Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Alter Ego

Some authors include alter egos in their books. We have to slip into the heads of all of our characters, but even while doing that, we stay distant from most of our characters. There are things about our characters that we can’t fully understand. A man writing about a woman or a woman about man creates one obvious situation in which a full connection between author and character cannot be achieved. To reach such a connection would be just wrong. Even so, we can achieve some very good stories while remaining somewhat distant from the characters. Then there are those characters that just mesh.

In my WIP, there is a character who is that way for me. In many ways, he isn’t like me at all and yet when I think about the story I imagine that if I could slip into that world for a while that he is the character I would want to be. He has a minor role in this story and doesn’t even have a name yet. He’s one of these big picture kind of guys who may not know everything that’s going on, but he has a better understanding of the whole situation than most. He works for a small but increasingly successful film studio and is the grandson of one of the two owners. He will eventually inherit his grandfather’s half of the business, but for now he is paying his dues learning the business and focusing on individual projects.

The problem with a character like this is that life is too good for him to make a very interesting character. Then when I slip into his skin, I’m not going to want to write him in such a way that problems force him to change. He is on the path to success and I don’t want to ruin that for him (for me). A character like this has to stay off to the side of the story. We can slip him into one of the subplots and even give him a lead role in a subplot, but he can’t very well fill the role of the protagonist. The best protagonists experience change or must fight hard to prevent change. In the case of my alter ego, his life is good and the only question is how he will use that to help other people.

In some ways, this guy is like Ellen Dawson, whom will be guest blogging here tomorrow. In the last couple of novels, she hasn’t had many problems and I don’t expect she will from here on out. But she wouldn’t make a good protagonist. She works better as a sounding board and a safety net. We need characters like that. Next week, I talk about what they do for our stories.