I lost my notes on this for a little while. That’s what comes from letting my youngest daughter play Spore on the desktop computer.
When I left off on reporting about the Sex Appeal panel with Suze Brockmann and Lee Child from the national meeting of Romance Writers of America, I promised to talk about what Child said went into the creation of his character.
Child was very blunt why he wrote a book.
He got fired from his job and needed the money.
He didn’t talk exactly about what his job was during the workshop but according to his website, he had an eighteen-year career with Granada Television in Manchester, England that included Brideshead Revisited, Cracker, and Prime Suspect.
That long career does explain somewhat why Child had such quick success with Killing Floor, the first of the Reacher novels. He’d had a lot of practice writing.
Child said he kept one eye on the market as he created the character. Jack Reacher’s mother is French because Child wanted to appeal to the French audience. And he deliberately picked a character who could travel, so he could change setting and introduce new characters on a constant basis, which would keep the series fresh.
In general, when creating characters, Child said they have to be self-confident. He quoted David Mamet: “Am I going to like you? Maybe, maybe not.”
Child said, “I know that by not caring about whether the character was liked or not, the confidence in the work would be better.”
He said potential series writers should put everything they can, one hundred percent, into their initial manuscript. Don’t hold anything back for later books, leave it all on the table otherwise the story will be watered down.
He said he’s a total panster, meaning a writer who sits down at the keyboard and writes without any clear plan. He usually has a trick or idea in mind but the “magic in the story is me being excited by the story,” so creating an outline would cause him to be bored with his story. He prefers not to know exactly how it will end when he initially begins writing.
Aside: I’ve written a mystery without knowing the bad guy. It’s a pain in the ass to revise. To do this every time with such skill..wow. I am impressed. (Possibly not as impressed as with the charm & cool accent, but impressed. 🙂
For all those with writer questions about point of view, Child said to just pick what suits the story.
He has four books in first person and ten books in third person. He swapped up the POVs to avoid all the books seeming to be the same. The idea was not to stereotype the characters or the series. He did say that it’s easiest to get suspense in a third person POV story.
Child talked a little bit about wishing that people didn’t know what books they were “supposed” to read because then they will pre-judge what might be a story they’ll love. He had a great story tale about Tony LaRussa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. LaRussa is a more recent reader. He started reading a ton of books during the baseball season because it’s not always proper for a manager to fraternize with his players. But since he’s a newer reader, he simply picks up anything that looks interesting. He likes Nora Roberts. He doesn’t know he’s a guy and therefore shouldn’t read Nora Roberts. He just wanted a good story.
Child did recommend, depending on gender, different Reacher books to anyone who wants to try his series. He emphasized it’s a generalization but he noticed women, particularly romance readers, tend to like The Hard Way and Echo Burning, while he usually recommends Gone Tomorrow for men.
Of course, those of you out there who read series in order? You need to start with the first one. 🙂