Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Author Mark Ozeroff



Psycho-logical Character Study
By Mark Ozeroff

I may create the characters in my novels, but they’re not fully under my command. They have an autonomy I find surprising, and more than a little vexing at times.

I am currently working on In the Weeds, a dark comedy about an Air Force pilot in Vietnam who returns to the US a changed man. Suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, and addicted to the adrenaline associated with combat flying, Slats Kisov starts smuggling marijuana into Florida from the Bahamas. An improbable gentleman named Doggy Breath, seeking his own unique form of artistic freedom, aids him in this venture. I’m not sure what it says about my psychological stability that I concocted a protagonist who transitions from Jewish war hero into smuggler, helped along by a poetry-spouting bulimic Cuban marijuana farmer.

It’s not just major characters who develop lives of their own. I intended Darla Pistle to be a single-scene character, a woman who goes out on one date with Slats and then disappears into the literary mist. But she blossomed into his girlfriend, then evolved into ex-wife of the novel’s antagonist. Lord only knows what else she will become – I certainly don’t. This evolution arose because I fell in love with Darla. I’ve never heard of a branch of psychology that could deal with so strange a fixation. What would you even call this ailment, Fictional Character Emotive Disorder?

Over time, I’ve come up with some pretty nasty characters. One of them was asking for it throughout the entirety of my first novel, Days of Smoke, and I just couldn’t stop myself. Caught up in a fit of pique, I murdered him in a most violent fashion. Immediately after doing the deed, I glared at the rough draft on my computer screen and screamed, “Take that, you miserable SOB!” Uh-oh, another branch sprouting from the stunted tree of my psyche: Diminished Capacity/Literary Manslaughter Syndrome.

I try my best to ignore Sigmund Freud, particularly concerning his focus on dreams. That’s because I hatch characters in my sleep. They laugh, love, cry, fly, and die – all while I slumber. I can’t be sure, but I believe these nocturnal folk are most active during my occasional bouts with sleep apnea. Theorizing that it must have something to do with low oxygen flow to the brain, I’ve tried holding my breath while seated at the keyboard, but it just doesn’t work. Apparently, Polysomnographic Hypoxia cannot be artificially induced.

Understandably, you may choose not to go so far afield in breathing life into your own characters. But don’t be hesitant about getting emotionally involved with ‘em – if you hit the right balance, you can bring readers along on quite a ride. As for me, I’ll take what comfort I can find in the words of the philosopher Pascal: “Man is so unavoidably mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.” 


Mark Ozeroff has been hosted by author Victoria Roder 

19 comments:

Big Mike said...

Welcome to TWV, Mark. I think most of us experience the evolution of characters from mere images in our heads to actual breathing entities. When I start a book they're just words on the screen but by the last page they've become friends I care for and will miss living in their day to day lives.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Jude Johnson said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post, Mark. I think it's vital to become involved with your characters. If you aren't emotionally invested, why should your readers be? Mine still talk to me even after the book is finished and published. I think they're nagging for a sequel.

~Jude

Ute Carbone said...

Wonderful post, Mark. I fall in love with my characters all the time. Maybe we need a support group? Writers who love too much?

Mark said...

Thanks, Big Mike. Yours is a fine group of writers, and I very much enjoyed guest posting here.

Mark said...

When one's own characters start in to naggin', what can we say but, "Okay!" I have a partly finished young adult novel that is built around a minor character from my first novel, DAYS OF SMOKE. I don't mind being stalked by my own characters -- no way I'm gonna take out a restraining order .

Mark said...

A support group for authors who fall in love with their own characters? I think that's an excellent idea, Ute. After all, I kinda believe that writing a book is just a long spell of me talking to myself -- reckon that makes me certifiable.

Michele said...

As always, Mark, you are so very entertaining! Days of Smoke is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it!

Mark said...

Thank you, Michele -- I really love writing blogs and articles. As for entertaining, my nieces (the Blondettes) always say I'm the whoopie cushion of the family.

Victoria Roder said...

I remember crying after one of my characters got killed off. My husband thought I lost my mind!He said just change the scene. What? That's not possible.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very interesting. Glad to see you here.

Julie Lence said...

Great insight into you characters, Mark. I, too, fall in love with mine. Buck Grayson is my favorite. And like you, I hear them laugh, cry and yell in my mind. Sometimes an entire scene plays out, but by the time I get back to the computer, I'm lucky if I remember half of it. Best of luck on your upcoming novel!

Mark said...

What? Change an emotion-wrought scene? Over my dead laptop battery!
Back to the locked trunk with him, and no dog this time .

Mark said...

It'd be nice to have an eidetic memory, Julie, especially when it comes to writing. I have a piece of Jarlsberg cheese for a memory, which may explain why a book takes so long to generate. Thanks for droppin' by.

Mark said...

Thank you, Julie. You're from Daytona? I lived there for 26 years, until 2011. Nice place to write and promote (and tell stories, too).

joyce said...

Great post, Mark. I'm all for the Writers Who Love Too Much Support Group (WWLTM)

Mark said...

Thank you, Joyce. What with all the responses in favor of forming a WWLTM right here, I b'lieve we have the nucleus for a fine support group.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

We've been here 26 years, too. Lots of changes, even in the last two years.

Liz Fountain said...

I'm late to the party but loved this post - and fall for my characters all the time. There's a dog in my latest who is the dog I want with me in real life... and in a weird twist, the love interest in a MS I wrote a few years ago turns out to be quite like the fella I'm with now. Any diagnosis for that? :-D

Liz

Mark said...

Sounds like a clear case of Authorial Self-fulfilling Prophecy to me, Liz .