Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Character Asserting Himself

I recently wrote two short stories featuring a country sheriff named Tilghman. The first, “Dangerous to Mess With,” is in the current issue of Mysterical-E (he’s not identified by name in this story, but it’s him). The second has been submitted to another venue and the result awaits to be seen.

Tilghman is now demanding a book and the process has got under way.

Characters can be like that. They pop up, sometimes seemingly out of no where, in a writer’s imagination, develop personalities and go on to lead us into stories.

Tilghman’s grandfather was in my first novel, Schlussel’s Woman, and his father has a bit role in Watch The Hour. Maybe he thinks it’s a family prerogative to be one of my characters.

Some people believe plot to be the essence of story. I beg to differ. Every story begins and ends with character. Plot develops from character. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (a wonderful book, by the way) defines character as “An oddity. One who has a distinctive peculiarity of manner.”

We remember Sherlock Holmes, not the plot of individual stories in the series. Long John Silver. The Count of Monte Cristo. The Three Musketeers. Ripley. The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Need I go on?

Plot is nothing more than the path a character takes and which entails us to follow. Philip Roth said he begins a novel with a character in his predicament. Or as Lester Dent says in his famous formula, “Introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble.”

Seems like a sound plan to me.

Lead on Tilghman.


  1. Go, Tilghman! Me, too. I'm a sucker for characters. I have some I just want to write about forever.

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