Friday, February 24, 2012

Look Into the eyes of Tina Keeper ...

... and you'll see the protagonist of my suspense thriller Broken But Not Dead, Brendell Kisepisim Meshango.

Tina Keeper, seen below with Adam Beach, is a Cree activist, producer, actor, and former member of the Canadian House of Commons. I've never met her. The first time I saw her was in 1992 on the television series North of 60, where she played the starring role as RCMP Officer Michelle Kenidi. Reruns of North of 60 currently air on DejaView television.

Because Tina had left such a strong impression on me in the role of Michelle, when I began Broken But Not Dead, almost immediately I saw her as Brendell. If you remember the series, then you understand why. Her presence on the small screen was formidable. As Michelle, she portrayed a strong, honourable, courageous woman with demons of her own to face, whose love for her daughter knew no boundaries. Brendell has that same fierce love for her daughter Zoe. 

"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."

Author: Agatha Christie

In Broken But Not Dead, when Brendell is terrorized by a stalker, she's at the breaking point until he foolishly switches gears and threatens her daughter. While she may not place a high value on her own life, threatening her daughter makes her at once a very dangerous adversary. I love that about Brendell. Looking into Tina's eyes, I believe she would be equally unpredictable. 

excerpt from Broken But Not Dead...

I listened to Zoë's footsteps down the short sidewalk to my driveway. A car door slammed and an engine started, no doubt the property of the Grand Panjandrum himself. That whining sound his car made when he backed up followed quickly. Tires reeled on the asphalt in front of my house. Dennis was always in a hurry.
I continued staring at the space where Zoë had stood. The air around me was imbued with the fragrance of apple and ivory soap. My daughter’s scent lingered and so did her words: That’d be the day I’d let some bastard break my spirit. 
A sob broke from my throat. Tears poured down my face and my body shuddered. My daughter’s words stung like the weal from the intruder's whip across my skin. Pressure built inside me, and I imagined an embolus bursting an artery in my brain. Sobs racked my body. I crunched my shoulders forward until finally I was crying like a little girl. One long wail. 
That’d be the day I’d let some bastard break my spirit. That’d be the day.... 
I wept until I hyperventilated. I grabbed a paper bag from the kitchen drawer, strangled the opening and sucked for air. "That’s right!" I gasped between breaths. "That’d be the day I’d let some bastard threaten me or my daughter. Did you hear that, you piece of shit! You’ve messed with the wrong woman!" 

Have you had to borrow someone's face to make your protagonist come alive? Or perhaps you've discovered another way?  Love to hear about it.


  1. I haven't come across Tina Keeper on my TV but I can see why she influenced your chartacter. She has a strong face.

    While I was writing my YA novel, I had Heath Ledger in mind to play the starring role after I saw his performance in A Knight's Tale
    (2001). I haven't been able to think of a suitable replacement. :)

  2. It's great when you have a clear vision of your protagonist while you write. I tend to get a clearer pictures of my sidekicks :)

    Your excerpt is very good.

    Wagging Tales

  3. Great post, Joylene! Yes, absolutely, sometimes my characters are based on "borrowed" faces. And sometimes not, and sometimes when I don't think they are, I'm watching a show or a movie and go "Bingo!" It was them all along!

  4. Powerful excerpt. I agree that it helps to be able to fully visualize your characters. I sometimes use real people but often rely on my fertile (fermented?) brain to flesh them out.

  5. Wendy, I hope you get a chance to see Tina on the screen. She is what I like to refer to as a woman's woman. Strong, classy, a wonderful mentor for young women. She's done a lot for Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

    There are so many fine actors out there today. But I know what you mean. When your character has had a specific face for so long, it's hard to change that.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you, Charmaine. Once I find the essence of my protagonist, I then need to find my antagonist. In Dead Witness, DeOlmos was Edward James Olmos. They teach us early on how important character sketches are, but I have to go one step further and find them a body . Otherwise I tend to get my characters confused. Or I forget who's who. David Morse was Ed McCormick, and what a splendid job he did.

