Thursday, July 5, 2007

Are We Our Characters?

The answer is: yes and no!

I've just been reading a mystery written by a friend, the first in a new series. The protagonist shares the writer's profession. Of course I found myself wondering how much of the protagonist's life and thoughts were real, and how much was fiction.

Oh, no doubt the murder investigation was a figment of the writer's imagination. But the details of the protagonist's life? This friend and I aren't close enough for me to know for sure, but at least some had to come from reality.

My fellow bloggers here obviously share some of the loves of their mystery protagonists. That comes across in their entries here, and they incorporate details in their stories from what they've learned by participating in their own hobbies.

And me? Well, I've maintained for a while, about my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series, that Kendra's a lawyer, and I am, too; that she lives in the same neighborhood that I do; and that she happens also to have a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie. But I deny that our lives are the same. Neither is our lawyering. She's a litigator, and I'm a transactional real estate specialist. But I know legal lingo and I think like a lawyer, so that part definitely comes from me.

So, are we our characters? Well, I hope our readers have a good time figuring that out!



Monica Ferris said...

I have come to dislike that question, "Are we our characters?" Because the glib answer is, "No, of course not." Except when we are. The rule is, Write What You Know. So when digging for a realistic reaction to an event in the story, we call on ourselves first. And because the main character gets most of the reactions, the main character sounds like us. In more Write What You Know style, we give our main character a lot of our own experiences and background; otherwise, we couldn't write until we took classes in whatever other job, or got a degree in whatever other profession, we gave our main character. And yet, and yet, our sleuths are NOT US. They are often people we wish to be like, and usually people we'd like to spend time with -- because we do spend hours in their company while writing the books.

But I've written too long, and been much too obvious. Which is why it's hard to answer that question when a delighted (or disappointed) fan asks it.

Camille Minichino said...

Monica about covered it. The only little bit I have to add is that when I'm asked, I I try to focus on how my main character and I are different.
So I have specific situations ready ... I'm basically a quitter for example -- when things get tough, I try something else! And my character certainly is not a quitter. I've even used a true incident, where in real life, I wanted to drop out of my doctoral program when it got tough, but people saw me through it and I finished. Gloria, on the other hand has the opposite experience .. people told her to give up and she wouldn't!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Great question!

I think my character is like me, only--like the Bionic Woman--better, stronger, faster! Given a situation that involves confrontation, I might shrink back and get tongue-tied. My sleuth Kate Gallagher, on the other hand, is always armed with just the right reaction, the right quip. Or--if circumstances dictate--the right display of vulnerability.
She's what I would be if I could be the all-powerful director, stage-managing my life.