Character Interview from PORTRAITS OF THE LIVING: A GHOST TALE

Thanks to Ralfast, for suggesting a character interview challenge.

*Pours two cups of coffee.  One black, and one with lots of cream and sugar.  Authoress knows by now that this particular character has quite the sweet tooth*

*clears throat*

“Well hello, dear character.  you and I have known each other for a few years now.  But for those who have not met you, could you please introduce yourself?”

I would be happy to.  My name  is Anne Durrant. 

Do you have any nicknames?

My brothers used to call me a mouse when I was a kid.

What do you look like? Eye color, hair color, ethnicity, distinguishing marks or features, clothing, jewelry, and gear…

Oh, it is awkward talking about oneself!  Let’s see.  I’m very small, hence the above mentioned nickname.   I have carroty-colored hair, and was cursed with the freckles of a redhead at birth.  A parasol is, thus, of little help.  Also, I’d walk into a wall without my dreaded spectacles.   As for dresses, I prefer a pretty, but unfussy style.  I do have a fondness for lace and ribbons.

What are your hobbies?

Books!  Especially “shudder” stories.  I love to be thrilled.  And I love trying to solve mysteries.   Lately, due to discovering I have the “sight”, I have started studying the occult.

Who and where is your family?Where are you from?

We live in Boston on Beaon Hill.  It’s a very busy street with all the carriages and pedestrians coming back and forth.  I’m a city girl at heart, but am glad to be visiting my relatives in the backwoods for a change of scenery.

Do you have any secrets, and what are they? Why do you keep them?

Of course I have secrets!  Someone without any secrets must have led a rather dull life, don’t you think?  But it’s improper to pry in one’s private business, so please don’t ask again.

Sorry!  You are quite right about that.  Let us move on.  What do you believe in?

I am open-minded.  There are a lot of new ideas circling around Boston right now.  Transcendentalism.  Spiritualism.   It’s all very fascinating.  I’m not sure exactly what I believe in, but I am keen on learning different things!

What is the setting of your story?

I am staying with my relatives in the backwoods of New England.   They live in a tiny backwater village that isn’t on any map.   This is my first visit out here, and I am finding my cousins to be all rather… odd.  And there’s also a dead girl.

That is all I shall say for now.

Thank you, Anne for your time.

Thank you for having me.  It has been  a pleasure.

Before I leave, if I may mention a delightful interview I read at http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/464/

Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm  Comments (24)  
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Writing: Sinful Adverbs

In recent years, adverbs (words used to modify verbs) have fallen into great disfavor.  Adverb opponents insist they indicate weak writing.  Go to any writing forum critique board and you’ll see any and all adverbs swatted away like mosquitoes.

I’m going to be heretical and declare,  “There’s not a darn thing wrong with adverbs.”

If adverbs in themselves indicate weak writing than many of our most critically acclaimed and beloved authors including Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melville, Steinbeck, and Austen sure fooled a lot of people.

It is the overuse of them that indicates weak writing.

It often takes a writer a long time to learn less is more.  Precision is key.

A sure-sign of an amateur writer are pages cluttered with adverbs.   Uncertain of their writing ability,  they fear they must spell out everything.   None of their characters simply speak, stand, walk, cry, or laugh.

“He ran quickly”

“She screamed loudly”

“She whispered softly”

“John noticeably cringed as the woman on stage sang horribly.”

Avoid adverbs that are redundant and clutter the sentence at all costs.

Imagine a little girl receiving a toy doll.   She smiles.  That is it. You would not write, “She smiled, happily.”  The fact she smiled already showed she was happy.

So when is it okay to use adverbs?

Here is a quote from John Gardner: “Wilson rocks slowly and conscientiously—a startling word that makes the scene spring to life (adverbs are either the dullest tools or the sharpest in the novelist’s toolbox).”

And here is an example from Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White : “I wound my way down slowly over the Heath, enjoying the divine stillness of the scene, and admiring the soft alternations of light and shade as they followed each other over the broken ground on every side of me.”

One may argue the word, “slowly” is not necessary.   Yes, the sentence is clear without it.  However, it also does not clutter the sentence.   Rather than being redundant, it adds a certain nuance.   So in this example, the choice of whether or not to use, “slowly” is a stylistic one.

Think of adverbs as spice.   Carefully placed they add a certain tone and color.   Too much and they overtake the main flavor of the dish.