Sunday, May 10, 2015

Letting Our Characters Speak For Us

A few months ago, I was a guest on another author’s blog and I was asked this question: Which of your characters is the most like you? I replied that my main character, Ann, and her sister, Marnie, each shared some physical characteristics and some personality traits with me. And that was an honest answer but, the more I thought about it later, I realized that almost every character I write about (even the bad guys) has something in common with me.

For example, I love clichés and I use them a lot when I’m speaking. But, as all writers know, they’re frowned upon and considered lazy writing in novels. Writers are supposed to come up with new and innovative expressions even though clichés became clichés because they get the point across in a way that everyone immediately understands; they’re universal. But, that’s the way of the writing world. So, when Olivia, the octogenarian in my Malone Mystery series, says something like “Davey, you look like the cat that swallowed the canary,” because of her age, she can get by with it. I smile every time she does.

And, when one of my characters expresses an opinion or a vent that also happens to be how I feel, it feels good to put it on paper. For example, I am so tired of all the medically related commercials on TV these days and I mute most of them. As it happens, Louise, my main character’s mother-in-law, feels the same way. She wanted to throw something at her TV and shatter the screen when she saw the constant barrage of advertisements for one pill after another to treat everything from depression to a leaky bladder. The only thing that stopped her from destroying her television set was knowing how much it would cost to replace it. Now mind you, Louise is not one of my most likeable characters but she does make some valid points.

It’s said that writing is therapeutic and I believe that wholeheartedly. And, while I don’t think novels should be blatant crusades to further an author’s personal cause, I do think they make excellent vehicles for self-expression, especially when we occasionally let our characters speak for us.