DL Fowler's Blog

Character in Characters

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those words define what we mean by character. They are words that remind us of  the difference between a leader and a con-man. For writers like me, these words are a guide to crafting characters who inspire readers through stories. Characters with character are more important today, than ever before.

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SYWS – You Have the Right …

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, SYWS, Writing by DLFowler on November 27, 2011

In America we have rights. We have the right to express ourselves freely. And we have the right to remain silent. I guess there’s a time and place for everything, because rights have consequences. So, if you can’t bear the consequences, don’t exercise the right.

I just read a great story in a lousy book. The story kept me wanting to know what happens next. The writing screamed, I don’t care if you can’t decipher the story. Okay, but if that’s the way you feel, then I have the right to think you should tell your stories around a campfire, but not in a book. In fact, I look forward to an invite to your next camp out. I just don’t want to buy your next book – unless you give it to a competent editor first.

With the flood of poorly edited books these days, maybe every book should include the editor’s name and email address. That would be an appropriate exercise of free speech.

Do you have thoughts on rights and responsibilities? Chime in with a comment.

More Reader Feedback

Posted in Characters, Dialog, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, PTSD, Reading, Writing by DLFowler on May 12, 2011

Is it shameless self-promotion when you repeat what readers say?

Here’s what one reader said:

What a bold theme ! It takes nerve to write something like this and make readers swear it is the truth. The pace is right as is the structure. The prose is tight and the dialogues realistic.

And if that’s not enough, watch Emily’s reaction.

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Reader Reviews #1

Posted in Characters, Lincoln's Diary, Reading by DLFowler on May 11, 2011

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be on the road doing book signings and talking to readers about Lincoln’s Diary – a novel by DL Fowler. Today I’m posting videos of reviews by two readers, Richard Heller, an author, and Charity who sees herself in the story’s heroine, Sarah Sue Morgan.

Look for me as I make stops in Newberg, OR and in Folsom, Lincoln, Stockton, Fontana, Redlands, Pasadena and Bakersfield CA.  Details of the tour are on my website.

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Lincoln’s Cosmopsis and My Tribute to John Barth

Don’t bother looking it up. Cosmopsis isn’t likely in your dictionary. John Barth used (probably invented) the term in his 1958 controversial novel, The End of the Road. The image of Jacob Horner, Barth’s main character, sitting on a train station bench all night has stuck with me since my college days – yes, they had trains before I entered USC.

What was Horner’s problem? He was paralyzed by indecision. He had $30 with which to buy a train ticket and couldn’t find a reason to visit any of the available destinations.

No. That doesn’t parallel anything we know about Abraham Lincoln. Not the indecision, that is. But the paralysis, yes.  Many of Lincoln’s contemporaries describe episodes like the one his law partner William Herndon recounted. Lincoln sitting in a chair in their law office one morning, staring into the cosmos, disconnected from the reality around him.  Herndon couldn’t shake him out of his trance. Two hours later, Lincoln kicked one leg straight out then crossed it over his other leg and launched into telling a raunchy story as if the previous two hours never happened.

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Fourth Random Installment – Lincoln’s Diary

Posted in Kindle, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Melancholy, Nook, Print Edition, Reading by DLFowler on February 26, 2011

As Sarah coaxed the door open just a crack, she stiffened her resolve and squinted into the dimness, inhaling a whiff of stale, dusty air. She opened the door a bit wider and scanned for hiding places, shadows along the corners of stacked boxes or abandoned furniture. She even studied silhouetted edges of support posts, anywhere Mom could be lurking, ready to chastise her when she stepped across the threshold. Scratchy recordings of Mom’s scoldings echoed in her head.   Sarah always cringed at Mom’s voice telling her “No” for venturing up to the attic or for demanding the truth that was owed her. But of course, Mom wouldn’t be up there this time; Mom was dead.

One step across the threshold, Sarah opened her eyes wide, taking in everything at once. A few boxes next to the wardrobe caught her attention. She edged toward them and lifted the lid from the box on top of the stack; it was full of Grandma Cassie’s things. A dusty picture caught her attention and made her smile. The photograph showed her leaning playfully into Grandma’s side. Mom stood stiffly, half an arm’s length away from them.

Sarah couldn’t remember who snapped the photo, but she remembered the occasion.  It would have been her fourteenth birthday, the only time she got to wear that necklace. Mom yanked it off her neck the next morning when she finally noticed it. Mom was sure a boy had given it to her, and she was right. His name was Nick.

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No Idea How This Wound Up On My Blog

Posted in Characters, Inside a Writer's Head, Plots, Plots, Psychology, Writing by DLFowler on February 25, 2011

Here’s what we love in a good story – a protagonist we care about (it doesn’t hurt if we fall in love with that person) and an antagonist we want to see the world get even with.  Hmm … it sounds like the way we like our politics.

 I saw a comment recently to the effect that dictators (I think the reference was to the Saudi royal family) hold on to power with generous social programs. Who bites the hand that feeds them?  The commenter made a veiled reference to American politicians as well.

