Donna Brennan Interviews Robert Liparulo
Question: In all your books you manage to create characters we really care about. And your villains are drawn so well we understand their motivation and sometimes even sympathize with them. Is there a secret to making us care?
I always try to make every character human. Sounds like common sense, but I’m not sure every writer understands what that means. It means doing everything possible to put flesh on him, imbue him with understandable, human feelings, examining his qualities and flaws. What are the things that humans do? They love, they have regrets, they have their own understanding of the world around them, right or wrong; they eat, sleep, desire companionship. I always look for tiny details that make up each character: scars, bad eyesight, kinky hair . . . anything that tells the reader, “Look, this person isn’t made of cardboard, he’s not a figment of the writer’s imagination (though, of course, he is)”-it all goes toward making him or her someone the reader can relate to. I spend a lot of time “being” my characters before I start writing. I encourage them to be different from me, to do things I wouldn’t do and think differently from the way I think. Because they become unique, I think readers forget they came from the writer’s mind.
Question: Are any of your characters based on people you know? Are any of them based on you?
Most of my characters are an amalgam of people I know and have read about or seen in interviews and me. Hutch from Deadfall and Deadlock is the character who comes closest to a person I know. He was modeled on my best friend, who’s a game warden in Wyoming. He’s the kind of guy who can be dropped into any wilderness in the world and not only come out alive, but probably drive out in a vehicle made of twigs. I wanted to know what he would do in a situation that seems hopeless. How would he cope? Where would he find the strength to survive?
All of my characters have traces of me, of course. Some of the heroes are acting in ways I hope I’d act in tough situations. But the character closest to who I am-or whom I used to be-is David from the Dreamhouse Kings. I was very much like him at his age, twelve. I was the mediator between my older brother and my parents, as he is; I was fairly adventurous, always getting into trouble by giving into my curiosity. I didn’t realize I was writing about myself until my mother read the first two books in that series and said, “That’s so you!” and she went on to name all the ways David was me.
Next – Tips on writing screenplays, research, and words of advice.
There’s still time to register for the May 15-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference and to sign up for Robert’s continuing session. Click here. Robert is also teaching a continuing session at the August 1-4 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference.