Posts Tagged ‘Jewish characters’

So, for the past several days, I’ve been working on the outline for Crawler, the mummy novel I’ll write after my upcoming vacation. And it’s coming along very well. I think I could be done with the outline by the middle of the week. That being said, more fun than writing this outline (and believe me, it is fun), is the characters themselves.

Some of my favorite Stephen King novels are those that have, along with a kick-ass premise, a really memorable cast of characters. IT has the Losers Club, as well as bullies, a mother with Munchausen’s by proxy, a budding serial killer teen, plenty more nasty parents and a few horrible lovers, and so many more. Salem’s Lot has Ben Mears, his girlfriend Susan, the professor, the priest, the teen boy with a fondness for horror, the real estate agent, Susan’s controlling mother, Susan’s asshole ex-boyfriend that her mother loves for some reason, the teen mom who takes her rage out on her baby, her lousy husband, the woman having an affair, her husband and her lover, the hunchbacked man and so many more. Not to mention the vampire Barlow and his familiar Richard Straker.

And I could write a whole blog post about the characters of Needful Things, one of my favorite King novels ever. There’s Leland Gaunt himself, as well as Sheriff Pangborn, his girlfriend Polly Chalmers, the town drunk, the crazy first selectman, the preteen boy obsessed with baseball and his speech therapy teacher, his mom and her best friend who think they’re having affairs with Elvis, Ace Merrill, Polly’s housekeeper Nettie, local angry bitch Wilma Jerzyck (what else would you call her?), the various members of the Catholic and Baptist churches who hate each other’s guts, etc. They’re all part of the fun that make this and the previous two novels, which wouldn’t be as impactful without them.

And I’m willing to bet that for King, a lot of the fun he had writing those novels probably came from these characters. Maybe even moreso than the stories themselves, let alone the horrors within.

By the by, I’m pretty sure Salem’s Lot will be especially influential on Crawler. I’ll have to work hard not to let that influence make the novel read like a King ripoff or pastiche.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, I’m having a ball with this outline, and a lot of the fun comes from the characters. Remember my blog post about wanting to include Jewish characters? Well, I made my leads Jewish. And while I didn’t need to, it actually adds an interesting dimension to the struggle of the novel. After all, they’re facing an Egyptian-style mummy. Play the Prince of Egypt soundtrack! Plus, they each have aspects to them that people will like or identify with.

It’ll probably help that I modeled their appearances after Rei Hino/Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon and Dean Winchester from Supernatural (if there’s a movie version someday, can we get Jensen Ackles as the male lead?).

I would love to have a novel with a cast compared favorably to either of these novels.

I’ve also been able to add a bunch of characters that I think will be fun to write. For instance, there’s my antagonist, whom I think people are going to find terrifying and yet relatable. There’s also a troublesome mother who thinks she’s entitled to things when she’s not; a police dispatcher with a very big secret; a drug dealer; a preteen with a heart of gold who ends up caught up in the meshuggas around town; a true crime blogger who’s kind of awful; and more. They’re going to be great to write.

Of course, there’s a good chance I could screw it up by not writing them well enough before they reach their final fates, whatever that might be. Still, I gotta try. And I’m sure if I focus on making these characters memorable and somewhat likable while also making sure they play the parts needed for the novel…maybe the cast will turn out as well as the casts of the above novels. Or close enough to it. Balancing acts in writing like this are often a matter of practice, trial and error.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I look forward to giving you further updates on this novel and the other projects I’ll be working on in the near future. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and it’s 42 days till Halloween. Have you decided on your costume yet? I have. It’s going to be a killer.

What would happen if I featured my faith more in my stories? Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on Jews in the media I consume.

As you probably know, in addition to being an eldritch abomination from another universe in human form, I’m Jewish (we need faith too, you know). I’m not super-religious, but I follow many rituals and feel close to my heritage and my definition of God. But except for a couple of stories, my religion doesn’t really show in my writing. Or at least, characters who share my faith don’t show up in my stories a lot.

There could be a lot of reasons for that. Part of it could be that horror, the genre I’m drawn to and find most exciting, doesn’t necessarily need religion. Horror may draw on religious beliefs a lot, but that doesn’t mean the stories are religious. Religious elements are just tools for telling a good horror story. Also, Judaism itself isn’t really a scary religion. We don’t have a Devil or Hell, and demons and evil spirits are still subservient to God’s Will and Plan. Beyond golems and dybbuks, the biggest sources of horror for us is our history of being oppressed. And finally, I may have never felt a real need to emphasize the beliefs of my characters. It just doesn’t matter that much. Unless I need to state it, their religion is, “Whatever.”

But lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about that. It started with an essay on Variety about Jews in Hollywood and how we’re represented that brought up some good points. I’ll let you read the article yourself, but it made me aware that I don’t see many members of my faith in the media I consume. And that includes in horror. Yeah, there are some: Stan Uris in IT; Yakov Ronen in The Vigil (one of the best horror films I’ve seen yet this year); Tzadok in The Possession (played by musician Matisyahu, believe it or not); and then some.

But still, it’s a small number. And in an age with resurgent anti-Semitism, I feel like that’s something that needs to change.

Besides, I want to challenge myself. What kind of stories can I tell with a Jewish character as a lead? And not just any kind of Jew, but an amalgamation of the Jews I’ve known throughout my life, from secular to religious and old to young, from all walks of life and all types of spirituality? What if I decided, for a few stories, not to make their religions “whatever?”

Well, I actually already know the answer to that. As you probably are aware, my short story “The Divorce from God” is to appear in The Jewish Book of Horror this holiday season, and a short story in this collection I’m working on has two Jewish men as the leads. And I like to think both stories are good (I only have confirmation of one).

But what if I expand that? What if I tell more tales–not all of them, but some of them–with my fellow members of the Tribe? What if their faith is both an aspect of themselves, though not the only one, and a source of strength? What if the lead is that amalgamation I mentioned?

Well, perhaps I’ll find out sooner rather than later. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m thinking of working on another novel after I’ve finished editing this collection and a couple more stories. And while I don’t think it’s necessary for the lead, I can also see them being Jewish. It could actually fit them very well.

We’ll see what the future holds.

I look forward to the stories I write in this vein.

You know, it’s funny. At one point when I was young, a grown up tried telling me I should write less horror and more of what I know. Which at the time was mainly going to a Jewish day school, having rabbis for parents and being annoyed by my sisters. I absolutely refused, telling this well-meaning grown up “that would be boring.” I think they were worried I was going to turn out to be some psychopath who murdered people in basements and then wrote about it (we horror lovers and creators are so misunderstood!). Still, I wasn’t going to write something I wasn’t attracted to or found boring. Stories are an escape from reality, not a regurgitation!

Now I want to incorporate what I know into a horror story. I guess it’s true what they say, when people “write what they know,” they’re writing it in a completely different way than expected. I wonder that well-meaning adult would make of this now? Hopefully they’d be intrigued enough to read it (and realize I grew up much more well-adjusted than they anticipated).

Anyway, it’s late and this post has gotten insanely long. I’m going to sign off and say Shabbat Shalom, an early Happy New Year (Rosh Hashanah starts Monday evening, it’s our New Year), pleasant nightmares, and a good night. See you next time, my Followers of Fear!