If you’re going to tell a story, you’re going to have to have someone interesting to talk about.
That would be probably the First Law in dealing with characters in fiction, if I were so inclined to try my hand at creating my own version of On Writing. I’m not planning on that – even though this blog could be seen as a limited attempt to do that – but I do believe in the statement on top. Throughout the years, the more and more people I have met, the more I’ve noticed that a good number of them are too limited as humans to be truly compelling. It’s all very good to stay true to life, but to make people want to pick up your story, you have to make it about people who will attract readers’ fascination. To be frank, those characters have to be compelling for the sake of the author, because you’ll be stuck with them for hours and hours as you try to tell their story.
When I started writing, I tended to write main characters that had very clear parallels to me. Every MC is like that to some extent, but there were a few of those characters that were much too much like myself. Sometimes that has worked out, and sometimes it flopped.
The MC in The Holy Fool was a step forward – someone like me, but a larger personality in many ways, perhaps an alternate history version of me. He was a freer version of myself, someone who be more daring, more risk-taking – definitely more successful than I was as a journalist, due to differences in ambition, life-choices, and luck.
But this guy I’ve been writing about, during the past few months, the guy who’s been rattling around in my head for the past few years – this guy is totally different.
To keep some of my writing close to the vest, I’m going to refer to the MC for The American 9 as D. For as long as I’ve been a soccer fan, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of an American player who could one of the best players in the entire world, a guy who could be on the same level of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The more I started thinking about what type of person it would take to be that good, the more D. started growing in my head.
He’s grown into someone far beyond my own experience. As much as I loved soccer as a kid, I was never a natural athlete, I never had those experiences. Now I’m writing about someone who is the son of a legendary athlete. I never had that experience, either, but I’ve read enough about such families to be able to picture what it might be like.
I’m normally a pretty calm guy; D. is someone for whom it seems like his life is one big fight – fighting for who he considers are his people, and fighting against those who he considers (with reason) to be his enemies. I’m heterosexual and monogamous; D. is bisexual and polyamorous, although as a teenager he is keeping that part of his life out of the public eye. He’s far more charismatic than I think I ever could be, and probably more handsome.
What I do like about D. is his sense of right and wrong. I love the fact of someone who has been given so much and yet has enough empathy to recognize his privilege and how it can be used for good. I like his love for his family, friends, and lovers, and his willingness to do anything to take care of them.
Every time I sit down to write something about him, I want to find out how he’s going to react, what he’s going to say. If I’m wondering that, I have to think others will, too. I want to tell a story, but I want to have an audience, as well.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The pic I used for today’s post comes from a photographer I found out about from the blog In Bed With Maradona. If you are massively into football ⚽️ culture, you need to check it out. The photographer’s name’s Jurgen Vantomme and he does some great stuff. This comes courtesy of this collection, and you can check his web site out here.]