Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography
Welcome to another edition of Open Book Blog Hop. This week’s question is: “How do you avoid giving readers TMI (too much information) about a character? How do you decide what to share about a story’s characters?”
With some characters, especially main ones, you can’t give too much information. The reader needs to know as much as possible about the character in order to understand her throughout the book. Let’s take, for example, Marti from Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me. In Chapter 2, told from her first-person point of view, she tells us about herself in the hope we can understand why she does what she does. Here she is now.
I loved my parents but hated the name they gave me: Martha Louise Sherman. It sounded so stuffy, and my friends agreed.
Growing up in Sheridan, Wyoming, I was an only child.
When I was in high school, I changed my name to Marti after being cast in a school production of Grease as a girl by that name. The drama teacher pointed out that it was a shortened version of Martha. So I decided to use it in real life as well.
Dad and my teachers and friends went along, but Mom did not, of course. She claimed that I’d been named for my great–grandmother Martha, and it would be disloyal to shorten it. I let it go, having already learned to pick my battles.
During my freshman year in high school, I fell in love with literature. My English teacher had us read such books as I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Black Like Me, and The Grapes of Wrath. These books fascinated me. When I was a senior, I decided I wanted to be a writer—or maybe an actress.
By the time I graduated from high school, I’d received a theater scholarship to the university in Laramie. After a year, convinced by my parents that writing and acting weren’t lucrative careers, I changed my major to English and got a master’s degree.
During my last year there, I met and fell in love with my husband, Daryl Vincent. At least I thought I was in love with him at first.
He was in his last year of law school and was also an only child. His parents lived in Laramie, but after we graduated, he found a position with a firm in Sheridan, as luck would have it. So after we were married, we moved back to my hometown, where I found a teaching position in the English department at Sheridan College, resigned to a life in academia.
At first, I had plenty of time to write. For a while, before funding ran out, the college produced an annual literary journal. I was in charge of editing that, and some of my stories and poems were published there. I even had ideas for a novel.
After the girls were born, I didn’t have nearly as much time to write. I kept telling myself that once the girls were in school, things would change, but they didn’t. Maybe when the girls were in college, or maybe when I retired…
When our younger daughter, Sarah, was six, Dad died of a sudden heart attack. A few years later, I had to move Mom to a nursing home because of her dementia. I thought it was important for our daughters to continue their relationship with their grandmother. I wondered if this was such a good idea after Mom stopped recognizing Natalie. But as a parent, I had to be consistent, right?
What about you authors out there? How do you keep from providing too much information about your characters? You can click here to participate in this week’s hop and read other bloggers’ responses. By the way, Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me can be downloaded free from Smashwords this month. See below for details.
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Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
Independently published with the help of DLD Books.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.
After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.
Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.
Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?