Vicki's Book News and Articles


Written by Vicki Hinze

On June 20, 2006

Warning: this is a no-edit zone…

Marjorie Jones’ daughter has been found and is safe.

One of the most terrifying things that can happen to a parent is to have a missing child. What a blessing that this event has ended on a happy note.

We all know that too often this isn’t the case–and we’re reminded the of the power of taking that extra minute or two to spread the word and review the photos of those missing.

Until this case, I wasn’t aware that if a teen left willingly (read that, was lured away) an Amber Alert couldn’t be issued. That’s significant because of the networking to find the child that isn’t available. I do grasp the difference, but it seems to me that the system (read that, the kids and parents) could benefit from a similar alert. Perhaps another gem name could be used. Amethyst? Pearl? Agate?

There should be a way to get word out, to alert the public about missing teens, too. They are, after all, minors. They are, as we have seen, vulnerable. Their parents are just as worried and just as afraid. We are just as responsible for protecting them–even if that means, for a time, protecting them from themselves.

Relating this to writing…

Invaluable insights in characterization are evident. Into those involved directly–the lured–those related to the lured–the family and extended family and friends of the lured–and into those responsible for these situations.

Keeping it real keeps those characters empathetic and identifiable. And I’m reminded that storytelling is all about character. How the characters act in a given situation. How they react to that situation and events that occur as a result of their circumstances.

And all of this serves as a potent reminder of a few things:

1. To have a friend you must be one. Take the time to pass on the word. Singularly, our voices are drowned out by the clutter and noise of busy lives. Collectively, we are better heard and being heard shifts to more favorable odds.

2. To spend as much time developing complex villains and secondary characters as protagonists. Because when the book is done, they’re all between the same covers.

A book can only be as strong as its weakest character. A weak character–villain or protagonist–makes for a weak novel. A weak individual, villain or protagonist, friend or foe, can’t carry much weight and won’t shoulder responsibility. S/he will rationalize, justify and inaccurately depict circumstances to substantiate her/his position, perspective or attitude.

The truth, of course, shines through and is evident to the reader and usually to the other characters. But it is true that a weak person never sees him/herself as a weak person. Never sees him/herself as a bad person, and rarely sees the things they say or do in a bad light. Which means, to stay realistic, a storyteller must respect that.

The end result on character interactions within the novel isn’t subject to that filter, however. In it, the weak individual’s credibility is shot. Others’ respect and admiration for that weak individual are shot. And, in the case of the villain, his/her ability to best the protagonist is shot, and that diminishes fear and any created suspense regarding the final outcome of the conflict.

Weak individuals are just incapable of bearing much story weight, and that is a severe handicap to the storyteller because it restricts what story can be told.

You’ve heard the saying, “What the market will bear?” Well, in the case of storytelling, it’s “what the characters will bear.” The stronger they are, the more capable they are. The stronger the villain, the more worthy s/he is as an adversary. The best stories have protagonists and villains that are well-matched.

And that’s what’s on my mind this morning.

Relief for Marjorie and her daughter–her entire family/extended family.

The need for an “Amethyst” alert for teens who willingly go missing, And the power and weaknesses of complex and simple characters.



Vicki Hinze


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