But first: AND THE WINNERS (from yesterday) are:
Of the Jungle Red Writers book of choice, (you name it, you get it, including (but no pressure) an ARC of Hank’s upcoming WHAT YOU SEE but really, any JRW book) is Kate (who posted at 10:07)
And because Lucy is SO touched by all your support, she’s giving a copy of FATAL RESERVATIONS to: Bonnie K. (But, deep in our hearts, we hope you will all buy it. And we hope that this is Bonnie K’s second copy. )
Just send your addresses to me via my website.
SO now, for today, more reservations. Of a different kind. The talented Matt Coyle has reservations about—how his character looks.
To See or Not to See? That is Matt’s question.
What do you think? And then tell us at the end to win Matt’s
first book, YESTERDAY’S ECHO.
MATT COYLE: First, I want to thank Hank Phillippi Ryan for inviting me to post on Jungle Red Writers. It’s an honor. Hank has been like a Fairy Godsister in my fledgling writing career, sprinkling a little fairy dust at important times along the way.
HANK: Aw. You’re doing pretty fine, bub. Anthony Award and all.
MATT: Thanks! But I’ve been writing Rick Cahill for thirteen years. The fact that this has only produced two published novels and an, as of yet, unfinished third book could be discouraging. However, if you take into account how many times I rewrote the first book, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, it really comes in at around six or seven books. The point is I know Rick very well. By book three, he’s thirty-six years old.
He owns a home with a sliver of an ocean view.
He’s a private detective and drives a black 2006 Mustang GT.
He’s a widow and currently single. His sidekick is his six year-old black Labrador, Midnight.
I write in first person so I’m in Rick’s head all the time. I know what he’s thinking when he doesn’t speak and I know the dreams he has but never tells anyone about. I know when he makes a tragic decision well before the tragedy happens. I know the truth about him even when he tries to fool himself.
I just don’t know what he looks like.
Well, I know in general terms. He’s around six feet tall and physically fit, but not a gym rat. Sturdy over thin. He’s of Irish descent and probably somewhat fair-skinned.
Hair color? Not blond, black or red, so that leaves some shade of brown. Eyes? I don’t know.
Facial looks, not a clue. I’ve never seen his face. I almost saw it once in YESTERDAY’S ECHO. After surviving a home invasion, battered and beaten, Rick takes stock:
I got out of the shower and looked at myself in the mirror. Steam blotted out my reflection.
That’s as close as I’ve gotten and that’s fine with me. I don’t have to know what Rick looks like. I just have to know who he is.
I’m from the school of thought that thinks it’s best to sometimes let the reader fill in empty space with their own imagination. Not that I want to give them a complete blank canvas. Here’s a description from my second book, NIGHT TREMORS, that gives a bit of both:
Her voice sounded like pocket change rattling around in a clothes dryer. Loud. Jarring. Unexpected. She couldn’t have been taller than five feet or weighed more than ninety pounds. Brown eyes the size of coasters took up most of her face. Lips took up the rest. Auburn hair in a bob cut. Late thirties, early forties, but wearing it easy. Everything fit together. Not pretty, but attractive.
I let the readers fill in the blank spaces on Rick Cahill. He lives inside my brain 24/7 and I see his thoughts before they appear in his own head. But when it comes to his face, the steam is still covering the mirror.
A question for readers: Do you want a character’s physical characteristics all spelled out so you can see things exactly as the writer wants you to or do you like to fill in some of the empty space yourself?
For writers: How much physical detail do you give in describing your protagonist? How important is it to you to know exactly what he or she looks like?
HANK: Yeah, what do you think? I struggle with that every day! I just wrote a new character, TV documentary producer Fiola (not Fiona!) Morello. What does she look like? I’m still working that out. What do YOU think she looks like? Or should I follow Matt’s lead?
Rick Cahill risks losing his home, his freedom, and even his life when he battles corrupt police, the criminal justice system, a friend turned enemy, a vicious biker gang, and a psychopathic murder as he tries to free an innocent man from prison.
Matt Coyle knew he wanted to be a crime writer as a youngster when his father gave him THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER by Raymond Chandler. It only took him forty years to achieve his goal. His first novel, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery, and the Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. His second novel, NIGHT TREMORS, came out in June.