What About Charlie Russell?

How’s your week going so far? Mine’s been good, and I’ve been making strides with my book and doing some more training on marketing and getting the word out (could always use more of that).

Let’s get to it for today.

As long as I can remember (maybe longer), I’ve talked about maybe talking about Charlie Russell (here and over here).

All right, the time has come. Here, today, I’m going to get him over with.

Charlie Russell was one of my first characters ever. I put him in a story I wrote when I was still taking the Long Ridge Writers Group’s Breaking Into Print program (they’ve changed their name to the Institute for Writers, now).

Anyway, this character was a character–and the story was kind of a mashup between a John Grisham story I’d read and another story I’d read about a guy being caught by the cops, but mostly the Grisham story.

And it was awful.

Stuff happened, my instructor said my dialogue was great, but other than that…

I didn’t care about this character at all. 

I did have him get caught in the end, but I didn’t give five-eighths of a rip whether he lived or died. And that’s bad–terrible. Because as the writer, if I don’t care about him, nobody else will.

Looking back on it, it may have been better to write it as the other character in the story. Writing it from the accomplice’s perspective may not have been the best idea (they concoct a plot to defraud a company after they get fired from there, and they succeed). But then Charlie, the guy I’m talking about, gets someone to bump off his partner, and gets the rest of the money for himself–only to get collared later. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, I dunno.

(And it looks like we’re kinda having Triple F early–take it and run). If someone told me this story, and said it was rejected, here’s what I would say. From a fiction perspective:

Submit the story elsewhere. After about 3 rejections, revise the darn thing, and keep going. 

Try telling the story from the mastermind’s perspective instead.

Use parts of this story (plot, setting, characters) in other stories to see if they fit a little better there, instead.

(And keep in mind, I wrote this story without doing any research on airline security, financial security, banking procedures/regulations, or what-have-ya. Not like I’m itching to get put on some list or something, somewhere).

From a copywriting perspective, I’d say:

Try to analyze the parts of this that aren’t working, and why, and try to fix them. This character didn’t really seem excited about anything he was involved in–maybe that was his problem. Or that the other character, Jake the Mastermind, decided to trust a bumbler in a scheme, because he felt sorry for him. That was Jake’s problem. And I didn’t realize that Charlie seemed to be made of cardboard and paper. Maybe he was a little depressed, or I should have tried writing things in first person, instead.

Deepen the relationship between you and your prospects, or in this case, Charlie and my readers. If he’s not excited about stuff, why wasn’t he? Depression? We’d have to figure that one out.

Throw parts of Charlie out and reinvent him so he fits the market better.

And now that I’ve said it to you, I’ve said it to myself, too. There you go. I’ve let you in on one of my very first characters I created while I received professional writing training, and why he seemed to be a bit doomed. He’s in a genre I don’t write much in, so I may just retool him, and pop him into another story.

How about you? Did you ever have a character (or story, email, sales letter, what-have-ya) that wasn’t working for you? What did you do to fix things? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know.

Friday will be Triple F–be sure to stop by.

Until next time,

Ty

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About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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