Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Controlling Your Fictional Character by Carolyn Moncel


Last week I featured Donna Brown and Double-take Tales as part of the first blog tour run by The Indie Exchange. Today I have the other author on the tour, Carolyn Moncel, and her book 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover. Make sure you enter to win a copy of one of these fabulous books. There are Amazon gift cards up for grabs too.

Controlling Your Fictional Character
By Carolyn Moncel

Since my oldest daughter is now a young woman and spends most of her weekends out with her friends, I find that it’s a perfect time for me to bond with my youngest daughter. One of the ways in which we do this is by watching a lot of movies on Friday nights. This week’s selection actually wasn’t my choice, but I’m happy that my daughter selected it anyway because it was a real treat. It was sweet little movie called Ruby Sparks and as a writer, I could not help but love it. Think Stranger than Fiction but instead from the author’s point of view.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a little recap of the movie’s plot. A young writer finds unexpected literary fame as an adolescent. Years later, he still struggles to write a successful follow-up novel and the pressure from his agent and publishing house to do so sends him spiraling out of control and on to a psychologist’s sofa. Having broken up with his long-time girlfriend only complicates matters. At his therapist’s suggestion, the writer creates a character for whom he would consider to be his “ideal” woman and girlfriend. The more the writer learns about her (a character who reveals herself as “Ruby Sparks”), the more she not only becomes the central character in his new novel, but also in his own life. The fun begins the day Ruby becomes a real, functioning human being, demanding a life of her own. In light of this surprising discovery, the question becomes whether or not her creator will allow her this free will to grow and evolve, or will he try to guide her every movement to the point of extinction.

I could totally relate to Calvin Weir-Fields, the writer in the movie. Take for example, my character, Julien Roulet, who is featured in the novella found in 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover. I know him better than anyone else because I created him. He is an elusive lover; distant and slightly mysterious. Tall and slim with brown hair and sparkling green eyes, he’s handsome, intelligent, creative, quick witted and tad bit irreverent. A French man who refuses to pronounce the letter “h” when speaking in English, he’s also married and a devoted family man. He’s far from perfect though – an insecure, rakish, adulterer in fact. And yet at the same time, he’s a good guy who is still deeply in love with his wife. Unfortunately, he now finds himself in an impossible situation and saving him remains my toughest challenge. The only problem being, Julien really doesn’t want to be saved. Oh, the complexity!

As authors we experience a whole host of emotions while creating characters. Just like in real life, we take up their hobbies, research their professions, record their fickle likes and dislikes, all in an attempt to better understand them. When all is going well between us, we can’t wait to visit them in their imaginary world each day. One minute we’re laughing at all of their jokes and the things that they do. And the next, we’re infuriated and downright embarrassed by their behavior. When they abandon us because they yearn for independence and space, we become fearful because we never know which direction they will take our story.

The point to all of this is this. Creating characters for which there is genuine affection is what makes writing fun and rewarding. Whenever we are able to achieve that level of love for our character, our readers are the true beneficiaries. However, as writers we also have to know when to let our characters live. We cannot become obsessed with controlling their every movement or behavior in order to achieve a desired outcome for their lives. After all, it is their lives. Even if we could changeour characters's lives, as authors we would be doing so at our own peril because our characters would lose their essence -- the very “spark” that gives us permission to love (or hate) them in the first place. And, THAT would be such a shame.

5 Reasons to Leave a Lover by Carolyn Moncel

In 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover, author Carolyn Moncel offers up a fresh batch of stories based on love and loss. As singer/songwriter, Paul Simon so eloquently suggested in a famous song from the 1970s, there are many ways to leave a lover. However, Moncel's characters demonstrate that the reasons for leaving in the first place are quite finite. Encounters in Paris` Ellery and Julien Roulet return, picking up their lives where the short story, "Pandora`s Box Revisited," ends. This time the Roulets are involved in a love triangle, and along with two other couples, must explore how love relationships are affected and splinter due to abuse, ambivalence, deception, cheating and death. This bittersweet collection of tales proves that some breakups are necessary; while others are voluntary; and still others are simply destined and beyond anyone's control.

A virtual media and web consultant by day and author by night, Carolyn Davenport-Moncel moved to Paris from Chicago, her hometown, in 2002. She received her bachelor's degree in Communications from Loyola University. Known for her online articles on media relations, Moncel owns MotionTemps, LLC, a bilingual Digital Project and Web Content Management firm with offices in Chicago, Paris and Geneva; and its subsidiary, Mondavé Communications, a media relations training and publishing company. She has written, placed articles or been featured in such diverse publications as Entreprenuer.com, Expatica.com, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Wired News, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and Working Mother. She currently resides in Lausanne, Switzerland with her husband and two daughters. Author of Encounters in Paris - A Collection of Short Stories and 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories, her latest collection is called Railway Confessions - A Collection of Short Stories.

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