The Art of Mirriam Neal

//the ironside effect

A couple years ago, I was introduced to ‘V’ (the original show, not the ridiculous reboot). Consequently, I fell in love with Michael Ironside. His character, Ham Tyler, was gruff and lethal but understated (and with a heart of absolute mush). He made the show – and once he left, roughly 2/3 of the way through, the quality of the show dropped so significantly that I could barely finish it. I didn’t enjoy it anymore – not because Ham was my favorite character, but because he was so good that without him, the show was bad. It felt like the only truly interesting part had been removed.

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Now a huge fan of Michael Ironside, I hunted down half a dozen other movies with him in them and discovered something peculiar – he was the diamond in each of these movies and everything else was…well, less than stellar. These were some low-budget, low-quality movies, and Michael Ironside was the one amazing thing in all of them.

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It made me step back and evaluate my own stories, to see if the Ironside Effect had taken place. Much to my chagrin, it had – and in a big way. I had fallen so deeply in love with just one or two characters in each novel that I treated the rest of the story as secondary. I began to overhaul my novels (and the way I wrote them) with one goal in mind – to make every character an Ironside. I wanted every character to be interesting and fun to write, to be intriguing in some way and not leave all the fascinating qualities to my favorites. My casts grew larger and far more diverse, and minor characters began to disappear as every character became three-dimensional and sprang to life, full of their own quirks and thoughts and feelings. Now I had not just one Ironside per novel, but entire casts I found interesting and vivid. I was having fun writing not just one of the characters, but all of them.

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In short, don’t let the Ironside Effect rob the rest of your novel from its potential awesomeness!

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