- from Susan
The only thing that keeps me from feeling paranoid right now is the knowledge that these LadyKiller topics were suggested months ago, which means our all-powerful webmistresses were not scanning my emails last week when a writer friend wrote to tell me how much he enjoyed The King’s Jar. Except, and I’m baring my soul here, he feels I haven’t done entirely right by Dani. “What makes her so attractive to Dickie? What is her deepest fear? What is she using humor to cover?” He says he’s tempted to use me as an avatar for her because I haven’t given him quite enough to see her fully formed. I’m not her so the clothes wouldn’t fit. That’s a remedy that’s not available to most readers anyway.
If I’m being opaque where Dani is concerned, so is she, I think. My friend’s right – Dani does use humor, much of it directed at herself, to deflect attention. She’s bright, sophisticated, a good listener, a loyal friend. She’s self-conscious about her weight and her age, and her place in San Francisco society, but not so much that she can’t function. Anyone who’s read the books understands the scars from her break-up with Dickie, but what was she like before she met him? What did Dickie see in her? How did she manage to land on her feet again after their divorce and return to the same town with her head and her professional confidence pretty much intact?
All of that is called backstory, and I did work it out for myself. But maybe I haven’t let enough of it show, or have handed off clues so small that some readers haven’t picked them up. In general, if readers don’t know enough to care about a character, they slam your book shut in frustration. I never want a reader to leave Dani’s world thinking she wasn’t real enough to engage with.
Michael gave such a great example of a character-driven passage in a scene yesterday that I won’t try to top it. I’ll just challenge myself to write a scene one tenth as good as that Archer/Harper show-not-tell to bring readers closer to Dani so they see why I care enough about her to write a whole series around her.
Now, here's a character, costumed, danced, and storied in depth and in ancient Sanskrit at that! (The Barong from Balinese mythology.)