Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What A Character!

Today I'm delighted to introduce the debut paranormal suspense author, Karin Harlow. Join me as we learn about her new series. And don't miss a chance to win the special prize she's offering. Read on.

Recently I did a little traveling on family business. The airport we flew into was a first for me. On our approach, which seemed to take forever, took us directly through a city! A city with high rises! Lot’s of high-rises. Thank goodness, on the outbound flight home, we took off over water. The airport had other issues, and, as much as I love the area, I won’t be flying into that particular airport for a while.

But the hassles of this airport aside, which were many, and I won’t bore you with the details, the reason for the trip was priceless: Family. A mile-stone birthday for a favored elder uncle. I was able to visit with and catch up with family members I have not seen in almost 30 years! Even cousins I have never met. It was interesting to see how this particular side of the family, which has been hit heavy with divorce, desertion, devastation and alienation, had managed to heal.

There was one person who was not invited to the party, the catalyst of it all that destruction, the woman who more than 40 years ago ripped that family apart. As a writer, I found the character arc’s of this side of the family fascinating. I mean, I look at the initial damage one person caused and then over the span of 40 years how that damage played out in the main characters’ lives before coming full circle. I saw a family who was bruised, battered and battle weary, tho’ never beaten, come together in love and celebration of their patriarch. By their presence and peace of mind, they showed their true character.

As a writer, I hear constantly, write what you know. I try to. I’m surrounded by rich characters. My family, friends, acquaintances, people I’d like to know better, people I wish I didn’t know, and auxiliary people. Those are the folks on the fringe. Many of whom I find fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way. I have a good friend whose sister runs with a bunch of shallow Hal’s. Every so often, I’ll have the opportunity to go to an event where these women have converged. I sit in silent fascination and take copious mental notes. True character fodder! I don’t have to make up characters, I know too many from which to draw.

For me, story is character. A good story begins and ends with believable characters I care about. A heart-stopping plot is great, but without characters I care about as part of the story, I won’t read past hello.

For some writers, writing what they know consists of learned skills. If you’re a lawyer, you write books about lawyers and courtroom drama. If you’re a cop or in the military, you write cop or military stories. As the wife of a veteran cop there was no way I could not incorporate cops in my stories. Whether they were the white-collar feds or the blue-collar beat cop, cops always make their way into my stories. I write what I know. My L.O.S.T. (Last Option Special Team) series is all about jaded cops who go rogue. Every one of them see very black and white, when it comes to those who break the law, but see gray in order to take down the bad guys.

I can write cops and procedure all day long, but long before I begin writing that aspect of a story, I develop the character of the characters. The last thing I want to do is read or write a story with one-dimensional or cliché characters. Give me someone who hurts or has been hurt and who is in pieces for good reasons. Character flaws go back a long way, long before a grown man walks in to find the love of his life doing the nasty with his best friend.

Maybe his mother deserted the family, or she was a drunk and the hero had to take care of her for fear she would die and leave him alone in the world if he didn’t. Maybe he inadvertently does something that leads to her death while trying to help her and when tragedy strikes not because of what he did but because his mother was the looser she was, he feels the burden of her death. This guy is going to go one of two ways: He’s either going to try to save the world to make up for his belief that he killed his mother or he’s going to walk the earth a lost soul. But it’s that one incident that occurred in his youth that will set the trajectory of what he does the rest of his life. That is of course unless a certain someone and something shake him down to his foundation, forcing him to reset his trajectory.

I’m not a writer who makes excuses for her characters. Many of my protagonists do bad things. Most of them for a noble reason, but some, not so noble. Some just snap and lash out. The good stuff comes after they have totally screwed up. This where a person’s true character rises and shines.

What about you? If you had to name one fictional character that is still with you, long after you read The End, who would it be, and why?

I’d like to give away an uber cool L.O.S.T. (check out www.KarinHarlow.com to take a look at the L.O.S.T. seal.) mug to a randomly selected commenter! Winner announced Thursday, so be sure to check back.

Terry, thanks for having me!

My pleasure, Karin. And make sure you visit Karin's website to learn all about L.O.S.T.


Mason Canyon said...

Right off I can't say that one character stands out more than another. There are numerous characters that come to mind at various times depending on what I've seen or heard. Enjoyed the post. The L.O.S.T. series sounds intriguing.

