January 17, 2020

I’ve Gotta Be Me, She Said

By Dan Walsh

My 21 novels have thus far garnered over 7,200 Amazon Reviews (Avg 4.6 Stars) and over 18,000 Ratings on GoodReads. The most consistent comment readers make (and my most favorite) goes something like, Once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down.” They don’t just say this on my suspense novels but even the more romantic stories. Even with my Christmas novels.

But this month,
I want to write about the 2nd most consistent comment I get (and my 2nd most favorite). They go kinda like this:
·         “The characters were so REAL and stirred every emotion possible in me. Will definitely be reading another.” 
·         “Dan Walsh's characters are well-developed, believable and so personal that it is easy to visualize yourself in the midst of the protagonist's search.”
·         “I’ve enjoyed all your books so far. You have such a talent for portraying each character…”

I love reading things like this about my books (what author wouldn’t?).

Not just because it makes me feel good (which it does) but also because of what it means for my future as an author. It means people will keep buying my books, and I will get to keep writing them. How do I know this?

A few years ago, I did a reader survey with my 4,000-plus “Likes” on Facebook (back when FB used to let folks who Liked your page read what you posted). I listed the 7 major components of a fiction novel and asked them to list the Top 3 things that mattered most to them as Readers. The #1 that got the most #1 Votes (and was in everyone’s Top 3) was: “Characters You Really Care About.”

If you can write books that readers can’t stop reading once they start, populated by characters they really care about, they will buy your books (and keep buying new ones). So, this month (and probably next), I thought I’d share some of the things I do to create such characters in my novels.

Let’s begin with this…every novel consists of 2 Main Ingredients: The Story and The Characters. I find that most writers have an easier time working with and writing about the story than they do creating truly solid, interesting, compelling, fun-to-read-about characters. But as you can see from the survey, readers care as much about the characters, if not more, than they do about the quality of the story.

If your characters are perfunctory, boring, superficial, overly flawed and/or not fun-to-be-with kind of people, readers will lose interest in your story before they’re 10 chapters in (no matter how great it is). You have to spend as much time making your characters come alive and seem like real people to the reader, as you do making the story exciting, suspenseful, romantic, etc.

Herein lies the problem for many authors. THEY THEMSELVES (in real life) are not solid, interesting, compelling and/or fun-to-be-with people. And to some extent, they know this about themselves. So, if you’re not that kind of person in real life, how can you create characters who are like that in your books? I mean, aren’t we supposed to, “Write What You Know?” How can we write or create characters who are way more compelling and interesting than we are ourselves?

Trust me. It can be done. I know this firsthand.

See, in real life, although I’m told I’m a fairly likable guy, the truth is I’m NOT EVEN HALF as interesting or fascinating or compelling or as fun-to-be-with as many of the characters in my novels. They often do things and feel things and say things that would never occur to me to do or say in real life. I’m far too timid and reserved (for crying out loud, I was a pastor for 25 years).

In my books I’m an orphaned child in the 1940s. I’m a widowed Italian grandmother, a fascinating but illiterate Negro slave, a young woman craving the love of a truly decent man, a WW2 fighter pilot who gets the girl, a history professor who solves murders and kills bad guys, a Viet Nam vet whose lost everything but hope, a dog who loses the owner he loves and loves a new owner he saves.

Did you get that last one? I’m a dog? Sometimes I have to be a dog?

How can I write about all these fascinating people (and animals) when I’m only just me? When I’m all I have to work with?

Well, the fact is…it can be done. But I can’t tell you how, or any of the specific things I’ve learned because this is a blog, and we’ve run out of time. Come back next Monday for Part 2 of, “I’ve Gotta Be Me, She Said” (the title is a clue).
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 21 novels (all available on Amazon), including The Unfinished Gift, Rescuing Finley, When Night Comes and The Reunion (now being made into a feature film). Over 750,000 of his books are in print or downloaded. He's won both the Carol and Selah Awards multiple times, 4 of his novels have been finalists for RT Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year. Reviewers often remark about Dan's rich, character-driven storylines and page-turning suspense (even with his more inspirational books). He's been writing full-time since 2010. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years, have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. They live in the Daytona Beach area, where Dan grew up. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, read his blog, or preview all his books by visiting his website at Dan’s books: If These Walls Could Talk - DAN'S NEWEST NOVEL, When Night Comes, Remembering Dresden, Unintended Consequences,  Perilous Treasure,  Rescuing Finley, Finding Riley Saving Parker and  The Deepest Waters (2nd Ed)

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