Vaughn Hardacker here. I’m sitting at my word processor and reflecting on my published work. One thing I noted is that I have the beginnings of multiple series going on. The first is my Bouchard and Houston books, Sniper (2014, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.) and The Fisherman (2014, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.) and the second is the Ed Traynor series, Black Orchid (2016, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.) and My Brother’s Keeper (TBR July 2, 2019, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.). The first thing that came to my mind was: What was the most difficult thing I faced in writing them?
The first thing that came to mind was that the characters and how to develop them was the hardest thing in Sniper and Black Orchid. I had to create characters that were not only appropriate to what I was writing but were also interesting enough for the reader to want to spend time with them. I remember being told that you write great villains but your protagonists are only so-so. I was fortunate in that I really write thrillers and not who-done-its so I was able to spend time with my antagonist because the reader already knows who he or she is. However, I wanted to make both as equally interesting as possible. You can imagine my surprise when the most popular character in Sniper turned out to be Jimmy O’Leary (aka Jimmy O), a gangster with ethics intended to be a secondary character. I can honestly say that developing Anne Bouchard and Mike Houston required more work that Jimmy O–he came natural.
I believe that the most important aspect in characters is they must be believable. I am completely turned off when I read about heroes modeled after Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. (Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy was a radio adventure series which maintained its popularity from 1933 to 1951. The program originated at WBBM in Chicago on July 31, 1933, and was later carried on CBS, then NBC and finally ABC. The character was developed by Samuel Chester Gale, Vice-president of Advertising for General Mills–another creation of Sam Gale’s fertile mind was the iconic Betty Crocker.) You know the type: they always get the girl (or guy), excel at everything they attempt. (Think the Great Leslie in the movie The Great Race.) There are a couple of extremely popular authors who I will not read because of thier unbelievable protagonists. One of whom lives in an aircraft hangar filled with antique cars and airplanes, was an All-American quarterback in college, etc, etc and he has been able to support this life-style on a government salary. My heroes are not perfect, they have flaws and my villains have some good aspects to their character (For example: Willard Fischer in The Fisherman a psychopath who cares for his mother who has advanced Alzheimer’s.).
I vividly recall what was my greatest challenge in the second book of each series . . . they had to be consistent with their characters in the first book. If your hero dislikes people who abuse animals in book one, they better have the same characteristic in all subsequent books. If your antagonist is a person who kicks puppies . . . well you get the point.
Not only should the character’s personality be consistent their reactions to various situations should also be in line. If your protagonist is a take charge type (which they usually are–nobody expects a hero to vacillate) when there is an emergency he or she must take charge. That is not to say that if you have introduced a minor character flaw in book one that you can’t show improvement in book two. However, you should show the progression, don’t just have the character undergo an instant epiphany–we all know that usually does not happen; true change takes work and time.
Another area that has to be watched is that one doesn’t confuse consistency with continuity. Aren’t they the same thing? The short answer is: no. In my next blog I’ll compare and contrast the two. For now think about the difference in their definitions:
- Agreement or logical coherence among things or parts.
- Reliability or uniformity of successive results
- Conformity with previous attitudes, behavior, and practice
- The state or quality of being continuous
- An uninterrupted succession or flow; a coherent whole
- The property of a continuous and connected period of time
- Smooth, without break