Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guest Post: Rena Fruchter

I am pleased to welcome Rena Fruchter, author of The Orchestra Murders: A Cynthia Masters Mystery, who is here today to discuss several ways to make your characters believable.  The Orchestra Murders, released on October 11th, 2012, tells the tale of a superstar conductor who was murdered and the murder pinned on his son.  Take a look:

Superstar conductor Sir Gregory Langhorne and his globe-trotting, violin-soloist son Jonathan Langhorne are the best of friends—until a brutal murder shatters their lives and Jonathan becomes the prime suspect.  
Six years later, Sir Gregory is now the music director of the world famous Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and has finally reconciled with his son Jonathan, just as members of the orchestra are being killed off one by one. 

The challenge for brilliant young hotshot Philadelphia Detective Cynthia Masters is to solve not only the orchestra murders, but the question of why murder seems to follow the Langhornes. Has Masters finally met her match—a case that cannot be solved? Set in London and Philadelphia, this dramatic story of murder, infidelity, and the abuse of money and power establishes Cynthia Masters as a world-class detective in this thrilling and unusual mystery.

How to Make Your Characters Believable

The secret to making your readers connect with your characters is to have them jump off the page and into the room of the reader.  There’s no formula for doing this.  There are a variety of important elements, however.  The reader must be able to identify with the characters—even if the characters are completely crazy.  Unless we are the most boring person on earth, we all have crazy, bizarre thoughts from time to time.  Sometimes these thoughts just make us chuckle; other times our thoughts can startle us.

Literary characters are interesting when they are extreme (in varying degrees).  Characters who are criminals can lead apparently normal lives and have an element to their personalities that is extreme.  Look at the real-life serial killers who lead outwardly normal lives.  Literary characters, like their living counterparts, often justify their extreme thoughts, normalizing them in their own minds.  In many cases, (and of course to a much lesser degree) the reader can identify with ‘extreme thinking.’

The more detail an author can supply for a character, the more ‘real’ the character becomes.  What can distinguish a literary character from a real person we might know in everyday life is that in literature we can read, hear, and understand the thoughts of a character-- assuming the author presents it well.  We can only read the thoughts of a real person if they tell us, or do something very obvious.  The magic of fictional characters is that we can see right into their minds.

Characters need to have depth.  We need to feel their struggles and experience their challenges with them. If people are glib and situations are shallow…well, who is going to care?  

Author Biography (from her website
Rena Fruchter is the author of three books—two critically acclaimed books in the biographical genre—Dudley Moore—An Intimate Portrait, and I’m Chevy Chase…and you’re not.  And now, her exciting new book: The Orchestra Murders—A Cynthia Masters Mystery. 

Ms. Fruchter is a renowned pianist, writer and educator, and director of an arts organization.  Her performances have taken her throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and the Far East in both solo and ensemble appearances.  She made her solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of six, performing the Haydn Piano Concerto in D Major.  Appearances with other orchestras and on radio and television followed.  At age eleven, she gave her first performance with the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler at the Esplanade, later returning to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall.
A graduate of Brandeis University, Rena also holds degrees in both piano performance and pedagogy from the Royal College of Music in London, England, where she studied with Louis Kentner and Lamar Crowson.  She also studied with two distinguished Nadias--Nadia Boulanger in France and Nadia Reisenberg in New York. 

Rena is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Music For All Seasons, an organization that presents musical programs for people confined in institutions including hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and special facilities for children. 

Rena is married to Brian Dallow, and they are the parents of four adult children, including a set of triplets. They live in New Jersey.


  1. Excellent post, Rena! I like the premise.

    I've mused on a future character as a renowned violinist. I assume I'll be talking to musicians at some point for tips...