Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Extendo Characters

This post was originally conceived back at the beginning of July. For some reason I kept putting it off, and off, and off–hopefully not because I knew on some level it was a bad idea!

Authors do a lot of things to promote their books. We see those efforts played out in the blogosphere with blog tours and giveaways, cover reveals and interviews, and it spills over into Facebook and the Twitterverse so that, some days, it seems you can’t turn around without running into this person or that one promoting his or her book. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, except for the potential for burnout for both the promoter and the promote-ees, and let’s face it, I hope to be one of those promoters myself some day. It’s just part of how the book/author world works these days.

Now, I certainly don’t mind this, and as I said, I hope to be on that ride myself one day. There is, however, one particular type of promotion that I don’t think I’ll do when I get to this point. I’m talking about the character interview and related types of posts.

You know how these go–maybe you’ve hosted one on your blog. Maybe you’ve done one for your book. In the character interview, you answer questions from an interviewer–as a character from your book. I’ve read some of them, and they can be fun, sure, but as I’ve read them, I’ve always found myself thinking, “Wow, that is so NOT for me.”

I can’t really explain why I feel this way. It’s not like I don’t like my characters. I do. I like them a lot, even the bad ones. They are my creations, I’ve lived with them in my head for months, maybe even years. I know them inside out and upside down. I know what they love and what they hate and what they fear. They are, in many ways, quite real to me while I am writing them, and I hope that some day, they can be quite real to you and thousands (hell, go big or go home, right? Millions!) of others. Stephen King is still asked about Carrie White. John Irving is still asked about T.S. Garp. Maybe twenty-five, thirty years from now people will still be asking me about Chris Burke or the Barton family, etc. It would be an honor to have that sort of impact on people that they would want to talk about my creations long after the fact.

Yet talking about them is different that what happens in the ‘character interview’ posts. There was a post Sophie Masson did at Writer Unboxed last month (Extending A Character Through The Internet And Social Media) where she talked about the success she had with this. Ms. Masson created blogs, Facebook pages–she even had musicians create music for a fictional band she wrote about in one of her books and did videos on Youtube! She had a lot of fun with it, and her fans (and publisher) loved it as well. In her view, it was quite a success, and I’m sure it was.

That’s not for me, however. The thing that comes most quickly to mind is something Jerry Garcia said when asked why the Grateful Dead allowed (encouraged, even) audience member to tape the band’s shows: “When we’re done with it, they can have it.” It’s the ‘done with it’ part that sticks with me so much. Characters exist pretty much within the framework of their story; when the story is done, so are they. I don’t spend much time thinking about literary characters and wondering what they would do in this situation or that, or if they like the same ice cream I do.

This is not to say in-character blog posts, interviews, pinterest, etc., is wrong–it’s just wrong for me. What about you? How do you feel about Extendo characters? I’d love to know. Thanks, and have a great weekend!

9 Responses

  1. I'm kind of with you on that. First of all, my main character wouldn't be interested in answering questions about herself. She's too busy running a country. LOL

    But I can see how that might work for some types of novels and characters.

  2. I'm glad you had fun with it. I can see the appeal from the creativity side, and the chance for the characters to live a little more, but it just doesn't feel right for me.

  3. I'm not that much into author interviews either, even though I sure did a lot for my blog tour. I left that up to the person kind enough to host me. When I do them myself, I try to do weird, quirky things just because I'm weird an quirky, I guess, in some ways.

    I personally find the character interviews I've read more fun if I've already read the book. It can be quite insightful. Reading it beforehand doesn't work for me because I'm not grounded into the character. But they can be a way to get more information out about the characters. Maybe. 🙂

  4. And the thing about author interviews is they tend to ask the same questions over and over again, though to be fair, it's only a problem if each interview is reaching the same audience (and that's a whole different issue).

    I think you may be onto something with the helpfulness of reading the book first. I hadn't thought of that.

  5. I understand your position, as well as Jerry’s, from the creator’s standpoint, but “when the story is done, so are they”? May your stories and characters be always immortal. May they spring from the pages and resonate in our lives and inspire the act of always becoming. Of course you’re not going to act them out; you might be done with them, but they’ll never be done with you. Why would those guys go out and play the same songs again and again? Of the Grateful Dead, Jerry said, “It is who we are, really.”

  6. Wow, an Anonymous post that is not just spam disguised as comment! (And it didn't hit the spam filter, either; interesting).

    I certainly hope my stories and characters have a life beyond my simply writing them! And who knows, maybe I'll find myself revisiting characters after some time, writing a sequel or even a prequel. If the story is there, and it uses the same folks from a previous work, I'll certainly do it. I just don't see myself doing 'in-character promotion', that's all. Thanks for commenting!

  7. I've read some pretty creative character interviews but I feel the same way you do. I have been asked to do them a few times for blog tours and I have always refused. I tried early on to create a Claire Fletcher persona on FB and Twitter at the suggestion of a good friend who is a social media guru but it had zero effect and all it did was waste my time. I think in certain genres this works way, way, way better than in others. Like in romance, the readers are very invested in the male characters–book boyfriends–so I think it could really work there, but it's not for me either. Even as compelling as Claire Fletcher's voice is inside my head, I just can't do the character interview. Not easily or well, anyway.

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