#navbar-iframe { display: none !important;} The Naked Page: What We Want to Know

The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary

12.17.2005

What We Want to Know

How do you decide what to reveal, versus what not to reveal? (And no, for once I'm not talking about thong underwear versus old-school panties, or boxers versus briefs, or anything else underwear related.)

Bethany says she's been wondering about: "what we want to know about characters as opposed to what we want to know about real people. You only tell interesting things about characters, but people find every banal detail about celebrities interesting. And in our relationships, do you delve to find every little detail or do you leave something to mystery?"

I'm thinking there is probably something special about the celebrity factor. They have this image of perfection or pseudo-perfection, and we want to know that they are still like us in some ways, so that we don't feel so inferior. Right? We want to know that they secretely snarf down Cheetos and Mountain Dew, that they have cellulite, that their long, luxurious hair is really just $2000 extensions (and trust me, it always is!).

But anyway...what were we talking about? Underwe-oh, right, what we want to know about fictional characters. Or something like that.

In real-life relationships, don't we gravitate toward wanting to know everything about the people we love? I believe that's part of the thirst for intimacy, and it helps reassure us that we can be loved by someone even when they know the worst about us.

But fictional characters are not people with whom we long for intimacy. We need them to be interesting, conflicted, and probably representative of some greater truth about life, and so as writers, our job is to reveal the details about them that serve the story, right?

I know, I know, this topic isn't nearly as easy as talking about panties. But Bethany is kind of cerebral, and stuff, so what do you expect?

38 Comments:

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

I think details about a character are not just important, but crucial. I lose interest in a character very quickly if they are more of a stereotype than a real person. I like a person of basically good character, but flawed. I especially like it if the character goes through the basic ethical struggles we deal with every day. And I also expect them to make mistakes.

It is hard though. I find it difficult to make my characters struggle, or deal with poor treatment from others, even though the most rewarding part of the story is when they overcome the early obstacles. I'm not someone who acts vindictively in real life, so I get a vicarious pleasure from reading about people who basically get even with their tormentors. That's fun.

 
At 5:25 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

My stories tend to be about overcoming the past, whether a particular person (Theresa, I'm totally down with the getting even stuff :-) or general trauma. To understand the characters it's definitely important to reveal that background information, which leads to the issue of not dumping backstory, which I did in my very first book as most writers do. Luckily I've gotten much better at that, and my goal now is to drop just enough info to get readers wondering "wow, what happened to her?".

Minute details definitely aren't necessary, but the fun thing about fiction is that even those small things usually *are* related to the story. It's interesting to see how all the little things in the characters' lives led them to where they currently are and connected them to one another. Of course, we probably don't need to know that the hero has a bowel movement at a certain time every day, even though some people would actually want to know that about a celebrity. :-P

 
At 5:33 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

Hey, that post cut the tongue off my smiley face...

I just have two more things to say: I'll be offline for a couple of weeks due to holiday traveling, so Happy Holidays, ladies! :-)

And... It's a BOY!! Only 4 more months until I get my nightly cappuccinos back! lol

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

Of course, we probably don't need to know that the hero has a bowel movement at a certain time every day, even though some people would actually want to know that about a celebrity.

Lol, I think I can do without the potty details.

Congrats on the boy btw. My son had his 2nd b-day today. He is sooooooo fun. I love boys.

 
At 4:18 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

Hmmm, yes I am so cerebral, what I was really really wondering is why Lee does not find every little fact about me fascinating. For example, he's been sitting with me when I was posting on here and he doesn't even lean over to see what I wrote.

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

For example, he's been sitting with me when I was posting on here and he doesn't even lean over to see what I wrote.

I have the opposite problem. I'd kind of like it if my husband didn't look, especially when I'm talking about him. Though on the occassions when he has read what I wrote about, he didn't particularly care. Is that a good sign or a bad one?

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Bethany, you should tell him you're writing about blow jobs and he'll look. Try it.

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Congratulations on the upcoming boy, Melissa!

 
At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

Since we mentioned husband's earlier, can I vent a bit? I'm having a my husband is driving me nuts moment, and I don't have anyone to talk to.

I went to target to buy a case that holds matchbox cars. But I couldn't find the exact one my husband had in mind. This of course ended up being a problem because he can't conceive of anything different than he had in mind. Am I wrong to find a debate over something so minor totally annoying? Does anyone else have a man who makes every little thing an ordeal?

Arrrrrrrrrrg!
I'd call my mom and get stories from her about my dad (that always makes me feel better) but she out Christmas shopping.

Anyway Jamie, sorry I used your blog as my personal venting spot. But I thought I might have a symapthetic audience; after all, anyone who is married to a man should know exactly how I'm feeling right now. I's sure I could make this relate to writing somehow, but I'm too annoyed to try.

Oh well.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

LOL, Theresa, it's totally cool to vent here. That is completely annoying to have every little decision micro-managed. Let me guess--was he envisioning the Hot Wheel case shaped like a wheel? I personally find it totally annoying that the Matchbox cars (which are more interesting to my son) do not fit well in the Hotwheels cases (which are more interesting to my husband).

