Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Your Character's Bookshelf

Most of my fictional characters like to read. I don't go into a lot of detail about what's in their TBR (product placement doesn't interest me) but personally knowing what they prefer to read is part of the characterization process for me.

Alexandra Keller is a big fan of Linda Howard because she likes her no-pushover heroines. Jema Shaw adores Jane Austen for the affection she shows for families in her stories. Even Samantha Brown, my homicide detective who sees the worst of reality, finds refuge and spiritual renewal by reading beautiful old poetry.

I've never been tempted to portray one of my characters as a fan of my books, oddly enough. I think that would be as ridiculous as giving myself a quote. Or maybe I've never recovered from reading a fiction book by an author who inserted their real self into the story to serve as a character. Not sure.

Some of my characters enjoy books that I don't particularly care for. Nick from Night Lost has a nice collection of nonfic books at her farm; they're all about motorcycles and baseball and I'm every one of them would put me to sleep in under a minute. Duncan Reever seems to like every Fred Saberhagen and Robert Silverberg novel that's ever ticked me off and/or given me a monster headache, especially The Veils of Azlaroc and The Man in the Maze.

Right now I'm mentally inspecting my new protagonist's bookshelves to see exactly what she's been reading. I can envision a tidy row of novels by Dick Francis, Val McDermid and Jeffrey Archer, but I think she's got a small stack of books tucked out of sight behind them. When I figure out what my protag would want hide from view, I'll know a little more about her.

What is one of your characters reading right now? If you don't know, what do you think they'd enjoy reading, and why?

19 comments:

  1. My first and best beloved main character isn't much of a reader, unfortunately. She didn't learn to read until she was in her mid-teens and never got to loving it.

    She will readily read technical manuals or useful non-fiction, but it's all for use, not for pleasure.

    My next protagonist reads detective fiction by a couple of authors who don't exist yet.

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  2. In the last story I wrote, it was very clear to me as soon as I thought of one particular character that he would have an interest in specific poets. I knew right away which he would like and why, although I have no great interest in poetry myself. The character, though, loved the rhythm of words, and adored lyrical free verse for its inventiveness. Other than that, I mostly assigned genres for my other characters, as it would have been distracting to get too specific with authors within the world of that story.

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  3. One of my characters is struggling her way through a physics textbook hoping it will give her some insight into the mind of a 13 year-old genius.

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  4. The piece that I'm working on right now, Lawgiver, is two parts - one is a book, The Chronicles of the Founding, that the protag of the second part of the story is reading. She's an archeologist, using the Chronicles to find clues on where to dig.

    But I hadn't thought about what else she might be reading. Hmmmmm....

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  5. just a comment. I knew - I KNEW - when I read Alex Keller's Linda Howard comment on page 10 of If Angels Burn that the Darkyn universe was made for me.

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  6. The heroine of my WIP is listening to Foundation by Asimov in her car. For some reason I wanted her to be a closet SF fan, and it works for her. =o)

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  7. My protag is up to her elbows in books on the Civil War as research for her doctorate. She's loving every minute of it, but every once in awhile she ditches it all for a steamy hot romance.

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  8. Since my protag is in a fantasy setting and makes her living as a swordswoman/bodyguard, I don't think she's much of a reader, though she can read (and in two languages...)

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  9. The protagonist of my current manuscript is a little too busy running for his life to read, but he does have a nice collection of classic novels in his San Diego home.

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  10. Joy is currently reading a Suze Orman book. She needs all the help she can get to dig out of the debt dumped on her by her ex-fiance.

    She's reading everything she can find online about auditory hallucinations because she needs an explanation.

    She'd like to read 101 Ways to Get Revenge When He Cheats but she's too busy. If he ever comes back to town, however, consider him shark bait.

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  11. One of my protags (vampire, girl, 19 yrs old) LOVES old horror comic books. Mostly Sandman, but also old pre-code horror comics from EC. (She got to become a vampire in the end of the last story, so this whole "being the monster" is kinda new to her...)

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  12. Hmmm, interesting question.I can see how it helps character development.

    My protagonist probably *can* read, but lives in a time before books were readily available. He's probably familiar with Dante, and maybe a few of the Greek classics, but for entertainment he goes to the theatre.

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  13. oo character fun!

    My current WIP is SF, so Kay goes for the full-immersion book experience - VR books, where the program pulls out keywords to build the world and provide audio for the text. Kay's favorite is the historical fiction book "Tales of Valhalla"

    My other MC, Ayaan, is the deep thinker. She's got the $$ to buy actual print books (rare indeed) for her favorites. She's heavily into the theology of Islam, but her dirty little secret is the steamy romance novels she has tucked away on her harddrive....

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  14. Anonymous5:15 PM

    This is a great question and one I never thougt to ask. I do know that one of my protagonists reads Paris Match. She is the character who was hiding a bunch of stuff from me in my first story... :)
    JulieB

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  15. My Marcellus character is fond of a philosopher called Auchritus; at one point in one novel however he's busy reading manuals on artillery, having unexpectedly been charged with training gunners. Basically, if it's there, he'll read it, especially if it's military or history. Or military history.

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  16. I just got in edits on FRAGILE-the heroine's bookshelves include Bunnicula, Little House on the Prairie, the Bible, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, SF books, romance, fantasy...and the list goes on...and on....and on....

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  17. Conn reads anything and everything, but his true love (besides Rae, that is) is romantic poetry, especially Shelley.

    I'm definitely using this idea of describing the characters' book-reading habits for the next book, too.

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  18. Lainey wrote: just a comment. I knew - I KNEW - when I read Alex Keller's Linda Howard comment on page 10 of If Angels Burn that the Darkyn universe was made for me.

    Lol. I couldn't resist that one. :)

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  19. Tammy1:44 PM

    You said Right now I'm mentally inspecting my new protagonist's bookshelves to see exactly what she's been reading. I can envision a tidy row of novels by Dick Francis, Val McDermid and Jeffrey Archer, but I think she's got a small stack of books tucked out of sight behind them. When I figure out what my protag would want hide from view, I'll know a little more about her.


    Wanna bet she's hiding romances? Maybe paranormals and/or erotica's - such as Lora Leigh or Robin Schone or Shiloh Walker? Or maybe she's a secret fan of Matthew Reilly or Preston and Childs?

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