R.L. Akers talks characters…
This is part three of a series discussing the craft of writing with debut novelist, R.L. Akers. I met R.L. about a year ago and since then we have discovered that we may have been separated at birth. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the 1988 movie “Twins.”
Back to important matters, over the weekend, R.L. launched a new website to promote his book, “Prometheus Rebound.” The new website is http://orbitaldefense.com/ I know that several of us are working on a novel. Not only do we work on the writing, editing, publishing, and cover design. We also have to keep the concept on target while we develop a complete packaging/marketing plan for all of this. There are so many hats we wear, and I honestly don’t do a great job in any of these areas. I need to try to emulate R.L. and the efforts he has taken to promote his novel. He is a serious guy, doing serious work, and putting serious effort into something that is seriously fun. Check out this site and enjoy. I promise it is worth your time.
Now we will continue the discussion R.L. and I had on 11 October. This week we will talk about Kara Dunn and a couple of other characters.
“Tell me about your protagonist.”
R.L.A. “Kara is an academic struggling to finish a double doctorate in computer science and physics. While most people would probably look at someone like that and think they could never identify, the fact is that she’s a human being just like the rest of us. She struggles with a huge amount of insecurity, and she has a hard time finishing what she starts. She’s brilliant, yes—she has to be, in order to fill the role I have for her in the story—but a lot of the time, she doesn’t feel brilliant. She tends to feel inadequate and fairly average. I decided to make her female largely because it forced me to get out of myself. Until that point, most of the protagonists I’d written ended up looking a lot like me, and I didn’t want that here. Ultimately, she’s a fairly complex character who, as a result, seems a little inconsistent at times. Honestly, a couple of my proof readers didn’t like that, but I’m of the opinion that humans are very complex and don’t always make perfect sense.”
“Outside of the plot itself, are there any recurring themes you explore through Kara?”
R.L.A. “Yes, one major one is this idea of control. Humans are always fighting for control of our life, or we live under the misconception that we are in control. Kara’s no different, but as she gets swept up in events far larger than herself, she has to face the possibility that true control is an illusion.
But she’s not the only one who struggles with this. I also wrote the President of the United States into the story as a sort of minor recurring character, but an important one. He’s not based on a particular real world person—in fact, I avoid even naming him. He is simply “the President,” and that suffices to say that he wields incredible power. If anyone is in control, it’s him. Except that even the most powerful person in the world struggles with all the same human weaknesses and failings as the rest of us.”
“Is there a character that best represents you?”
R.L.A. “I avoided writing myself into Kara much, I did write characteristics of myself into a few other characters. Usually very tongue in cheek. For example, there’s this one guy—Gene—who’s a public relations type, and though he’s very good at it, he’s comically terrible when put in front of a camera. A lot of his misadventures were inspired by my own time working in fundraising and PR, dealing with the simultaneous thrill and horror at being interviewed on live TV.”
“Of course, I also write the “real me” into the story in a couple places. As far as my characters are concerned, I created a character of a hack novelist writing a sensationalized account of the events they’re living. That kind of humor appeals to me—recursive, self-effacing, maybe a tad corny.
Next week R.L. discusses the antagonist. Until then, keep on rockin.