Posts Tagged ‘cocaine’

As I’m sure I’ve already mentioned, character writing is my favorite part of the fiction process. Nothing else–except maybe the finished product–is as satisfying to me personally as the moment a character begins to tell his or her story. Sometimes, they reveal themselves in slow sections, teasing you with their secrets and the private details of their personas. Sometimes, they come fully-formed in an in-your-face moment of undeniable clarity.

My intrigue with the process of character development is what keeps me writing, and it is what has prompted me to elaborate on it here, and dig a little deeper into some of the characters I’ve created, with the purpose of learning more about the mystery of it in general, and maybe even learning a little more about my own process. And, one of the most frequently asked questions any writer receives is about the development of characters, so I thought it might also be fun for the folks who have read my work to see the inner workings of my imaginary friends 🙂


The first character that comes to mind, for some reason, is Brytt Tanner, Sterling Bronson’s dim-witted side-kick in Beautiful Monster, so I’ll start with him.

Brytt came into existence pretty early on in the plotting of Monster,  and if I remember correctly, it all started–as it often does–with his name. My co-author, Mimi A. Williams, met a man named Brytt in the workplace. The moment she mentioned the guy’s name, I knew I had to use it.

The first thing I knew about Brytt was that he was a stripper. I’m not sure why that was–again, probably the name. It just sounds kind of strippery, I guess.


Next came his physical appearance. I figured a bulky, muscle-bound blond guy would be an interesting antithesis to Sterling’s dark, brooding good looks. I don’t like to create characters who look too much alike, and second, I’m a sucker for contrast. After ascertaining the basics of Brytt’s appearance, the next thing I did was start browsing the internet for his doppelgänger. This isn’t something I always do, but at times, I’ve found it helpful. So, I found a photograph of a guy that fit the mold, and referred to said picture when I needed to expound on details. I considered posting that picture here, but have ultimately decided against it. I think it’s best to let readers fill in their own blanks and use their own imaginations.

Not all of Brytt was pre-planned. He–like all good characters–came with a little of his own agenda, and one of the first things that surprised me was his dim-wittedness. I don’t know that I would have deliberately created him to be such a lunkhead, but as is so often the case, this is how he kind of “revealed” himself as I wrote him.

And it worked… which is also very often the case when you trust your characters to do their own things.


It was also a surprise to me that Brytt was almost–but not quite–as morally corrupt, sexually deviant, and as dangerous as Sterling. In the beginning, Brytt was created, I think, simply as a means to give Sterling–who lives by himself–more opportunity for dialogue. But as the story progressed and began to demand artistic unity, Brytt began to play a significant role in the novel.

Brytt’s last name was tricky. A strange thing happened as we got further into the story. We started noticing a pattern… an absolute overuse–and abuse, really–of the letter C. We had Claire, Connie, Carlson, Cassidy, Carson, Carlisle, and probably several other names that began with the letter. I wish I could tell you why C became such a prominent player, but I can’t–I don’t know. Wierd things happen sometimes. So, after we made the discovery of the letter Cs undeniable overuse, Brytt’s last name–Carson–was changed to Tanner. Tanner, because at the time, I worked for a company with the word “Tanner” in the title. I’d been at the company for thirteen years, and figured it deserved some kind of recognition for paying my bills all that time. Unfortunately, Brytt probably isn’t really the most complimentary thing to be associated with, but for what’s it’s worth, I like him. He amused the hell out of me… and hey, it’s the thought that counts…


I can’t remember if Brytt’s addiction to cocaine was a surprise or part of the plan, but this was the most fun, and most challenging thing about him. His constant “pit stops” kind of became his calling card, his personal catch-phrase in a sense, and it was interesting to describe the physical symptoms, like his glassy eyes and powder-congealed nostrils–and it was a total blast describing the actual snorting of the cocaine. I know… I’m kinda twisted that way, but it was fun. The snorting of coke is not glamorous. I wanted that to be very clear when Brytt did his thing, and it turned out being more hilarious than anything.


Brytt is, believe it or not, one of my favorites. He was fun because he didn’t allow Sterling to take himself so seriously. Well, maybe Sterling took himself seriously, but Brytt made it impossible for me to take him–and the rest of the story–as seriously. Brytt is one of the reasons Beautiful Monster was so much fun for me. He moved the story along like a good character, he played by the rules by not demanding more stage time than his part required, and he forced me to learn more about the darker, sleazier side of life. I absolutely love him, and I have no doubt he will reincarnate, in some form or another, in my future writes.


