I took a chance with The Esposito Caper. It was definitely out of my comfort zone in regards to the language one of my characters uses. But characters are just that. They’re people and they will insist on acting like themselves, no matter what you try to do as the author to make them into proper people. Let me explain.
My first heroine, Katrin Nissen, was a professor of Botany who also happened to be an OSS Agent in WWII. Her biggest expletive, as I recall, was “diddly squat”. Yep. A real barn burner there. Fast forward to today and the new book, The Esposito Caper. There are similarities, of course: Bad Guys. In the first book, these were the Nazis. In the second, the Mafia. You could probably write an entire book comparing them, and I’m fairly certain none of them spoke the Queen’s English when they were incensed, irate, or speaking in general terms. However, their language wasn’t important to my plot. And therein lies the answer to why Carla says what she says in her own inimitable way.
In the Caper, Carla Catalano is an exotic dancer with aspirations of opening a ballet studio with 100K she’s boosted from the mob. She’s blue collar tough, street smart, and has dreams of a better future. But her language is going to differ dramatically from Katrin’s. It has to, if the book is going to work.
What to do? She was her own person. So, I took a deep breath, asked my dearly departed mother to forgive me, and plunged ahead with the dialogue. I have to tell you, it was oddly liberating. Carla uses words I sure don’t use, but it’s the only path to verisimilitude. Language, like eyes, is a mirror into the soul.
Carla wants to be high class, and the book chronicles her journey along this path. In a sense the Caper is a story of second chances and redemption – not only for Carla but for Gino and Francesca. Not so sure about Morrie – he’s a tough nut to crack and I still don’t know how he does what he does.
I still feel obligated to warn people about Chapter Two. This is where Carla enters the story. I don’t know why I feel I must do this, but I do. It’s out of my comfort zone. As writers, however, if we stay in our comfort zone, nothing happens. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rien. And in The Esposito Caper, a lot happens. Art heists, murder, love, and revenge. It was a fun book to write.
Now I’m considering a murder mystery set in Port Townsend, WA, during the late 19th century. I seem to jump around a bit in the historical whirlpool. How will these characters speak? Well, they’ll have to be true to their times, their stations in life, and their level of education and/or moral development, I guess. One thing I do know. Characters drive plot. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if your characters aren’t real to you, they won’t be real to anyone else.
Thanks, Patricia, for having me on your blog.
Karen, thanks so much for being here. I faced a similar situation with one of my manuscripts. My bad guys need their mouths washed out with soap. It makes me nervous about getting that book in the hands of readers, but as you said, you have to be true to your characters, and my bad guys are bad to the bone.