Creating Relatable Characters

IMG_6986.JPGYou know that feeling when you pick up a book and have such high hopes for it?  I mean… it’s sitting on the ‘Best Sellers’ shelf by a well known author.  Why wouldn’t it be good?  You also know that feeling of disgust when you are less than10 pages in and would rather gouge your own eyes out with a butter knife than read another word?

There’s a reason people get into books… yes story line has to be interesting but it’s all about character development!  Think about it… why do you choose the friends you do?  Because you like them… duh… but it boils down to that they’re interesting.  If your friends were boring as hell, you wouldn’t be friends with them.  Or you would but you’d always pretend you’re busy when you see their name pop up in your texts asking to hang out.

I went through a few books recently that were just depressing.  And not in a good way.  Between the mediocre storytelling and the dull protagonist I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading.  And I bought the books which was just a double slap in the face.  There’s an art to making characters likable. Especially when you write/read particularly dark work, it takes skill to pull a reader into loving your main character who is a serial killer, or a homeless girl or a mother who murders her lover.

Which brings me to this amazing book.  Astrid (whose name translates to Godly strength – pretty telling considering the story) tells her story of bouncing around foster homes for several years after her mother poisons and ultimately kills her lover who blew her off.  This is such an incredibly depressing and heartbreaking story.  Astrid is obviously a beautiful girl which works against her in almost every family she is housed with, and each home scars her physically and emotionally until she is left a person she, nor her mother recognizes.

She’s not outgoing.  She’s not funny.  She isn’t allowed to stay anywhere long enough to make friends.  Which are easy go-to’s for the typical writer to build a foundation for a good character description.  Instead, she creates someone who is intelligent and talented.  She finds beauty in those she meets regardless of how disturbing and hurtful they were to her.  She doesn’t spend time placing blame, rather sees life for what it is.  A woman living in a man’s world… which is ironic given her mother controlled her every thought and move her whole life.  Nevertheless, It takes a strong person to do this and a very self aware person.  But she was thrust into the real world in the cruelest and harshest of ways when she hit her preteens and her mother went to prison.  She ends up trying to find redeeming qualities in every situation she enters for survival… it’s inspiring but eye opening.

Nothing is more disappointing than when you can’t connect with who you are reading.  Most stories are something you haven’t experienced… especially if you read Science Fiction, Kid Lit, or a story of child abuse, etc. but the idea is that the writer can find ways to make the CHARACTERS relatable.  If you can connect with a person… the story is much more worthy of the read.  And like in life, we don’t all live the same ways, but we find common ground with our peers or superiors in order to form relationships.  Business or professional, people NEED to connect and when reading a book even more so.

I am so appreciative of Janet Fitch for writing this how she did.  For not making it funny or simple but complicated and painful… She created Astrid for us to want to hold and protect, but we can’t. She wrote something poignant that made me connect even more to my own book.  White Oleander motivated me to stick with it and keep pushing and go back over and see if there are ways to suck my readers in and feel the story even more.  Not just read it.

I’m SO glad my neighbor loaned me this, and I cannot WAIT to dive into the others she gave me.  The only sucky part is that I have to give them back…I hate not owning the books I love… which means I might have to go buy this one just to have it sit on my shelf with my other favorites.

So whether you’re a writer or an avid reader, do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s beautifully written and compiles such extremes into chapters that are engaging but not arrogant.  She wasn’t too proud of her writing that she included too make words and description.  It was honest and raw and as if it truly happened.  It was as if Janet was Astrid and told the story as true life.  Just an incredible read!

And with that, I leave you with this… because until I can find an agent/publisher… food keeps me happy.

 Stuffed Bell PeppersScreen Shot 2017-06-20 at 6.16.19 PM.png

4 red bell peppers, halved

1 medium or half large yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

2 tbsp oregano

1/2 tbsp thyme

1/2 tbsp sage

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 14-15 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

parsley flakes for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and heat 2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet on medium heat.  Toss in onion and carrot and cook until opaque.  Stir in garlic and then add turkey.
  2. Once turkey is browned, add mushrooms, oregano, thyme, safe, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are dry.  Add tomato sauce and spoon into bell pepper halves.  Top with cheese and bake for 35 mins.  Top with parsley flakes.

**You can broil for a few mins if you want to get a little char on your peppers**