I get Dee Power and Brian Hill's newsletter (click here for their website), and in the latest one, she has an interview with Laurel K. Hamilton (the Anita Blake series). It's a short but neat interview. The one thing that struck me is what Ms. Hamilton thought was the most appealing thing about her series:

"My fan base runs from twelve year olds to sixty plus, male and female; my demographics are really broad. I've been asked this question before, so I decided to look at some other series that do as well as mine or better. What they all have in common is 'characters'. The characters have to be people that you like and enjoy being around, you want to spend time with them. They have to be real. My characters seem more real to other people sometimes than to me. They're my characters so I expect to talk about them. If I walked into the next room, I wouldn't be surprised if they were there. But when I talk to people across the country, we talk about these characters as if we could meet them. We have conversations about the characters as if we were talking about our friends."

Characters, not plot, or half a dozen other things. It's why I keep returning to the Stephanie Plum series: Stephanie and the other characters are absolute hoots.

But Ms. Hamilton also says this:

"You also need to create a world that seems real enough that the reader could step into it. I cheated, because Anita's world is as if you woke up tomorrow in this world but everything that goes bump in the night exists. That's much easier to do than creating a whole new world. If I say 'he ate an Oreo' I don't have to explain what an Oreo cookie is. But because I'm dealing with the real world, all my details have to be absolutely dead on. If the readers catch me on some fact that they know and can check me on, they won't believe in the vampires, or the zombies or the fairies. If they catch me, then their suspension of disbelief is shattered."

Worldbuilding ain't just for SF and fantasy anymore. :-) Whereas those genres need to explain certain things that aren't around in our present-day world, other genres need to do this, too, as Ms. Hamilton says above. Your world has to have rules and regulations that your characters must stick to, or else you'll be 'splaining why a certain character broke a certain rule in your universe. And you better 'splain, or you'll have a bunch of disgruntled fans muttering and complaining.

For instance, in one of the Stephanie Plum novels, Janet Evanovich has a character talking about becoming (or was) a New York Giants cheerleader. HAH! I've been an American football fan for quite some time now, and I know for a fact that the Giants have never had cheerleaders. Management always said people were there to see the team.

Of course, during the low points (and there have been plenty), I'm sure a lot of guys would've preferred looking at cheerleaders shaking their thangs as opposed to looking at the boobs on the field.

Anyway...did I grumble at that? You bet. Did I said an email off to Ms. Evanovich? Nah. I figured someone else probably brought her up on it. However, other than that, I've found the series nothing but fun. That is, the characters are interesting and very Jersey, heh heh.

So I'm trying to focus on my characters, to make them interesting, to give them flaws, to make them as human as possible (well, unless they're an alien species of some sort). Although my novel is set in the present day, I do have a couple of tweaks in it, but I'm setting it in the town (some town: it has 50,000 people in it!) I grew up in. Although a lot has changed since I lived there, most of the streets are the same, a lot of the buildings are the same, and besides, I can always take a trek across the state and check and make sure I've got stuff in the right places.

Plus, I can always bum a lunch off Mom. ;-)

Keep writing!

~Nancy Beck


writtenwyrdd said...

Excellent points. Thanks for sharing.

I pretty much choked though when I read that LKH's fan base starts at twelve years old... What parent in their right mind would let their twelve-year-old read the last few Anita Blake books, which are X rated?

~Nancy said...

Glad you liked it. :-)

Jeez, I hadn't really thought of that...12 year olds? Egads. If my mother got wind of me reading something like that, I would've been smacked, and the book thrown away.

But that's my guess: Those 12 year olds who are reading the Anita Blake books are probably doing it on the sly.

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, to be fair, I read "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" when I was 12. On the sly. Heh. As well as a large number of other books I shouldn't have read.