Books From Beyond The Grave

One of the bargains in my newsletter of the day was a Boxcar Children Book–Legend of the Irish Castle, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (Apparently, if you’re a minor, you celebrate by reading. Who knew?) I was just intrigued enough to go look the book up, since I read a lot of Boxcar Children books when I was a kid, and I don’t remember any Irish Castle.

Turns out that Legend of the Irish Castle is book #142 of a series the original author only wrote 19 books of. It was released last year, which is pretty good, considering that Gertrude Chandler Warner has been dead since 1979.

I’m going to say that as a personal “thing” I’m not all that crazy about the idea of having other people keep on writing my characters, after I’m dead.

Part of that is just… I don’t want to be dead. And part of it is that I spend so much time getting my characters to be the way I want them. I don’t want them shipped to places and plots I never intended them to go. I mean, come on! They’re mine!

And while we’re at it, let’s pretend that I’m very deep and philosophical, and say that there’s something bordering on Hubris about the idea of my characters being so spectacular that someone else should be writing them, instead of their own.

I’m not sure what Gertrude Chandler Warner thought. She was a first grade teacher, which may actually mean that she’s happy just as long as the kiddies are reading. I tend to think of grade school as dear, saintly creatures who really might be that unselfish.

Then, I saw all the common core, ATOS, and Accelerated Reader bullshit **ahem** foo-fer-alls and thought again. I don’t know what Gertrude’s opinions on each and every individual one of those would be, but you can bet she’d have opinions. And I don’t think they’d support micromanaging children’s reading.

So, now, I’m thinking about what a writer’s educational philosophy–or their politics, or their personal beliefs– should mean for their books, and the way those books are managed after their death. For instance, is it really fair to use Sherlock Holmes to sell fried chicken? Or should you really add Zombies to Pride and Prejudice?

I’m bordering on an intellectual property rant, now, but the general question… if I have one… is how do you feel about your characters having adventures without you?

Those Naughty Psychopaths, and the Writers Who Love Them

One of my main characters just threatened to skin a man alive. Threatened? Promised?Well… more of a two pronged offer. As it turns out, the guy took what was behind door number two, and kept his skin. The thing is, I’m certain the Captain would have done it. He wouldn’t have made the threat offer, if he didn’t intend to follow through.

Obviously, I don’t condone this kind of behavior in real life.

And in my character’s defense, he really is trying to reform himself. It’s just that sometimes, extreme violence can expedite matters. Particularly when dealing with other psychopaths.

So, thinking about this, and what I want in a violent character, and whether there are any rules for a violent character, I came up with:

The Reprobate Typewriter Guide to Characters Who are Capable of Extreme Violence

  1. He can control himself. He’s not a mindless force of nature, or an animal running on instinct. If he does something violent, it’s a choice. Every.Single.Time.
  2. He does know the difference between right and wrong. He may choose the wrong path, in the belief that he’s serving a greater good, but his goals… His ideal world… are things that normal, psychologically healthy people can identify with.
  3. He has something to lose, and something to gain. Usually, with every choice he makes. Money, power, human decency. Whatever.
  4. He’s likable. I want my character to be the guy you’d watch threaten a man’s life one moment, and still want to have a beer with him, the next.
  5. He has a purpose. Goals. A recognizable intent. He’s not just there for the explosions.
  6. He’s trustworthy. He’s not a danger to his mother, his significant other, or random old ladies walking down the street.
  7. He’s rational. If he does something, there’s an excellent chance that it will result in the outcome he’s looking for.

I pull some of the violence in my stories out of world history, and some of it comes from my imagination. No, we can’t talk about that.

So, what about you? What raises a violent character above empty gore-for-gore’s sake violence, and makes him worth reading about? Or writing about?