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Here is something I just realized...
A few weeks ago, maybe longer, I had hit a reading roadblock. I'd become really difficult to please in my reading choices, nothing new I picked up was any good. Too many writing 'rules' broken to allow me to enjoy the stories. And by 'rules broken' I mean bumps in the reading that would toss me out of the story and cause me to analyze the writing. It didn't always break rules, but caused a problem with my reading flow.
So, I went back to my boxes of books that I had brought with me when we moved four years ago. I think I have mentioned reading the first twenty 'Spenser' books by Robert Parker. Besides being fun reading, I was curious to see how the Spenser character had developed as the series progressed. When I ran out of Spenser books, and the library couldn't fill in the gaps, I delved back into my boxes and came up with this series:
The Matthew Scudder series, by Lawrence Block
A detective type series of books I read way back when, 20+ years ago. Now, because of running into a wall, head first and at full speed, my memory is oddly gapped at times. I don't remember a lot of details from my first reading of these books, details about the cases he's working on, but I do remember more details about the main character (MC), Matt Scudder. And I remember why I wanted to read these books again - the last paragraph of the fifth book, 'Eight Million Ways to Die'.
A summary of the MC: Matt Scudder is an ex-cop. He left the force, by choice, when he shot two men who had robbed the bar where he was drinking. They killed the bartender and Matt shot them as they ran away down the street. He may or may not have had too much to drink. But one of his shots ricocheted and killed a seven year old girl. He was cleared and commendated for his actions, but it ruined his life.
He quit his job, left his wife and two boys, moved into a hotel room, and tried to drink himself to death on an almost daily basis. He works as an unofficial private investigator, not licensed, he does favors for people and they give him gifts (money).
So, going back to my opening sentence, I realized that I read five books just to get to the last paragraph of that fifth book. It had hit me that hard when I first read it. I wanted to read each of the books leading up to that paragraph to study how the character was written. What made that paragraph hit me so hard? The overall writing is good, the stories are good, but it's the character study that brought me back.
I want to write like THAT. I want to write characters that draw readers in. Love them or hate them, I want the reader to care and be drawn to them somehow. Matt Scudder is not a likeable person, the way he is now. He had some good qualities but he is SO flawed.
I'm still driven by character driven stories, like I said in an earlier post here.
What drives your writing?
Oh, a quote from the author, Lawrence Block:
I started writing about Matthew Scudder in the mid-1970s, and it’s been a great pleasure watching him grow and evolve over the years. An aspect of the realism of the series is that Scudder has aged in real time; he’s forty years older than he was when I started chronicling his fictive existence. If I have one piece of advice for y’all, it’s this: Don’t age in real time. I’m talking about you, not your characters. Slow down. What’s the damn hurry?