series.

2. Associate your writing with things readers like. Advertising often sells products not by providing factual information but by surrounding the product with other things shoppers liked (like cute pets in toilet paper ads).

I suspect that’s why so many novelists write blogs. They’re trying to tempt readers with a slightly funny blog.

Many readers would love to travel to exotic spots, but lack the cash and maybe the guts to face long flights, endless lines, and questionable food. That’s why I have my heroine Sara Almquist travel to Bolivia in Ignore the Pain, Cuba in Malignancy, and Lebanon and Qatar in I Saw You in Beirut. Should I send Sara to India or Laos in my next novel? Which country would you rather visit vicariously?

Please extend your interaction with this author and leave a comment. Thanks.

Here are thumbnail sketches of international adventures with a middle-aged woman. Maybe, I shouldn’t use the words (middle-aged) because it isn’t a pleasant thought to many. However, I suspect her views are closer to most readers’ attitudes than those of James Bond.

See BOLIVIA in Ignore the Pain, as public health consultant, Sara Almquist, learns too much about the coca trade and too little about sexy undercover agent Xave Zack.

Visit CUBA in Malignancy, when Sara Almquist arranges scientific exchanges
between the US and Cuba and learns more about undercover agent Xave Zack.

Available at Amazon: and on Nook:

Explore LEBANON, QATAR, and THE EMERATES with Sara in I Saw You in Beirut. Her past has the clues for the rescue of a nuclear scientist from Iran.

Available at Amazon: and on Nook: