Friday, June 26, 2009

Trying to Learn from Other Writers - 2

Another series I’ve recently started reading is the Gus LeGarde mysteries by Aaron Paul Lazar. I’ve sort of started at the “wrong” end with them, having just read an advance copy of Mazurka which doesn’t come out until August, but I’m already hooked.

Gus LeGarde is a very different character from Sam Acquillo. If I saw Gus in a coffee shop he’d probably be reading a fascinating book or magazine, or talking music with a friend. He’d be kind, polite and moderately sociable. And I’d feel safe if he were to nod and smile at me. Gus lives in a beautiful house with land and views, and has a fascinating family. He travels to France in Mazurka and I love sharing the trip. I know Gus has had his dark times, but I don’t get the feeling that he ever sets out to make trouble.

It’s not just the background of the characters that’s different. Gus is much more open about himself than Sam Acquillo, who seems always on his guard. Aaron Lazar writes generous passages about Gus’s past, answering his readers’ questions, whereas Chris Knopf seems to reveal cautious details about Sam Acquillo, which only lead to more puzzles. Still, the different techniques really work. Sam becomes that fascinating stranger in the corner of the coffee shop. Gus becomes the welcoming face with a smile and a tale to tell.

So what have I learned? Perhaps that it’s good to tailor the telling of the story to the character’s disposition. Maybe if I can be true to the character’s level of trust and comfort in what I reveal, I might find myself creating a character strong enough to support a series.

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