aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

My characters, myself

Pity the poor author. Sitting in front of a blank screen or a blank page, he or she has to build a world so real that it nearly trumps the real one. The author has to tell a story that makes the rest of the world disappear. But there are some little-known hazard to writing fiction. One happens when your characters have better lives than you do.

I have written nearly a dozen books. Along the way, I have given my characters better stuff than I have ever had. They have had better cars, better jobs, more amazing boyfriends, free time to solve crimes, and close friends who support them through thick and thin and are never to busy to join in the sleuthing. Sometimes, frankly, I’m jealous.

Ten years ago, I gave a friend of mine Outlander, which is greatest fudge book ever. (My mom calls such books fudge books because they go down like candy, but you can’t make a steady diet of them). My friend actually started comparing the imaginary, perfect Jamie (lusty, strong, brave, wise, dark secrets) to her real husband (pretty much like any husband after 15 years of marriage). She was in a snit with him for a least a month, but what could she tell him?

Sometimes I have given my characters my own stuff, but only for comic affect. When I still drove a Mazda 323, I gave my main character the same econobox of a car. As a fictional car, it was much more amusing. It lacked a sideview mirror on the passenger side, and intermittent wipers. Instead of a clock, it had a little recessed box on the dash, helpfully labeled “quartz.”

Another pitfall of playing God is feeling guilty over what you have done to characters. You grow more and more reluctant to hurt your character. Or even threaten them. For example, I once had a minor character who needed to die (something that happens fairly frequently when you write mysteries and thrillers). He was also the single parent of a nine-year-old daughter. I hesitated. What would happen to his daughter? Where would she go? Who would she live with? I was no longer able to separate fact from fiction. They were real to me.

Most authors who write mysteries make their central character like themselves, only better. They are younger, thinner, taller. And they definitely have better hair. Proportionally, there are many more redheads in books than there are in real life. Interestingly enough, the one real redhead mystery writer I know, Sharan Newman, has a brown-haired heroine. I guess the grass is always greener.

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