 
At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Sherry said...

Husbands interested? My husband usually wants to know why I busted out laughing while reading or sitting in front the computer. Usual answer is "I was reading Jamie's blog." When I use the "this book is so funny," he gets totally baffled since I only read "romance novels." What's funny about them...

But then again, this is the same man who does not want to go to see movies with me because I bust out laughing during the funny parts of the movie. There is something wrong with this issue. He will laugh for hours on end at "stupid" stuff, i.e. "Larry, The Cable Guy" and other men of that nature (sorry, if you are a fan). He will spend hours laughing with the "boys" while they are traveling to a race just because they call every woman they see "ho" of some type (such as "track ho" for the girls cruising the race track). But me laughing out loud at a movie is wrong. Note, we very seldom laugh together at the same things.

Oops, my venting got carried away on another venue. Back to interested in what you are doing...

I get ask more often than I prefer, and irritated more than I should, by the question "what are you doing?" when I am sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, with all the frigging bills laid out paying them...note my hateful voice speaking here. Yep, I hate paying the bills with a capital H...(revelation here, there is something I hate, and I don't like hating things - I need to resolve that issue). So for hubby who has no clue about the bills to ask me what I am doing when it is obvious that I am paying the bills, I just about snap his head off when I reply with "what the f..k does it look like I am doing" (oh maybe that phase is only in my mind as I politely say I'm paying the bills while thinking the other nasty thoughts and rolling my eyes at him).

Okay, I am back to the original issue that I wanted to address. Romance fan speaking here. I like the characters in books to have developed personalities. I want them to seem like real people, do things that make me laugh (more so because I can visualize them doing silly things). Oh and yes, I love to read funny things in romance novels!

Bethany, you might consider what hubby was doing while you were posting. As in was the television on or was he reading - both are sure fire ways to get the attention focused elsewhere.

BTW, Bethany, I think my daughter's blog is super cool and read it all the time, yep, usually laughing out loud a lot too.

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

Oooooooooh, good posts!
I can so relate to the "whatcha doing?" question when the answer is self evident. If I'm making dinner I usually say something like "I'm hand knitting a business suit for you hon, why do you ask?" He usually stops asking, at least for awhile.

My mom's favorite was always "I'm having lunch with the Pope." But I digress.

My husband and I rarely laugh at the same stuff too. Though he thinks it's funny when I laugh out loud at stuff, so that's ok. But I can only take so much Jackass or someother stupid show like that before I start to lose my mind.

The whole matchbox car thing though was just too much. Actually my husband didn't want the wheel shaped thing, he wanted the suitcase that I couldn't find. But what really bugs me is that he's under some illusion that our children will actually put the cars in the case, when really it just becomes one more chore for me.

I just want some easy to use case, not something where every car has to go in it's assigned spot because I am not anal enough to see it done everyday. I'm trying to get him to understand that he will have to be satisfied with all the cars being on one container, and that's it!

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

Theresa, Santa brought my 2-year-old a generic car case with about 50 cars inside, and he LOVES to play cars, so I'm happy to have it... but yes, I do pick them up and put them in their little parking spots Every Single Night. It's not so bad, though--it looks like I've just cleaned the entire living room by doing that one thing. lol

Sherry, I confess--hubby and I both are Larry the Cable Guy fans as well as the rest of the Blue Collar crew. Of course, I have a completely dirty sense of humor, so maybe that's why my husband and I laugh at the same things.

Okay, I'm really going now. On a 13-hour drive. With a pregnant woman and a toddler. I wonder how my husband feels about THAT...

Merry Christmas!

 
At 6:49 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

Well, I would think that if he knew i was writing about panties and his love for Johnny Depp that he would be interested enough to read it later. I know I would if he was posting and yes, this is interesting stuff!

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

So here's a challenge since I came up with this idea that is less interesting than Jamie's usual posts- what is the weirdest detail about a character you've added to one of your stories? Since I'm writing YA I'll probably beat all of you guys, but we'll see!

BTW I got your christmas card Sherry!

 
At 11:39 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

My secret confession of the day: I really like Blue Collar TV.

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Hey mom, Sounds like you need to vent more often. Thanks for checking in. I'm glad I have at least one fan!

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Bethany's challenge: weirdest detail I've ever revealed about a character? This would require me to actually remember anything I've ever written...hmm...will have to think about that one for a while and report back tomorrow.

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Okay, thought about Bethany's question and while I'm not sure it qualifies as "weirdest detail," it's definitely one of my favorites for having accurately described some off-screen characters in a story with a minimum of words.

The heroine in my upcoming March book (ONCE UPON A SEDUCTION) had parents who are former a disco king and queen still trying to relive the glory days of their youth, and I had fun playing around with that whole idea of her having had parents who really never should have become parents, because it definitely wasn't one of their talents. The heroine is completely neurotic, and they are part of the reason.