  7. I know exactly what you mean, Gail. If I cant find the correct face right away, I know I need to eventually. It just makes my writing and rewrites and edits that much easier. Thanks for stopping by. Say hi to Nosey.

  8. Pat, you're braving then I am. I have used real people, but then I spend so much time stressing over whether they'll realize they are in my book, that I end up losing their essence. This guilt of mine is actually interesting when you come to think about it. Maybe I should write a novel about that?


    Thanks for stopping by, Pat. Hope your books are doing well.

  9. I have pictures of my characters too.

    I like your writing style. Good post, Joylene :)

  10. Wendy, I kinda had a feeling you did. I think it was one of your posts. I like your writing style too! What a treat having you in my blogland.

  11. Yes, I do picture people I know as the character's face, but I also mix up the gestures and personalities people I know and add them altogether to get one mc. Kind of a fun stew to make a fine, perhaps unrecognizable, character?

  12. I like your method, Janet. I use the face of someone famous, but I try very hard not to use any of their characters. That way, as you said, it keeps it fresh.

    Happy Sunday.

  13. Amazing looking woman - and boy - he's definitely messed with the wrong character there!
    Nice to meet you

  14. It's so nice to meet you too, Laura. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for sharing Ann's excerpts on your blog.

  15. Hey Joylene,
    You have a fascinating way of borrowing someone's face to make your protagonist come alive. I can certainly understand the inspiration you have got from Tina Keeper.
    And a most intriguing excerpt from Broken But Not Dead.
    I could say I think of my ex to make my protagonist come alive. Then again...nah. Actually I have no set way to make my protagonist come alive. Then again, I do some very surreal stuff. What I will say is that when I'm writing a story about a brush, for example, I actually become a brush. Sorry, I have no idea what I'm talking about. See ya later, eh :)

  16. LOL, Gary... (laughing too hard to think)

  17. I use Hollywood celebs as I develop my characters. I used a younger Matthew McConnaghy for my MC.

  18. Wonderful post. Love what you do with your visuals. I have a hard time connecting my characters, so far, with other created characters. I usually grab a face for them, but it's more for recognition rather than personality and such. Although, it's a wonderful idea.

  19. Hi Cher. Whatever works, eh? I like actors for that reason. They can assume so many different personalities.

  20. Stephen, I bet Matthew makes a great protagonist. We're on the same wave length. Thanks for stopping by.

  21. I think I've mentioned before that I do a collage for my stories... paste-ups on sheets that I keep in the front of my writing binders. Browsing through them helps to pull me back into the story as I prepare for a writing session.

    It was you who suggested I should keep the male protagonist's picture taped to the computer monitor as I work, and that's helped. Unfortunately, the photo I had selected wasn't strong enough; I'm still not content with the character's voice but I'm working on it. I really need to find an actor that I can use as a model, but so far haven't been able to.

    P.S. I'm really liking the new format for Blogger's comment box. :)

  22. Hi Carol. I do struggle with finding the right characters sometimes too. In fact, my latest WIP caused me some problems. It wasn't until I found the actor to play Jason's part that I began to understand him better. He doesn't talk to me as readily as my other protagonists have. I feel weird saying that. Haha. As if he was real.

  23. I LOVED the excerpt. Oh, what wonderful writing and what a pleasure to 'meet' your character.

    To me, that's such a huge of the most beautiful parts of creating a story...that discovery of your characters. Placing faces with the people in your heart and head.

    Congratulations and thank you for sharing! Looking forward to this book!

  24. Thanks so much, Carol. That means a lot, and then more.

  25. I like this idea, and I need to ponder it more in regard to the WIP. Thanks for sharing this, Joylene. Always appreciate your insight. :)

    Have a great weekend,

  26. You're very welcome, Karen. I'm glad it was helpful. Have a great day.


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