Saturday, November 23, 2019

Odd Characters

This month’s topic is about the oddest characters I have ever dreamed up and how did they fit into a story? I had to think about this, because what is odd? Everyone has certainly run into odd behavior in acquaintances. Matter of fact I think at one time or another I’ve exhibited odd behavior, but does that mean I’m only being eccentric, or am I weird, or bizarre? Odd might often be defined by each reader and their concept of odd. Could odd mean as in unmatched, which also implies a character might be singularly remarkable? I guess it is open to interpretation, but authors have to make characters relatable in some way. Sometimes it is only situations characters find themselves in that make them different. A character's oddity can add purpose to a storyline, or create a plot turn, or make them memorable to the reader. It all depends on their purpose in the story.

One of my first stories had some of my oddest characters: the heroine Jezlynn Chambers and the villain Morgan Dachs. It is a space opera odyssey, so just about anything goes. In The Black Angel series, Jezlynn is a person with six personalities, which she tries to hide. As one of the reputed mutineers on the Embassy Class spaceship Constant, she is publicly reviled for an event she does not remember. However, through several stories, the ship's first officer, Morgan Dachs, becomes an even odder character. The Constant was severely damaged during an attack but made it to safety with only a few survivors and those mostly from the embassy staff onboard. As the ship's first officer, and a member of a politically and militarily powerful family, Morgan became the hero of the situation. He reported eighteen crew members committed mutiny before the attack.

So Jezlynn's odd condition is partially a plot device in that she cannot understand who she was with no memory, so as she searches for her former crewmates, she is also searching for her own identity.

In truth, another ship threatened to finish the Constant’s destruction. Its chief officer demanded payment. A desperate and enraged Morgan beat Jezlynn insensible believing she knew there were ship repair components onboard, ignoring her claim none existed. Since no wealth existed on the crippled ship, Morgan traded crew members to be sold as slaves to save the ship. Jezlynn was one crew member traded since she probably wouldn’t survive. Just in case she did, and to prevent any possibility of her relating what happened onboard, before leaving the ship she received a huge dose of diamine, a dangerous drug known for slowing aging but destroying the mind. Two years later Jezlynn escaped from slavery, but by then her mind held six different personalities, and she had no memory of her past. Her reputation was ruined, and Morgan Dachs' protectors made sure her future was destroyed. By then Morgan was also using disamine in what he believed were safe dosages. Later he becomes the obsessed, deranged, stalker-villain of the series as shown in Devil's Due, the story where the truth becomes known.

I think readers realize from reality what the wide range of personalities exist and the length some individuals will go to achieve what they think they want, often influenced by their childhood and experiences, their genetics and overall mental health. Some do wondrous good, others unfathomable evil. As writers, we often exploit these characteristics in our characters to entertain our readers and to sometimes show how people can change and grow.

Please visit the following author's to see their take on odd characters:

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
A.J. Maguire
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Judith Copek

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Snow: The Biography by Giles Whittel

Did you know dust is an essential element of a snowflake? Do you know how many snowflakes it takes to make a snowman? Or how many snowmen can be made from Earth’s daily snowfall in just ten minutes? Besides information about snowflakes and other types of snow, the book provides mind-boggling knowledge such as the Earth might once have been a snowball, or the largest snowfalls in a single day, or how much snowdrops on the Earth every day. It has even snowed in both northern Africa and South America. It will utterly surprise the reader because the amount of snow far exceeds expectations. Why does it snow? What causes snow to be so slippery? How does the Earth benefit from snow? These topics bring up the entertainment snow has provided humans and its dangers such as avalanches.

Coming from Michigan, I am very familiar with snow, but what author Giles Whittell, a correspondent for England’s The Times, who has traveled the world both for his work and for his obsession with snow, presents often unknown information. Besides explaining snowfall, he tells how snow, which once covered our mountain tops and far northern and southern climes, is now receding, and how its reflective qualities have helped stabilize the Earth’s temperatures. Some unfamiliar scientific terminology might slow reading, but SNOW provides fascinating realities about snow and gives warning that snow may end this century. This could lead not only to economic disaster for some countries but also will increase global warming.

Taken 11/1/19 in Luther, Michigan
-- an after Halloween surprise!
Whittell provides a history of human involvement with the cold, white (actually transparent as all light waves reflect off it making it seem white) substance. As a ski enthusiast, he gives great examples of skiing and mountain climbing extremes and achievements involving dangerous or at least risky snow conditions. 

Snow is an engrossing book whether you live in a snowy area or not.
It comes out on November 19.