But here’s the real deal. Despots throughout history have seized and maintained power by employing the same emotions that help people like me sell novels. As human beings we love to hate demons and save victims.  Write a book that does both and it will sell (of course you have to get the word out, which isn’t easy.)  Demonize the other guy in politics and people will follow you even when they’re hungry, as long as you get the word out and you’re a sympathetic victim or you can find an embraceable poster child.

The nice thing about  being a novelist is that your plot doesn’t have to be so believable if you can pull off the love/hate thing well enough. Your plot can be sort of like … well, real life. And readers will suspend belief long enough to follow your characters on whatever journey you have in mind for them.

Oh, I forgot. Life is stranger than fiction. If your story is too much like real life,  people won’t  believe it.  They’ll go back to thinking politicians buy power with generous social programs, and what they said about their adversaries was, well, it had to be the truth. Right?

25 Best Novels for Psychology Buffs

Posted in Emotions, Favorite Books, Reading, Show Don't Tell, Themes, Writing by DLFowler on February 7, 2011

From my perspective good novels are always about psychology. Personally, I read to engage in relationships with the people (call them characters if you want) who live on  printed pages – or on my iPhone’s screen. So when I recieved a link to an article that lists the 25 Best Novels for Psychology Buffs. I just had to share. There’s some pretty good stuff here.

I like fiction as an avenue for understanding human behavior because novels and short stories let us watch people respond to the challenges of life. It’s not someone saying “Sarah was depressed.” A good author shows us how her body responds to events and emotions … by seeing her face contort or her body tense up we can feel what she feels. It is by feeling that we truly understand. After all, the brain was wired to learn from sensory impulses. We even talk about embracing logic as if we require an emotional connection to facts before we let them into our brain.

Anyway, I thought you’d enjoy the list.  Thanks to Celina Jacobson at http://Careeroverview.com for sharing

Excerpt from Lincoln’s Diary – a novel

Posted in Kindle, Lincoln's Diary, My Books, Nook, Writing by DLFowler on February 5, 2011

Here’s the first page of Chapter One.

Chapter One

Wicomico County, Maryland, October 13, 2010

Sarah closed her eyes and cupped the rickety glass doorknob. Her breath stalled and the knot in her stomach drew tighter. The truth about her father and grandfather had to be stashed somewhere in that old attic.

Grandma Cassie always sidestepped questions about the missing men in Sarah’s life with “Both you and your mother were immaculate conceptions.” And Grandma’s myth got more mileage than the ones about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Sarah clung to Grandma’s story at least until she learned what ‘immaculate conception’ meant. Her enlightenment came about the time she panicked over the blood on her underwear.

Now, at thirty-something, she didn’t question, anymore, whether they’d existed. She was after the truth about who they were.  It didn’t occur to her that the truth could hurt. Or that sometimes it killed.

The sound of a car door shutting on the driveway snagged her attention. Her eyes narrowed. Why hadn’t she heard the car coming up the magnolia lined asphalt? She cocked her head and brushed a handful of ebony curls away from her ear, focusing on the footsteps that creaked up onto the front porch. Had it slipped her mind that someone would be stopping by? That was unlikely; there was no extended family, and she kept her handful of friends at a safe distance.

Sarah lingered for a moment at the attic door, but hopes the visitor would go away were driven back by persistent knocking. So she turned and headed downstairs to assess the hazy figure who was peering through the screen door. Along the way, she snagged the lacrosse stick she’d left by the post at the end of the banister.

Reading is Why Writers Write.

Posted in Characters, Plots, Reading, Settings by DLFowler on January 7, 2011

Reading. Sometimes it’s being grabbed by the throat and dragged into someone else’s drama. Or crawling into someone else’s skin to experience life in ways we can only dream about.  Other times we get mesmerized by places we never imagined existed.

 Personally, I like stowing away in a character’s head.  I imagine myself parked in the place where all the nerves converge on the brain.  There I can taste salty tears backing up and dripping into a parched, achy throat. Tears of joy, tears of sadness – it doesn’t matter what kind. They taste salty just the same.  Or maybe, the tingle of fine hairs standing up under my collar. How about the weight of my heart dropping onto my diaphragm? Breath stalling in my chest.  Thoughts spinning like a turbine in my head. Squeezing my eyes half-shut as if that would help me read sense into senselessness.

 Hey, I could do this all night long.

Betrayal is like curdled milk in my stomach and a dead friend slung over my back. Good news makes my breath jump out of me and laughs as my body to chases it. Fear seizes up my heart and lungs. My legs won’t move. Joy comes like a wave and sweeps away, but I don’t ask where I’m carried to.

 Okay, you get the point. I love to get into my characters’ heads and feel their skin or any other place that has nerve endings. I’ll also describe a setting, but mainly where it reflects what a character feels. As for drama, I’ll get you there. But, not until my characters romance you a little. Because when you fall in love them (or despise them when appropriate) the drama has more impact.