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Anyone who has ever been job hunting knows how companies love to boast about their benefits packages. This is their way of appealing to potential candidates and maintaining a competitive edge in the market. It has recently come to my attention though that I’ve never heard of any kind of benefits program for employment as an author, and yet, being a writer has some of the best benefits ever! Thus, I have taken it upon myself to divulge the benefits of being a novelist here.

As an author, your benefits include, but are by no means limited to:

1. Direct Deposit. You simply open a PayPal account, and money mysteriously appears!

2. You can get to work at whatever time you want. As a writer, there’s no one waiting for you, looking pointedly at the clock when you arrive at your computer to write for the day…even if you don’t show up till noon.

3. You can go to work in your pajamas. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all! You can roll out of bed, get some coffee, and go to work looking like absolute hell, and no one cares.

4. It’s up to you whether or not you can have food or drink at your work station. If you’re in the middle of an especially intense writing session when you’re suddenly struck by a craving for a pot roast and a Slurpee from 7-11, it’s perfectly fine, as long as you say it’s okay.

5. You can pee without having to explain yourself to anyone. Oh, yeah…I said it. We’ve all had those jobs where urinating is not treated as the natural function it is, but rather as a stick in the ever-spinning spokes of the machine that was our “jobs.” As an author, if you need to pee, then pee. Really, no one will even have to know.

6. You can drink on the job. For those of you with a weakness for the drink (and we know who you are), you may feel inclined to get hammered at your desk. So long as your deadlines are met, no one cares if you’ve got a pint, a fifth or even an Opium hookah in your top drawer. Hey, Hemingway did it… as did Poe… and King… and…

7. Your boss wants you to succeed. As an author, you have two bosses: your publisher and your audience. Neither of these guys want you to write crappy books. In fact, they want you to excel at your job and both are wonderful at supporting you. Your publisher is not going to feel threatened by you and fire you if you end up writing a better book than him or her, and your audience is not going to call you a suck-up because your book hit the New York Times bestseller list.

8. If you get tired of your office, you can leave. There are no rules about where your job is done, so long as it’s done. If you feel like packing up your computer and writing a few scenes in the corner bar, no one is going to question your whereabouts. Unless you happen to be on house arrest.

9. There are no tattling co-workers. As a writer, if you feel like playing on Facebook at work, there’s no one to tattle on you for it. Angry Birds, Vampire Wars, Soduku, hell, even Pac-Man if that’s your thing. Again… no one cares. As an added plus to this particular benefit, you can lock yourself into a room, rearrange the furniture in your YoVille character’s apartment, and emerge several hours (or days) later looking exhausted, and claiming to have written an especially taxing series of scenes. No one’s going to question you. Unless you have a pet or child you’ve neglected to water and feed.

10. Sexual harassment is perfectly okay in the workplace. Need I say more?

11. You never have to call in sick. Don’t feel like writing today? No biggie. As a writer, you will never have to wake up, decide you just can’t do it today, and, using your weakest, scratchiest voice, call some a**hole and explain your medical history to them only to spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and wishing you’d just gone in after all.

12. There are no pesky safety programs. If, as a writer, you happen to see a two-by-four with a rusty nail sticking out of it in your work place, who cares? If some dumb ass is stupid enough to step on the damn thing, they probably deserve the pain, right?

13. Research is a tax write-off. Let’s say I’m writing a novel about a stripper with a crack-cocaine problem. Common sense tells me I need to understand the ins and outs of the life of said stripper in order to write an effective story about her. My time spent at the girly shows? Just part of my job, ma’am… and hence, a tax write-off! I’m not sure I’d be able to write off the crack-cocaine I’d need to experiment with in order to believably portray the drug’s effects on the human body, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

14. You never have to feign interest in your co-workers personal lives ever again. We’ve all been there. “Yes, Sally, I love the baby blanket you knitted for your grandson…”

As you can see, there are many benefits to being a writer, and it’s no wonder it’s such a sought-after profession. It’s just sad that they don’t advertise their benefits program a little more.