Thoughts in Progress

Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Enjoyed the article. I'd have to say the character that stayed with me the most was the gutsy, passionate Scarlet O'Hara. I think Margaret Mitchell did a great job of characterization. So much, that you were lost in the story when you read it and it came alive on the screen. Sounds like your colorful family will provide you with many great characters.

Edie Ramer said...

I read a galley of ENEMY LOVER, and your characters of Jax and Marcus are still with me. They're that intense. You really went deep with them.

It's funny, but I saw Iron Man 2 on Friday and enjoyed it. But I wouldn't say the characters stayed with me. The people who made it didn't go deep.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for being my guest, Karin - I'm turning the keys over to you while we go down the mountain to shop for flooring and cabinets.

I'm a big fan of Eve & Roarke. Got hooked on them in book 1 and have followed them ever since.

(Of course, I have a fondness for my own characters as well!)

Debra St. John said...

Hi Karin,

Your photo of Scarlett jumped out at me when I first opened this post. She is one of my favorite characters of all time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karin - I agree with Edie, after reading a bound galley of Enemy Lover, Jax and Marcus are definite favorites (ESPECIALLY after that scene at the end of chapter 4!! OMG!)
Two other favorites? Henry and Clare from The Time Traveler's Wife (book, NOT the movie)

Anonymous said...

Eve Duncan and Eve Dallas have stayed with me for years and I am certain the two Eves will be with me for years to come. They both have such tragic pasts.

Lil said...

Ellysetta Baristani from CL Wilson's Novels of the Fading Lands series. She was an unassuming young woman who was forced into growing very strong very quickly. I love the entire series and in truth the main characters have caught my attention and kept it.

Harlow said...

Thanks for stopping by Mason!

Annabelle, Scarlet is my all time favorite heroine! And so misunderstood! And yes, I do have a colorful family. It was crazy, loud and wonderful here on Mother's Day.

Harlow said...

Thank you, Edie! Jax and Marcus are still with me too! I can't seem to shake them. It's been really nice talking about them and their story with ENEMY LOVER releasing on the 25th. I was watching Dracula 2000 late last night with Gerard Butler as Drac. I kept thinking, Marcus is way hotter, way smarter and he would never leave such a mess! lol Actually I was very disappointed in the movie. It really could have been so much more than it was.

Harlow said...

Terry thanks for having me!

Debra, I can't think of any other male or female fictional character who can come close to Scarlet's depth of character. Amazing woman. I read GWTW for the first time when I was about 13. Im so glad I did. Many years later when I have come to a major bump in the road, I ask myself, "What would Scarlet do?"

Harlow said...

Bonnie Jean it was that scene at the end of Chapter Four that sold the series! My editor stopped right there and called my agent. :)

Patsy, Eve Dallas has stayed with me too. I haven't read a JD Robb book in years! I really need to pick that series back up.

Eve Duncan is Iris Johansens' character? I've read a few of those books too. But it's been a long long time.

Harlow said...

Lil, I have read the first book in the Fading Lands series. OMG can Wilson spin a story. And I agree, Elly is amazing!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great post! There are so many wonderful characters. Off the cuff, Chandler's, Philip Marlowe stands out for me, Hemingway's Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises and Christie's Inspector Hercule Poirot.

On the female side, Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises, and of course, Scarlett, as well as Capote's, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles also impressed me in a sad sort of way.

So many great characters, so little time.

Harlow said...

Terry, I feel so underread now! I must read more!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

So many great characters!

I was always a fan of Jo from "Little Women." :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Harlow said...

Elizabeth, I loved Jo's character! Good one.

Harlow said...

Terry, thanks you so much for allowing me to hang out and chat!

The winner of the very cool L.O.S.T. mug is Lil!
Lil if you email me at KarinHarlow@aol.com with Terry's blog winner! in the subject line and your snail mail addy enclosed, I'll send you one as soon as they come in!

Donna said...

I have to say the character or set of characters who have stayed with me the longest are the Quinn brothers, Cameron, Ethan and Phillip. From Nora Roberts Chesapeake Bay Saga.

These were 3 men had all run on the wrong side of law but a strong couple adopted them as teens and turned them them into men who still had complicated issues. They pull back together and with the right women at their sides do what is needed to save the latest kid taken in by their late father. Men who show their weakness and are allowed to have such flawed backgrounds, yet turn into strong, caring, men who will do anything for their family are hereos worth remembering

Lil said...


Am so thrilled! Thanks!