Alex and Leo Renfield are a husband and wife contractor team who’ve recently moved to the village of Woodhaven, Connecticut to escape the chaos of life in New York. Pretty close to broke, they meet Theodora Hamilton, a somewhat unsavory and odd individual, who offers them an astronomical amount of money to repaint the first floor of her family home.
But along with the huge paycheck comes a set of unsettling rules that must be followed explicitly if they are to accept the offer; one of which is they must reside on the property having no direct contact with the outside world until the job is complete.
Is Theodora Hamilton just an eccentric woman with a peculiar way of doing things, or is there a more sinister agenda that Alex and Leo are unaware of? What exactly does she have in store for this down-on-their-luck couple who have no choice but to accept the offer and the strange requirements that come along with it?
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Crafting Believable Characters
Carson Buckingham[gss-content-box color=”red”]I think that all characters that present as believable are the product of people I’ve met in passing, know well, or have read about. If you take a group of people like this, with all their different ideas, thought patterns, and psychological profiles, it’s easy to start with an image and add traits from many different people to create a new, unique one… but not too unique. We all have greatness within us. We all have average Joe within us. We all have larceny in our hearts, to a greater or lesser degree. We are all of us lovers, killers, philanthropists, thieves, just, unjust, etc., as the circumstances of our lives or, in this case, the storyline dictates, so in order to have believable characters, they must incorporate the full range of their humanity, or they risk becoming a cardboard two-dimensional cut-out. Think of your characters as light switches with a dimmer on them. They don’t have to be just on or off. There are many gradations of light or darkness to be had with that dimmer switch.
We all have secrets. I think that’s why I love the night so much. I work an overnight shift for my ‘day job,’ and I maintain that sleep schedule on my nights off, so I have the secret of being awake while everyone else is asleep. I imagine myself a guardian or a sentinel over those sleepers, keeping an eye on the neighborhood while they rest in self-induced unconsciousness.
I think secrets are why I find people so very fascinating. It’s probably why I read biographies with such enjoyment. For instance, did you know that Red Skelton was dyslexic and had to have his scripts read to him repeatedly in order to learn his lines for his weekly television program? Did you know that George Burns cheated on Gracie… but only once… and she found out about it? His penance for it was to buy her an extremely expensive centerpiece for their dining room table. People who knew Ian Fleming were happy that he became a writer, because if he had not, he most likely would have been a most formidable criminal.
I’m presently reading an absorbing autobiography about J.R. Weil, also known as ‘The Yellow Kid,’ who was a master con artist—but he’d only con the dishonest. If he pitched a con to an honest person and they turned him down, he’d walk away rather than use his considerable powers of persuasion to bring them into his scheme. It’s this sort of dichotomy that makes people really interesting. Black and white only exists on early television and has no real part in human behavior. We are really nothing but gray areas, and therefore, impossible to accurately pigeonhole, as we are so fond of doing.
And pigeonholing is the greatest mistake a writer can make when creating characters, because they are rendered instantly uninteresting and predictable. Readers like surprises.
In Gothic Revival, both Alex and Leo have secrets they have kept from each other. They are the ‘good guys,’ but with gray areas of unattractiveness. The point being, they are able to overcome them. Villains have equal challenges, and they do not overcome them, or overcome them in ways that lead to even more problems, deaths, or heartaches. Herein lies the difference between protagonists and antagonists.
To create my characters, I write short biographies and psychological work-ups of each character in my books… even the most minor ones. It helps me keep a clear picture of them in my mind so that I understand how they are likely to react in the situations I throw at them… how they will behave under pressure… because, though we all possess many good and bad traits, a writer cannot have his characters reacting so far out of character that the reader’s eyes widen and he says, “What?”
So, in conclusion, I’d have to sum up by saying that art must mimic life for believability. There is a little of everything in all of us, and that must be incorporated into characters about which we write.[/gss-content-box]
I give this book five stars. Here’s why:
Leo and Alex Renfield have struggled to earn enough cash and hope for better things when they move to Woodhaven, with their remodelling business.
Theodore Hamilton hires them for a stupid amount of money to work at her home. They’re suspicious, but need the cash. It’s odd enough she wants them to paint at night, but when they find themselves at the disgustingly expensive home of the Hamiltons’, things get a whole lot worse.
This is where things begin to get deliciously odd in the home they’re working on. One thing after another culminates in a great ball of suspense, and I loved how Carson pulled all the threads together in a perfect crescendo of suspense, in the final quarter of the book.
This book has humour, spooktastic moments, exceptional dialogue, solid likeable characters, and delightfully odd happenings.
If you want to be entertained by a talented wordsmith, grab your copy of Gothic Revival.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carson Buckingham knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began, at age six, by writing books of her own, hand-drawing covers, and selling them to any family member who would pay (usually a gum ball) for what she referred to as “classic literature.” When she ran out of relatives, she came to the conclusion that there was no real money to be made in self-publishing, so she studied writing and read voraciously for the next eighteen years, while simultaneously collecting enough rejection slips to re-paper her living room… twice.
When her landlord chucked her out for, in his words, “making the apartment into one hell of a downer,” she redoubled her efforts and collected four times the rejection slips in half the time, single-handedly causing the first paper shortage in U.S. history.
But she persevered, improved greatly over the years, and here we are.
Carson Buckingham has been a professional proofreader, editor, newspaper reporter, copywriter, technical writer, comedy writer, humorist, and fiction author. Besides writing, she loves to read and work in her vegetable garden. She lives in the United States in the state of Arizona.