Saturday, July 26, 2008

Character questionnaires

Have each character fill out a questionnaire. Laurel Yourke says take them to dinner. It's the same thing.

The Kearney Mystery was written before I became aware of the need for character questionnaires. Now I use them all the time. The Kearney characters kind of evolved based on characters I knew from both fiction and real life. Henry Harrier is a composite of George Smiley from LeCarre, Sherlock Holmes from Conan Doyle, and Orlando Cole from real life. Incidently, the latter, at age 99 and about to have birthday #100 (pfew), is very much still with us. My wife and I have dinner with him about twice a week. When I had a question about how Henry would act, I just thought how these friends of mine would react.Now, before I start a new novel, I have a questionnaire I fill out on each about their demographic characteristics, preferences, and behavior patterns. It's about 10 printed pages. This helps me put into writing what I'm thinking and helps me avoid errors by saying on p. 10 a character drives a red Toyota, then on page 225, which might have been written 6 months later, a blue Mustang. Also, seeing it in writing helps iron out any inconsistencies in your own thinking. For example you might say that your character's favorite food is pizza, but when you answer the uestion, "What does your character hate the most?" saying, "going out for pizza," you might want to resolve that. Maybe the character likes pizza but doesn't like to eat in restaurants. So he refuses an invitation to go out for pizza with friends and is in his kitchen making his favorite eat-at-home pizza when a car crashes through the wall and puts him in the hospital. Other things happen to him in the hospital that wouldn't have happened had he gone out. So you can start out the novel saying, "This all happened before Richard, having just refused his best friend's invitation to go to Pine Pizza, was standing over the counter rolling pizza dough." Oh, and it helps in your questionnaire to have questions about what your character is like or not like. In forming Henry, I though of the bird, the harrier. A harrier is a kind of raptor, like a hawk or falcon, who lives by hunting rodents and small field animals. I've watched a Northern Harrier hunting. They hunt in pairs. They hovr above the field, then drop straight down and grab their prey. Does that help with character development? I would say so.

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Ian Kearney, the director of the Kearney Music School, an elite musical training school in Philadelphia, dies after a fall from a balcony during a recital. World-famous cellist, Henry Harrier, recently forced from the faculty, returns to investigate Ian's death when his prized former student is arrested. Henry shows through his brilliant and single-minded pursuit of the truth that, as usual, they have it all wrong. This Sherlock Holmes-type mystery leads the reader through the world of classical music and lays bare the conflicts which dominate the lives of talented adolescents when placed under the pressure of studying for a demanding, stressful, and often elusive career as a classical music performer. Henry Harrier is part John Le Carre's George Smiley, part Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes, and part Orlando Cole the beloved teacher, renowned chamber musician, and until his own retirement, the premier cellist of the Curtis Institute.

Author Profile:

Tim was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1946. In 1951 he moved with his family to Schenectady, New York, where he lived through high school. He attended Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, from 1964 to 1968. He graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in history and philosophy. He received his Ph. D. in history in U.S. history in 1980 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after spending 2.5 years in the U. S. Army. Most of his army service was completed in Wuerzburg, Germany, from 1969-1971. In 1972 he returned to Madison to complete his doctoral study. His dissertation, Those Who Moved; Internal Migrants in American 1607-1840, combined the statistical analysis of genealogical and biographical data with the study of traditional literary diaries, letters, and journals.

Tim was a market and survey research consultant from 1983 to 2000 and a smoking cessation researcher from 2000 to 2003. His consulting practice focused primarily on conducting community health needs assessment. He authored hundreds of market research reports and published a number of his assessments in Community Health Needs Assessment published by McGraw Hill in 1996 and in a revised volume published in 1999. In 2000 he joined the staff of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he conducted smoking cessation research. He published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and spoke at national smoking cessation conferences.

In 2003 he moved to Philadelphia and earned his real estate license. He now practices real estate, works on publishing his novels, and studies and teaches entrepreneurship.Tim has written a dozen novel-length stories, a volume of short stories, and about a 3-foot stack of pages poetry. He is currently working on earning his 4th million in real estate sales, publishing his novels, and working on an entrepreneurish handbook as a support for his students.

Tim is a trained violist and an experienced string quartet player. He is an avid listener to classical music and regularly attends classical music concerts. He has two grown children by his first wife and a stepdaughter with his second wife. He likes to cook, read, write, entertain, develop relationships, and help other people. Formerly Tim used to travel frequently. He doesn't so much anymore. Now he regards the combination of real estate practice, writing and publishing, and the teaching and studying of entrepreneurship as enough of a trip.