Thursday 4 May 2017

Guest Post: Ordinary People - Extraordinary Deeds by Kfir Luzzatto

Action novels often feature characters who do phenomenal things – they jump from airplanes without a parachute, dive for long minutes without oxygen, and chase malefactors on rickety rooftops, leaping from one building to the next without even panting a little. Think James Bond, think Jason Bourne. Then you have the less extreme characters, who win the day simply by being tough, intelligent and intuitive (as well as inscrutable.) Take Jack Reacher, for example. Stories about those characters make for great escapist reads, but the people in those books are not real. They don’t feel real.
In contrast, take an ordinary person, someone who could be your next-door neighbor, and put him or her in a pickle. Take their familiar, normal day and turn it upside-down, and then watch them deal with it. If the character is someone with whom you can identify, you become invested in what happens to him or her. You no longer say to yourself “Yeah, sure,” like you do when the unrealistic hero kills a bear with a toothpick. Instead, you are at the edge of your seat because you know that if your favorite character takes a false step, he’s done for.
When I start dreaming up characters for a novel, I spend time with them. I study their approach to things and the way they react, because once a character has taken shape in my head there is little I can do to change his or her mental makeup. Sometimes I need to replace a character, as you do with actors if they don’t fit the part. I run an “intimate audition” by putting myself in their shoes, to see how they will deal with the bad things that I’m planning to do to them. A character who is in mortal danger and takes it in his stride will not be able to make the reader feel anything. His emotions must be those that the regular (not superhuman) reader would have in the same situation. Only then will the reader care about the character and form an unconscious rapport with him. You can’t feel for characters who are going to come out of every situation unscathed, no matter how much effort the bad guys put into destroying them.
But don’t be confused – ordinary characters don’t have to live in an ordinary world. They can live in a fantastic one and still be ordinary in their human makeup, in the way they behave, think and react to their very out-of-the-ordinary environment. Perhaps the best example is Katniss in The Hunger Games (in the first book of the trilogy, not applicable to the others.) Although she is special, has skills and does some pretty extreme things, she is a regular girl with desires and hopes to which the reader can relate. She finds herself in an impossible situation and reacts in a very human way that is not devoid of weakness. Thus, the readers can wonder what they would do if they were in her shoes. They can feel her emotions and through much of the book they will worry, not knowing how it will all come out in the end.

To my mind, using a supernatural character in a thriller amounts to lazy writing, because you don’t have to worry about keeping him alive. You can always make him cut the right wire of the atomic bomb and save the world. That’s why five minutes after reading a James Bond book I couldn’t tell you what it really was about. But who says that this is a bad thing? Escapist literature is here to help us clean our heads and forget heavy stuff, and thank God for it!

About the Book:
Exodus '95Claire, a young graphic designer, learns a secret that her dying New York neighbor has kept for twenty years: the whereabouts of Moses’ Biblical staff.

Claire needs the help of an Israeli engineer and the money of a Russian oligarch to recover the staff before her body betrays her. But first she needs to stay alive in a race with fanatics, who will do anything to keep the staff from coming to light.

Then the LORD said to Moses: Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

About the Author:
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Kfir Luzzatto is the author of seven novels, several short stories and two non-fiction books. Kfir was born and raised in Italy, and moved to Israel as a teenager. He acquired the love for the English language from his father, a former U.S. soldier, a voracious reader, and a prolific writer. Kfir has a PhD in chemical engineering and works as a patent attorney. He lives in Omer, Israel, with his full-time partner, Esther, their four children, Michal, Lilach, Tamar, and Yonatan, and the dog Elvis.

Kfir has published extensively in the professional and general press over the years. For almost four years he wrote a weekly “Patents” column in Globes (Israel’s financial newspaper). His most recent nonfiction book, FUN WITH PATENTS—The Irreverent Guide for the Investor, the Entrepreneur and the Inventor, was published in 2016. He is an HWA (Horror Writers Association) and ITW (International Thriller Writers) member.

You can visit Kfir’s web site and read his blog at Follow him on Twitter (@KfirLuzzatto) and friend him on Facebook (

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare), Facebook and Instagram to keep up with what we are reading.

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