Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let your Characters Do the Talking

Robin and I are both doing some experimentation with using our characters to speak for us. It's innovative, fun, and, you don't even have to pay them. (Our characters work for free, rarely take smoke breaks, and always show up on time!)

Before my new book The One Where a Kid Nearly Jumped to His Death came out this month, the Publicity Department at Penguin asked me to do an on-line interview in the voice of my main character. Stump is a thirteen year old kid with a prosthetic leg who just spent an unforgettable summer coming to terms with his dad, learning how to ocean swim, compete in a big race, and surviving his First Serious Crush.

Here are a couple of sample questions. You can check out the rest of the interview here.
Q. What's the most important lesson you learned from Coach?

A. Oh, man, where do I start? I got a crash course in LIFE this past summer. Not that I hadn't learned a lot about important stuff already from Mom, but I always have to weigh anything she teaches me because, well, she's basically a girl, and I need to grow up become a man. Until this summer, everything I knew about being a man came from Aunt Clem, my lesbian stunt double mom. Not that she acts like a guy or anything, but she knows how to survive in the world. I need to know that.

Q. How's that new prosthetic working for you?

A. The new leg rocks. If I have long pants on, you can't even tell I'm short a leg. I went from an old beater to a Jaguar. Unbelievable.

Q. Colorado or California? (As in, where would you rather live-- with mom or dad?)

A. You know, wherever my mom is for now. But after college, I'm not sure. I love the mountains in Colorado, and even the snow, but, boy, the ocean calls me. Frequently. It's got me on speed dial, man.

I think hearing from Stump is so much more interesting than if I'd answered the questions in my author voice, waxing on about the "lessons" from the book.

And, in advance of her book's publication, Houghton Mifflin had Robin set up a Theodosia Throckmorton website and a blog in Theo's voice. If you haven't been there yet, check it out.

Not only does promotion technique allow you to remain behind the curtain a bit, it creates some powerful mojo between your reader and your character. And, as Robin has been talking about in her last two blogs, this is yet another way to "shift the focus". Plus, this had the the added benefit of allowing you more practice and opportunity for writing voice.

This has such great potential for all of us. Can you think of some other ways you can use your characters to do the talking for you? We'd love to hear your ideas!

Grace and peace,
Mary Hershey

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