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Monday, March 9, 2009
It’s All About Character
Let me backup a bit. Over the years, I’ve garnered a reputation among my peers as being an innovative marketer, one who pushes the envelope, looking for unusual ways to promote my books. I’ll let you in on a little secret. In reality, I don’t go looking for the unusual, but colorful people and out-of-the-ordinary events seem to have a way of finding me. I’ve chronicled much of this in my newsletters, which can be found archived on my website at http://www.bobavey.com. Anyway, with my latest newsletter, I issued the challenge to my readers, reminding them that offbeat things often happen during my signings, which was a hint that they might want to come and get a firsthand account of what might transpire. However, having one of my own characters show up was a surprise even to me. But before you send out the people in white coats, let me assure you that a story hides behind this.
Here is how it happened. One of the reasons people read fiction is to gain a better understanding of human interaction and the emotional joys and conflicts associated with relationships. However, a not so known fact is that for some writers the flip side of the coin, the writing of story, the laying down of words on paper offers its share of self-discovery as well. The impetus behind a large portion of my writing is the deep-down desire to understand myself, and the world around me. It is the reason I do not outline, but prefer to just let it happen. However, while I do not organize my stories into manageable chunks, I do engage in some research before I begin writing. The character, or lady I mentioned above worked in the Municipal Building in Porter where the Chief of Police has his office. Upon reading, Twisted Perception, she became curious as to my knowledge of the place where she worked, wondering if I was indeed a resident of Porter who had changed his name to write the book, which included many of the town’s actual residents, their names also being changed to protect the innocent. I assured her that it only seemed that way, which is the truth.
Along those same lines, only in reverse, I was watching television one night when I saw something, or rather someone that gave me quite a shock. Some of my characters endear themselves to me a little more strongly than others, and it’s not always the hero of the story. I created such a character while writing, Beneath a Buried House, the second book in the Detective Elliot series. She only makes a cameo appearance in the book before being murdered, but she stayed with me throughout the writing of the novel and continues to haunt me to this day. I guess I’ll have to do something with her. Could this be a paranormal book in the making? Anyway, having noticed my lack of color, my wife, Kathi, asked me if there was anything wrong.
“Yes,” I said. “That’s (I can’t give the name for fear that it might ruin the story.) She’s a character in my book. I created her. This can’t be happening.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re just tired.”
Being tired or not, there was no denying what I was seeing. My character was on television. I got up from my chair and ran to my office. Once there, I found my research notes, such as they are – sticky notes and scraps of paper – and that’s where I found my answer. It was a page from a magazine. I remembered it then, having gone through the magazine and seeing a picture that made me exclaim, “That’s (Can’t say the name).”
What this amounted to was that either before, or after taking a minor part in a minor movie, the actress had been a model who had posed for a picture in a magazine, a photo which created a perfect likeness of (Can’t say the name). The model / actress bears an uncanny resemblance to my character, but I’m sure they are nothing alike, in real life.
I can’t say that I’ve never before gone through magazines, hoping to find some inspiration in their pages, but I can say that was the first time – and so far the last time – that I’d flipped through one where I saw a character I’d already created. I recognized her immediately. That’s why I tore her from the pages. It still gives me goose bumps when I think about it.
Bob Avey is the author of the Kenny Elliot mystery series, which includes Twisted Perception, released April 2006, and Beneath a Buried House, June 2008, several short stories and various non-fiction articles. He lives with his wife and son in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma where he works as an accountant in the petroleum industry, and when he’s not writing or researching mystery writing techniques, he spends his free time prowling through dusty antique shops looking for the rare or unusual, or roaming through ghost towns, searching for echoes from the past. Through his writing, which he describes as a blend of literary and genre, he explores the intricacies and extremities of human nature.
Bob is a member of The Tulsa NightWriters, The Oklahoma Writers Federation (active board member for 2006), The Oklahoma Mystery Writers, and Mystery Writers of America.