(This is kind of a long-winded way of explaining something that seemed very brief in the actual book, LOL.)

 
At 11:32 AM, Anonymous bethany said...

Okay since I am confident no-one can beat me, you guys with your sexy romance heroines. In my YA story I have a scene where my obsessive compulsive character is driving home from school but she can't stop obsessing over how the hot dry air of the school heating system makes her have these dry crusty boogers in her nose. Then she drives through a fast food place, and when she gets to the window every employee (including a fat assistant manager) is standing in the window staring at her, so she figures she was mumbling out loud about it when they had the intercom on.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Yeah, Bethany, I will go ahead nad proclaim that you win the prize for weirdest and crustiest detail reveailed about a character in fiction.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

ummmm, that was supposed to read "AND proclaim," not "nad complain..." LOL.

 
At 8:00 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

What an honor, and yet not a detail anyone really wanted to know. But it does show something about my character, and such conflict.

 
At 8:07 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

Okay speaking of panties (I know we weren't but. . .) if one were hypothetically looking for some cool and/or sexy things to celebrate losing all the baby weight, where might one find something besides flanel pjs? Even at Victorisa secret, nothing but flannel. IF I wanted to wear flanel (I don't rightly know how to spell that word) I would've stayed fat.

 
At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

My mom bought me a pair of satiny pj's a few years ago, but I'm not sure where they're from. But I don't wear them because they get too hot at night. And before you say that's a good thing because you're always cold, you should know I am the queen of cold feet, just ask my husband. Also, they're not that comfortable

I think that's why flannel has stayed the most popular fabric for jammies, it's warm, but it breaths. I suppose a light cotton might work, but it might not be warm enough in the winter. But you know Bethany, a cute, sexy pajama that isn't flannel might be just the thing the fashion world is looking for. Make a fortune. ;)

 
At 9:30 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Victoria's Secret online has TONS more to choose from than the brick and mortar stores. So just figure out what your size is there and order everything online. I've gotten some really unique and sexy silky pj things from the website, but I rarely find anything I like in the stores. Sorry to sound like a VS spokesgirl, but I'm too lazy to go figure out other places to shop that I can actually afford.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I just checked the website and they don't have the specific satin pjs i was thinking of any more. Their signature satin pj boxer set is really comfortable. I don't have any problem with satin pjs getting too hot. i almost always wear that fabric to bed because i hate sticking to the sheets.

 
At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

i almost always wear that fabric to bed because i hate sticking to the sheets.

Satin sheets?
Had to ask, though I think they're something that would belong to the sleazy guy that hits on the heroine of one of your books. And of course, they'd be red to match his bikini briefs. Doesn't that paint a lovely mental picture?

 
At 6:14 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

LOL, what the heck kind of romances have you been reading, Theresa?! Funny enough, red satin sheets would actually not look out of place in my bedroom...but they make the covers and pillows slide off the bed all the time. That's the only reason I don't have them. :-)

 
At 9:57 AM, Anonymous bethany said...

Well, I actually wasn't looking for pajamas at all, but I think Victorias Secret online will do. We used to get their catalogue, it was addressed to Rev. Lee Faith. Which was pretty funny.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Theresa said...

I have to admit I don't read too many romances. The last one I read was Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon. Terrific book btw, but not a red satin sheet in the whole book.

I just like books that are humorous too, so thinking about the inept, would-be lothario with the red sheets makes me chuckle.

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Oh, yeah, sorry Bethany, I forgot there were things to wear besides pajamas, LOL. They have some really cute baby doll nighties and that sort of thing. Tons of them. They usually fit well and are made well enough.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Diana Gabaldon writes genre-defying books. They don't really fit into one place or another, so they have gotten marketed as romances though they are really not so by definition. interesting that those can be the most popular books--the ones that don't fit a definition--but publishers are always afraid of them. they want things that they know what to do with.

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous bethany said...

I read all the Diana Gabaldons, but the last one (the fiery cross?) really lost my interest. I would consider it way more romance than things I usually read.

 
At 11:57 AM, Anonymous bethany said...

oooh, ooh, lets start a new post and we can do our top ten lists. Top ten favorite books! Okay does the fact that I think that sounds fun prove something about me? I would be quite interested in seeing Jamie's top ten favorite books, I honestly don't know what they would be.

 
At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Theresa said...

Well, Gabaldon's books sure seemed like romance to me anyway. You never really get sex like that in SciFi.

My top ten books would all probably be fantasy, would anyone other than Bethany know what I was talking about? I think it would be easier for me to list my ten favorite authors than individual books.

Mercedes Lackey
Anne Bishop
Ann McCaffrey
J.V. Jones
David Eddings (but only earlier stuff)
Raymond Feist
Jacqueline Carey
Lynn Flewelling
Kristin Britain
Kelley Armstrong
Charlain Harris

Ok, so that's eleven. It'd be tough to pick one favorite, and no way I could pick individual books as favorites.

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Theresa, you can just copy and paste your list to the new thread if you want, since I went ahead and made favorite books and authors its own topic.

 
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