Monday, March 19, 2012

Mark Saunders - Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak - Guest Post

My thanks to Mark Saunders for stopping by The Character Connection for a guest post during the blog tour for his book, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak.

Guest Post

Plot, action, dialogue, conflict, scenes, descriptions, narration, exposition, and whatnot are all important elements of story, of course. But when I think of books I’ve read or movies I’ve watched, what most often sticks in my mind and stands tall are the characters, warts and all. I find such people, real or imaginary, hard to shake, and, for the most part, I don’t want to shake them. In fact, I like having them sitting in the recesses of my recessed-hairline head, on a bench, as if waiting for a bus to arrive or the coach to call their name (“Gatsby, in for Ahab. Now!”).

Even a minor character by one of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, can stick with me long after I’ve turned the last page and moved on to another book. But usually when we discuss “character” we’re talking about fiction. What about non-fiction or, more to the point, autobiography?

In my case, I wrote a humorous memoir, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, with, as generally happens with memoirs, the author as the central character. My memoir about dropping out, selling almost everything, and moving to the middle of Mexico, when I should have been old enough to know better, also featured my wife, Arlene, as a main character. What’s a writer to do?

It’s not as if a writer can’t create vivid and memorable characters when telling a true story. In fact, truth is quite often much stranger than fiction, as the saying goes, especially when it comes to people. One of my dad’s cousins, for example, had a hernia and would wear his truss outside of his pants.

When writing a biography of a legend such as Marilyn Monroe there is no shortage of interesting—and real—characters to introduce. But unless one has lived a rarified life, most of the people in one’s own life are, well, neither Jay Gatsby nor Captain Ahab, and, of course, they’re not Joe Dimaggio or Arthur Miller.

I felt it was critical before taking readers on my journey, to introduce myself and my wife, as the primary characters, as well as our supporting cast, the Standard poodle and the part-Siamese cat we took with us. I wanted to set up our personalities and character flaws and give my memoir an authentic voice, even if at times my narrator’s credentials could be questioned. All of which I set out to do in the book’s prologue. After which I used the first three chapters to begin the narrative, as well as further establish the main characters.

Throughout my memoir, I re-enforced our character traits. For instance, I talked about how our driving skills complemented each other. I refused to ask for directions, and Arlene had absolutely no sense of direction at all. Stubborn is not a good character trait.

Nor is envy. In another example, I suffer from insomnia. Arlene, on the other hand, has slept through barking dogs, smoke alarms, earthquakes, and helicopters spraying insecticide over our house seeking to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly.

By the end of the book, if I have done my job correctly, the reader should feel as if he or she knows me and my wife and may choose to ignore us at parties or run the other way. We won’t take it personally.

About the Book
Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

Book Details:
Price: $14.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook
Format: Paperback, ebook
Publisher: Fuze Publishing
Published: November 2011
Pages: 298
ISBN: 9780984141289
Genre: Memoir, Humor
Buy Links: Amazon, Fuze Publishing, Kindle, Nook

Ay, chihuahua! Ay, caramba! Oy vey!

In early December 2005, Mark Saunders and his wife, along with their dog and cat, packed up their 21st century jalopy, a black Audi Quattro with a luggage carrier on top, and left Portland, Oregon, for San Miguel de Allende, three thousand miles away in the middle of Mexico, where they knew no one and could barely speak the language.

Things fell apart almost from the beginning. The house they rented was as cold as a restaurant’s freezer. Their furniture took longer than expected to arrive. They couldn’t even get copies of their house keys made. They unintentionally filled their house with smoke and just as unintentionally knocked out the power to their entire neighborhood. In other words, they were clueless. This is their story.

About the Author
Mark Saunders

An award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, Mark Saunders tried standup comedy to get over shyness and failed spectacularly at it — the standup part, not the shyness. He once owned a Yugo and still can’t remember why. Nearly 30 of his plays have been staged, from California to New York - with several stops in-between - and two plays have been published.

With three scripts optioned, his screenplays, all comedies, have attracted awards but seem to be allergic to money. Back in his drawing days, more than 500 of his cartoons appeared nationally in publications as diverse as Writer’s Digest, The Twilight Zone Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post.

As a freelancer, he also wrote gags for the popular comic strip “Frank and Ernest,” as well as jokes for professional comedians, including Jay Leno. Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is his first book.

Connect with Mark:
Web Site

1 comment:

  1. One of the best written posts I've read about creating characters in a memoir - bravo!