Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Not All Important Characters Are Alive: Guest Blog and Giveaway with David-Matthew Barnes

Not All Important Characters Are Alive
A Guest Blog by David-Matthew Barnes

One of the biggest challenges I faced while writing my recent novel Stronger Than This was creating two characters, Martin and Samantha, who die within the first few pages. Yet, because their deaths have an impact on the lives of both of my protagonists for the remainder of the story, I quickly came to realize the importance of dead characters.

In planning the novel, I knew Martin and Samantha were just as vital to the story as their loved ones, Daniel and Charlene, who were alive and coping with their unexpected deaths. Their presence had to be felt in order for the void they leave behind to be consequential. Because my readers spend so little time on the page with Martin - and no time at all with Samantha - my task was to create a sense of their personalities, voices, and existences, and reveal these through memories. In writing the novel, I found this was no easy feat. Yet, it provided me with the most challenging writing experience in my career.

As the novel is an epistolary one and the story is told through letters, text messages, interviews, memos, and online chats, I could not rely on traditional flashbacks to establish the characters of Martin and Samantha. Instead, readers had to experience them through Daniel and Charlene.

The deaths of Martin and Samantha had to create a powerful impact that would ripple throughout the rest of the novel. Therefore, when I sat down at my computer and started to type, I recognized that readers needed to find both characters likeable in order to feel the same sorrow that Daniel and Charlene endure. They had to be emotionally invested. However, because of the timeline of the story, readers wouldn’t form sympathy for them until long after their deaths. Like my main characters, readers wouldn’t realize what they lost in Martin and Samantha until they were gone – similar to the emotional epiphanies of Daniel and Charlene.

The most difficult aspect of this writing process was selecting the right moments to reveal more information. It was a constant tightrope, balancing between needing to develop their characters without appearing heavy-handed in doing so. Never did I want the reader to feel as if the memories of Martin and Samantha (essentially their backstories) were forced.

Overall, the writing process during this particular novel was educational and enlightening. I’m grateful for the experience because it’s made me more aware. Never before had I recognized the significant value of all the characters that populate the universe of a story – even the dead ones.

Stronger Than This
David-Matthew Barnes

Genre: Literary Fiction/LGBT/

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Date of Publication: February 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1602829886

Number of pages: 216    
Word Count: 55,000

Book Description:

Charlene’s soul mate, Samantha, has been killed in a car accident. Daniel’s partner, Martin, has been murdered in a robbery gone wrong. Seeking comfort, Charlene and Daniel attend a support group where they meet for the first time.

Emotionally devastated and discarded by their loved ones’ conservative families, Charlene and Daniel feel an immediate connection. Rather than reveal their pain to a room full of strangers, they decide to see each other through their shared anguish.

As a beautiful friendship emerges from grief, slivers of new hope are found.

About the Author:

David-Matthew Barnes is the bestselling author of ten novels, including the young adult novels Swimming to Chicago and Wonderland, which were nominated by the American Library Association for their annual Rainbow Books, a list of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content for children and teens.

He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Boys Like Me, and two collections of poetry, Roadside Attractions and Souvenir Boys. He has written over forty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in eight countries. Collections of his theatrical works include Deuces: Stage Plays for Two Actors, Monologues That Kick Ass, You Think You Know Us: Stage Plays for Teen Actors, and more. He is the writer and director of the feature film Frozen Stars and the dramatic short film Threnody.

His literary work has been featured in over one hundred publications including The Best Stage Scenes, The Best Men's Stage Monologues, The Best Women's Stage Monologues, The Comstock Review, and The Southeast Review. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina.

He teaches college courses in writing, literature, and the arts.

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