The Care and Feeding of Pushy Characters

Over the past few months, I’ve been struggling with An Army of Angels. The story was off track. There was too much humor. I’ve always added healthy doses of humor to even my most serious work, but this was bordering on slapstick! I was so frustrated, I almost scrapped the book. I’m still having second thoughts about the series.


Years ago, while participating in a twenty-one-author booksigning at an area mall, Β my friend and fellow author Donna Julian and I were asked this question by historical romance author Mary Martin: “You two are so funny–why do you write such serious books?”

At the time, Donna and I agreed that we were able to be funny because we “got out all of our grim shit” through our writing. But now, I find myself wanting to write more humorous novels. I’m a huge, huge fan of bestselling author Janet Evanovich, who does humor brilliantly in her Stephanie Plum novels. I get her books through Audible–but I’ve learned not to listen to them while eating (too many near-choking incidents). Β And I love Devon Cooper’s wonderful Bad Day, Karla Telega’s Box of Rocks and others.

And there were instigators within my own camp.

The culprits behind my own creative ambivalence are the rambunctious Cantwell boys, five brothers who threatened to take over An Army of Angels. I’ve found myself wanting to write more and more about them, but it just wasn’t working for that novel. What to do?

I love my characters and I love the story I’ve been writing…but they just weren’t working together. Should I scrap the book and write a comedy? Should I move these characters into a funnier plot and put new characters in the work in progress? I had to make a decision. Finally, it came to me. I had already decided to start writing humor under my newly-minted “Robin Collins” pseudonym. I would reduce the brothers to brief appearances in An Army of Angels and give them their own book, a place in which they could be their naturally hilarious selves.

The perfect backdrop for these guys is the world of pro wrestling. I’ve been a fan since childhood, thanks to my dad. These five troublemakers could flourish there….



25 responses

  1. I think, from what you’ve said to me, that having this pack of rascals off in their own book the way you are, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And it’ll give you the focus you need for Army of Angels to take it where you need that one to go.

  2. Certainly, if they’re not working in one book, then they just have to go in another. Obviously those characters want their own books…not to be second banana in a serious book…LOL

  3. Norma, that is an excellent idea! If they are that pushy, then they do need their own book! Take care and good luck! Can’t wait to read!

  4. As you know I’m a big fan of your writing and mixed with the humor that makes people smile you will take everything off the charts!

  5. I’m also a huge fan of Evanovich — and also well aware of what can happen when a supporting character refuses to be good! In my novel Storm Chaser one of the main characters’ teenage sister, Beth, made such an impression on readers that, when I mentioned a sequel, most people named her as who they were most anxious to see more of.

  6. Yes, she does. πŸ™‚ She has s type I am not used to reading in some of the books I normally read. But it is a wonderful ad humourous style. πŸ™‚ Very cool of what can happen when a character refuses to be good. πŸ™‚ When a character refuses to be good, stories can be even better, I think.

  7. Janet Evanovich is a cool writer who has a writing style type that I am not used to when reading books. But, I find it wonderful and I love her humour within her books. I’ve over the past two months to read her books. And I’ve been liking them.

  8. She sure does! Hers is the kind of stuff I’ve always tried to write, but I always seem to end up getting too serious.

  9. Mark,
    πŸ™‚ Ironic that you say that since you are a humour writer, too. Along with Janet Evanovich’s writing, I also like your writing. I think your writing is very funny, too, and that it isn’t that serious. πŸ™‚

  10. April, I agree with you. Mark’s writing is pretty humorous, too! And each writer is unique and has his/her own style, so we should not compare. I love to read for Mark!

  11. Cool. πŸ™‚ Good point about that each writer is unique and has his/her own style, and abut that we shouldn’t compare (I agree, completely, about this).

  12. Mark–everybody has to start somewhere.

    I have to tell this story about Janet Evanovich. She started out a romance author at Bantam years ago. I knew an editor there who had previously been my agent’s assistant. Said editor didn’t think Janet was destined for success. I cheer every time I see Janet’s name on a bestseller list. Publishing people don’t know everything!

  13. Now Janet’s old romances are being reprinted, and I own some of them! She has a way of — getting back on the subject! — creating great supporting characters who steal every scene they’re in.

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