Thursday, April 05, 2007

Appropriate Characterization

The industry throws around a lot of words like "high concept" when it comes to selling books. And for the new author, I believe high concept is almost a must, but I have to admit that the majority of books I pick up off the shelf don't seem to be high concept at all. And even if you were to come up with the best high concept idea in the world, it doesn't matter if you don't put the right characters in the story.

The best books to read are people who have come up with the right character for the plot. Take my friend, Wendy Roberts, for instance. She has a new mystery series coming out - the first book comes out in December and is called REMAINS OF THE DEAD.

Now, here is what I think Wendy did incredibly right and was very clever about with her character selection. Wendy is writing an amateur sleuth - a hugely popular sub-genre of mystery. (My personal favorite too) But where most people lose me in a long-running series is with the heroine. Let's face it, while it might be funny/cute/amusing for a hairdresser, or dog-walker, or chef or b&b owner to solve a murder mystery, how many murders can people like that realistically come across without drawing unwanted attention to themselves? Basically, it's not the right heroine for a long-running series - not for me anyway. I usually bow out after a couple of books because I simply can't suspend disbelief for that long.

But Wendy came up witht he perfect twist to the amateur sleuth, creating a heroine that is perfect for running across murder in her day-to-day life but with no rational way of going to the police with what she knows. Why, you ask? How can this be?

Simple. Wendy's heroine is a forensic cleaner. She owns the forensic cleaning company that cleans up the mess people leave in homes/businesses/etc when they die - and the dead tend to stay around and talk to her!!!!

Wow! What a concept, right? So this is a woman with the only forensic cleaning company in town so she's going to be on sight for any death that left a mess. Then the dead person is going to talk to her. This is literally a person that could run into murder on a regular basis and not have it be stupid or contrived. Not only that, but she can never be guilty of SWS (stupid woman syndrome) because it's not like she could run to the police and tell them that the dead are talking to her.

It's the perfect setup for a long-running series and a brilliant idea on Wendy's part. Probably why Penguin was smart enough to give her a 3-book deal and decide to use her book as one to launch a new mystery line.

I've read the first and it was fabulous! In fact, it had a twist at the end that I never saw coming and for me that's huge.

So mark your calender, or keep reading my blog. Because around Santa time, I'll be reminding everyone to run out and buy REMAINS OF THE DEAD.


Kimber An said...

A forensic cleaner - excellent! I was never one, but I was a housecleaner for a while and I can totally understand how that would work.

Jaye Wells said...

Ooooh. Now that's a great idea. If I hear about a book idea and I immediately want to hit myself for not thinking of it myself then I know it's high concept.

Wendy Roberts said...

Jana! Cyber smooches to you LOL. Thanks sooo much for talking about my book :)

Anissa said...

Sounds fantastic! Now I'm even more excited to read it. Thanks for sharing. :)

Tori Lennox said...

Oh, that sounds like a fun series, Wendy! I'll definitely be watching for it. :)

Wendy Roberts said...

Thanks everyone :) it's been a fun series to write!

Jana DeLeon said...

kimber - housecleaning is my nemisis. That and cooking and sewing and well, anything domestic. I'm fairly sure I should have been born a man. Well, except that I'm not attracted to women. :)

Jaye - Yeah, I know. I have those moments too. But your idea will hit eventually.

Wendy - all praise is well-deserved. You created a very clever setup for what will hopefully be a long-running series. I predict it will do very well with the reading audience.

Hi anissa and thanks for stopping by! You should definitely give REMAINS a read. Well, when it's available, of course. :)

tori - it's definitely a great idea. And don't worry, I'll be reminding everyone when it gets to be release time.

Sassy Sistah said...

Now, THAT'S clever! That's a series I will definitely read - and can't wait to get my hands on a copy. I'm like you - after about the third in a series where the heroine is caterer or a bookseller or something - and keeps stumbling across bodies - I get a bit incredulous.

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi sassy - Yes, it is very clever and I oh, so, LOVE clever. :)

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