Cynthia Hamilton


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Cynthia Hamilton

Weirder Than Fiction

If I were to write a comical accounting of my mother’s many nuptials, I might call it “I do! I did! And I’ll do it again!” Having only one marriage and zero divorces to my credit, combing through my mom’s past was a bit surreal for me, especially when I was forced to acknowledge what I witnessed as a teenager and filed away without really putting it into context.

When we’re living through strange circumstances, we don’t always have the luxury of being able to put them into perspective. I’m sure at the time, I was reeling from all the ups and downs of Ruth’s rocky romances. I may have had grave concerns about the five men she accepted marriage proposals from in a twenty-four-month period. At this point, it’s all just a blur.

While writing the story of her life, I had to rely on the facts I had gleaned from various sources and mix in what my siblings and I could remember. When I laid all those facts and anecdotes out sequentially, the reality of what she’d be through left me flabbergasted. The question “how did she manage all this while working two jobs and raising three kids single-handedly???” kept repeating in my brain. If I were to create a fictional character who went through what Ruth did in the space of five years, the plot would surely be criticized for being too far-fetched.

While there are many genres that throw reality to the wind, the stories are still grounded in what we accept as the norm as far as human behavior is concerned. This leads me to believe that fact IS stranger than fiction. If a fiction writer doesn’t adhere to the “believability clause”, he or she risks losing their audience.

In writing, an interesting paradox exists: if you create a character that people absolutely love, take that character through hell—which we as writers are inclined to do—then you risk rebuke if you transform him or her in a way that doesn’t sit well with the reading public. This can happen when protagonists change over the course of a series. Typically, as readers, we want more of the same, only different.

*Can you recall being disappointed by a recurring character? Got any examples to share??

On the flip side, there’s also the danger of writing something that is faithful to what made the characters so likable which ends up being criticized for being rehashed, weak or stale. There have definitely been times when I got the strong sense that the author had become bored with his or her protagonist and the boredom was contagious.

*Has this ever happened to you? Any instances come to mind? Did this put you off the character or the author?

*Do you find yourself drawn to a series so you can follow along with a protagonist you really connect with?

I’d like to hear who some of your favorite fictional characters are. A few of mine are Jack Reacher (Lee Child), Joe Pike (Robert Crais), Vanessa Michael Munroe (Taylor Stevens), Miss Marple (Agatha Christie), and Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton). If you’ve got any author/character suggestions for me, please pass them along. I always welcome both!

Wishing you all much happiness—and happy reading—in the New Year!

Until next time…

Very truly yours,