How to Make Your Main Character a Role Model

lone-ranger-tonto

“Look, Kemo Sabe. Bad men.” “Yes, Tonto. Let’s mess them up.”

One of the most important things that an author can do is create a main character that is a role model to his readers. To accomplish this, it is a good idea to create a list of what the character can and cannot do, so you can keep him on the straight and narrow. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

One of my favorite characters from Old Time Radio is the Lone Ranger. (The original radio program and TV show are the only ones worth seeing/listening to.) Fran Striker, co-creator and writer of the Lone Ranger, created the following creed for the Ranger:

I believe…

  • That to have a friend, a man must be one.
  • That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
  • That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
  • In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for what is right.
  • That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
  • That ‘this government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ shall live always.
  • That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
  • That sooner or later…somewhere…somehow…we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
  • That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
  • In my Creator, my country, my fellow man

Striker and George W. Trendle, the other co-creator, also wrote these guidelines for the Lone Ranger.

  • The Lone Ranger is never seen without his mask or a disguise.
  • With emphasis on logic, The Lone Ranger is never captured or held for any length of time by lawmen, avoiding his being unmasked.
  • The Lone Ranger always uses perfect grammar and precise speech completely devoid of slang and colloquial phrases, at all times.
  • When he has to use guns, The Lone Ranger never shoots to kill, but rather only to disarm his opponent as painlessly as possible.
  • Logically, too, The Lone Ranger never wins against hopeless odds; i.e., he is never seen escaping from a barrage of bullets merely by riding into the horizon.
  • Even though The Lone Ranger offers his aid to individuals or small groups, the ultimate objective of his story never fails to imply that their benefit is only a by-product of a greater achievement—the development of the west or our country. His adversaries are usually groups whose power is such that large areas are at stake.
  • Adversaries are never other than American to avoid criticism from minority groups. There were exceptions to this rule. He sometimes battled foreign agents, though their nation of origin was generally not named.
  • Names of unsympathetic characters are carefully chosen, never consisting of two names if it can be avoided, to avoid even further vicarious association—more often than not, a single nickname is selected.
  • The Lone Ranger never drinks or smokes and saloon scenes are usually interpreted as cafes, with waiters and food instead of bartenders and liquor.
  • Criminals are never shown in enviable positions of wealth or power, and they never appear as successful or glamorous.

When the Lone Ranger held true to these guidelines, the Ranger was a strong role model (not like the remakes).

Not everyone writes westerns, but I think that this idea is still useful. A great role model can leave a lasting impact on the reader. There are too many negative characters and stereotypes in fiction. I think it’s time we changed that.

What do you think? Post an answer in the comment selection below.

Do eBook Covers Have to Cost $$$$?

If you ever published an ebook or just looked into publishing an ebook, one of the biggest costs is the cover. I’ve seen prices as low as $40 and as high as $300+. You could make your own ebook cover, especially if you’re a graphic designer, but most people don’t have that skill.

Luckily, there is this great place called Fiverr, where you can get all kinds of stuff starting at $5. I got my last ebook cover from a seller named Angie. Check out here gig. She does terrific work. Also, check out everything that Fiverr have to offer.

 

Elmore Leonard’s Advice on Writing

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard

I enjoy reading Elmore Leonard’s stories because they are tight and quick, they get right to the point without tons of filler. I came across these tips for Leonard and found them useful, so I am posting them here for your edification. Enjoy.

These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character — the one whose view best brings the scene to life — I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.