Friday, June 1, 2012

Dangers of Character Love

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

I'm in love. Not just with my husband - with Trooper First Class Jim Duncan.

Don't worry, he's not a real person. He's a character - my character, my protagonist from a series of short stories. In my mind's eye, he looks a bit like a younger Mark Harmon.

I love Sally Castle too. She's another character, Duncan's sidekick. Or maybe a secondary protagonist. Not really sure what you want to call her. And, she looks a little like Angie Harmon, one of my favorite TV attorneys (maybe that says something about me and the name Harmon).

I've written a story about these two. Actually, I've written several. And they are giving me heartburn as a writer right now.

Recently, someone suggested that maybe I just need to "give up" on these characters and find some new ones. But I can't. See Jim and Sally are begging, no demanding, that I write their stories. I started a project for this fall fully intending to create some new characters. But I just couldn't get going on it. The voice was all wrong. And in my writer's ear, I heard Jim and Sally talking to me. In an outraged tone, they said, "Why are you trying to give away our story?"

(This is where you start thinking of calling the men in white coats. Unless you're a writer, in which case you completely understand.)

I gave Jim and Sally the story. It flew out of my fingers. It's still a shitty first draft, but it's a good story (I think). So is the one I'm working on - their first story. Even my editor said I've got something good here, with good characters. Jim Duncan is a hard-working, divorced man just trying to do a good job as a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

And there's the rub.

See, once you write from the POV of someone in law enforcement, you've gone into the genre of "police procedural." I so did not want to go into this genre. Procedurals are hard. You have to get the details right. It's a lot of research, a lot of work to make your character not only likable (which I've done according to the editor), but realistic. And thus the heartburn.

Yeah, I could walk away and tell Duncan that I just can't write his story. That I'm not good enough. That I don't want to be in his world. Some would say just take him out of that world, but I can't do that either. He'd be a fish out of water - and I can't do that to him.

And somehow, I think Jim and Sally would find a way to exact their revenge if I did.

Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?


  1. Oh, yeah. Her name is Holly Quinn and she makes me crazed, shoving her way to the front of everything.

  2. I've been writing and re-writing Kiri Hunter's story for twenty years. Others have come and gone but I always come back to Kiri.

    1. I started my novel thinking that it could be a series. Now, I'm not so sure. I like the characters, but I don't know if I love them enough to write about them again (of course, I've been working on that project for so long I don't know if that's how I really feel or if I've just been in the novel too long).

      But I absolutely love Jim and Sally, and could write story after story about them.