Becoming a Character

Out of CharacterBy Terry Newman, author of Out of Character

When I was young, I placed myself at the heart of every book I read in every scene. I became the main character. Okay, so I must have been a lonely kid. Or, I had a vivid imagination.

I prefer to think the latter. So it wasn’t a real stretch for me to wonder what it would be like if I met a character from a book on the street. Ah! And what if you could interact with him (notice the male gender being used)? That’s all it took for me to start writing Out of Character. Well, that and a little inspiration from a Neil Simon play.

It’s about a historian-turned-romance writer who finds herself face to face with the main characters of her current work in progress. Her characters, not surprisingly, are romantic to the marrow of their bones. They’ve experienced such joy together that they want JJ Sprightly, their creator, to experience that same bliss. Of course, the fictional couple, Alex Zurich and Blake Teesdale, have a rather naïve notion of who she should spend her “happily ever after” with.

Once they make that jump out of the pages of their book, though, they find themselves stuck in JJ’s world. And Alex wants to go home. Badly.

It didn’t take a quantum leap to know that I wanted to make this a comedy. Could it have been anything but?

I loved writing this. I had the opportunity to create a world. I founded a university – The University of Northern Ohio (UNO) – where the mascot is patterned after one of those foam “number one” fingers. Have you ever considered the potential hazards of marching around with a giant fist around your hips and a finger nail tip as a head? I did.

Through writing this book, I had the incredible opportunity to open a coffee shop – The Physics Café. You’re jumping ahead of me on this one. Yes, every meal, every drink “every everything” is named for some aspect of physics. The Philadelphia Experiment Cheesesteak, whose onions may disappear at any time. The Turkey Time Warp Wrap. The Chernobyl Chicken Meltdown. Yeah, it was lots of fun.

I even had the chance to start a band. The Jewish Mariachi Polka Band. Wait till you hear them play their accordion and maracas. It’s going to alter the course of musical history forever.

Whoever said that writing was a lonely job? When I write, my house fills up with characters and music (you’ve never lived till you’ve heard the Hava Nagila accompanied by a pair of maracas).

I loved the city I created, Bell Wyck, Ohio, the local food critic and so many other minor characters, I had a hard time leaving them. I hated to see the end of the book arrive. Did JJ ever find the love of her life? Did Alex and Blake make it back to back to the pages of their own novel?

I’ll never tell. But one thing I can tell you, I missed these guys – all of them. So, when my friends and family ask me what my next book involves, I tell them without hesitating. It takes place at The University of Northern Ohio. We revisit the Physics Café and I bring back some very lovable characters.

And when they ask what the tentative title of the book is, they just shake their head. I can’t wait to finish it: Murder at the Bigfoot Convention.

2 thoughts on “Becoming a Character