Monday, September 27, 2021

Jacqueline Friedland's fabulous writing tips...plus a book giveaway

We are so excited to have Jacqueline Friedland back at CLC today! Melissa loved her latest novel, He Gets That from Me and said it's one of her 2021 top picks. Check out her review. There are some gray areas in this novel and Jacqueline has some tips for writing about characters who are put in these kinds of situations. 


Thanks to SparkPress, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Jacqueline Friedland is the author of the award-winning novels Trouble the Water and That’s Not a Thing. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York for a hot second before transitioning to writing full time. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and two very bossy dogs.

Visit Jacqueline online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Synopsis:
As a young mother with a toddler and a live-in boyfriend, Maggie Fisher’s job at a checkout counter in downtown Phoenix doesn’t afford her much financial flexibility. She dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher, options she squandered when she fled her family home as a teenager. When Maggie stumbles onto an ad offering thousands of dollars to women who are willing to gestate other people’s babies, she at first finds the concept laughable. Before long, however, she’s been seduced by all the ways the extra money could improve her life. Once she decides to go for it, it’s only a matter of months before she’s chosen as a gestational carrier by Chip and Donovan Rigsdale, a married couple from New York.

After delivering twin babies and proudly handing them off to the Rigsdales, Maggie finally gets her life on a positive trajectory: she earns her degree, lands a great job, and builds a family of her own. She can’t fathom why, ten years after the fact, the fertility clinic is calling to ask for a follow-up DNA test.

High-energy and immensely readable, He Gets That from Me explores what it really means to be part of a family.

“A heartfelt exploration of what it means to be a family, He Gets That From Me is a fascinating story of strength, humanity, love, and perseverance. This is one you won’t stop thinking about.” 
―Allison Winn Scotch, best-selling author of Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing

“A piercing, mesmerizing look into the fragility and resiliency of the human experience...An absolute home run.” 
―Amy Impellizzeri, award-winning author of Lemongrass Hope and I Know How This Ends

He Gets That from Me is a potent reminder that we can’t always choose what life hands us―but we can decide whether to rise to the occasion when faced with seemingly impossible choices. With expert plotting and unwavering empathy toward her characters, Jacqueline Friedland has written a novel as unexpected as it is riveting. I read it in a single sitting.”
―Camille Pag├ín, best-selling author of This Won’t End Well

Tips for Writing Morally Ambiguous Characters 

Many of literature and television’s most beloved characters fall under the oft-referenced category of “morally ambiguous.” Think Jay Gatsby, Edward Rochester, even Don Draper! Creating morally ambiguous characters can serve a myriad of functions in modern literature, from boosting suspenseful moments to providing readers with a better way to relate to a book’s characters. 

What Does it Mean:

So what is a “morally ambiguous” character anyway?

Characters are morally ambiguous when they behave in a way that cannot clearly be classified as “right” or “wrong.” They fall into the gray area between. Often, these characters are portrayed as well-intentioned people who have suffered some tragedy or hardship in the past and suddenly, the choices they face, as well as how they will meet those choices, becomes more complicated.

A character can start out as pure, altruistic, or unfalteringly righteous, and grow morally questionable as a literary work progresses. Once something terrible befalls certain characters, they often lose their will to be angels. Or conversely, a character can be depicted as pure evil, a quintessential “bad guy,” who is finally offered redemption. 

The truest form of morally ambiguous characters are those who remain in the gray area for the entirety of the work that portrays them. These characters possess positive qualities and negative from the start. Although readers likely hope that the character will evolve and continue moving in the direction of goodness over time, sometimes the character simply cannot be changed. 

Why We Love It:

Moral ambiguity amps up the intrigue in most stories. For example, take your typical bad guy who’s busy trying to ruin everything for everyone. We hate him, but we’re also kind of bored by his predictability. But then we see him bringing breakfast to his bedridden grandma, or stooping to help a toddler who has wandered into the street. Now we see a crack in the armor, a hint that the villain is perhaps not as bad as we thought. Suddenly, the story has become so much more interesting.  

How to Do It:

In order to create characters with the type of moral ambiguity that speaks to readers, it’s important to provide some backstory or other credible reason why that character might be acting in a way that is both “wrong” but also potentially justifiable.

Backstory—What happened in your character’s past that has led her to want something that doesn’t seem fair or right? There is always the question of nature versus nurture, but when readers can trace a character’s flaws back to a wrong that was perpetrated against that character, suddenly the character becomes much more sympathetic. Was the character victimized in some way? Have they suffered a trauma? What can you tell us to make us understand them better? 

Goals—Determine your character’s mission and then force them to make difficult choices in order to advance that mission. Hard choices make for good reading. 

Positives—This may seem obvious, but don’t forget to give your character good qualities to go along with the bad! We need to sympathize with characters or feel some sort of connection in order to want to know more about them.

Arc—The character must evolve and change as the story progresses. This doesn’t mean they have to choose a side between good and evil and move in that direction, but the character must change. The events of the novel must eventually affect their outlook, even if not their behavior.

Maybe we love morally ambiguous characters because they make us feel better about ourselves and our own moral failings or pitfalls. Or perhaps we just enjoy puzzling out why a character is behaving in a certain way and wondering what she will do next. Ambiguity is often what makes each of us interesting as people, and the same is true of the people we read about in our books. So go forth and create ambiguity!

Thanks to Jackie for the writing lesson and to SparkPress for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

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Giveaway ends October 3rd at midnight EST.

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16 comments:

Melissa said...

Leaving a job and also transferring colleges was a challenging decision and choice, both with many gray areas.

Maryann said...

Sounds like a wonderful read.

Padmini Rao said...

Leaving family and friends to start over is very challenging. Sounds like a great book!

Anita Yancey said...

Yes, whether to move to a place I didn't really want to go or not.

Mary C said...

Yes

rubynreba said...

Leaving a relationship that was abusive but wasn't visible to others

Kelley said...

Absolutely!,

traveler said...

Yes, many times.

Nancy P said...

Yes, but I can usually make a logical call.

diannekc said...

Yes, I have.

bn100 said...

no

Mary Preston said...

Most things have a gray area in some way.

Mary Patricia Bird said...

For sure. Too many to count. The biggest I guess would be when I became pregnant with my daughter. I was 29 but I was single.

Linda Kish said...

I'm sure a lot of the decisions that I have made have had gray areas to other people but not so much to me.

Charlotte Lynn said...

I have had to make many decisions. Many concerning the care of my parents and grandparents.

Suburban prep said...

Moving far from home after college and giving it a good try and deciding after a timeline if I should stay or should retrn to home.