Thursday, July 11, 2013

We All Need a Little Butter Pecan...June Theme from Jody Feldman

Consider butter pecan ice cream. Or the Terramizzou concrete* at Ted Drewe’s**. They operate on the same premise: sweet + salty; smooth + bite. A perfect combination, and not just for ice cream, but ...

You know where I’m going with this, right?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was writing The Gollywhopper Games, I had some difficulty creating multi-dimensional characters. My biggest mistake was thinking it may be impossible to bring out the shades in my key players when:
A. The characters had just met.
B. They would be interacting for only a few hours of plot time.
C. The plot and the action would supercede any opportunity for subtlety.

It turned out, initially, I had created caricatures. And then, through the magic of working with editors, each of my five central characters moved from black and white onto the gray scale with a variety of success. Even so, to borrow from the U.S. Army, they were not all that they could be.

Since then, I’ve grown. At least I feel I have. Not only do I intend to create multi-layered characters—smart with a bit of ignorance, cute with an underlying ugly streak, sweet with a bit of grit—I have a few more skills up my sleeves. And yet, I struggle. I have no problem with the dominant traits; it’s the nuances that put me to work.

At least I now know that even characters in small roles can be fully conceived on the page. To do that successfully, though, has and will continue to take effort. And I try very hard to do that because without the balance—without the sweet and salty, the smooth and bite—you may end up with big vessels of vanilla or with a mouthful of dry nuts.

*Rich vanilla custard blended with hot fudge and whole pistachios
**The inventor of the concrete, those thick, blended ice cream concoctions now found nationwide

2 comments:

  1. So true! Every person on the page needs to be, well, a person!

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  2. Cleverly done! Love the analogy! (Though must say that I have never liked ice cream with nuts because I don't like mixing gritty with smooth. A person could write a thought-provoking ice cream post defending the opposite principle, using my own ice cream preferences as a starting point. E.g., don't jar the reader with unexpected points of view, magic that comes out of nowhere, etc.). Fun!

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