Thursday, February 25, 2010

We are not our characters, but they are us

This week, I want to pick up on Donis’s thread. Her blog last week titled “I Am Not My Characters” struck a chord. It probably did for all writers because we certainly aren’t our characters. That is true. However, our characters—at least to some degree—are us.

Every time I do a reading and Q@A, I’m asked if Jack Austin is really me. A former student who asked that question followed with a really good point. “I mean, Jack is just another name for John, right?” Right. Expect I’m not Jack Austin (and anyone who has ever played golf with me can verify that statement). In fact, I’ve maintained (and have confessed repeatedly) that my Jack Austin series was conceived as Raymond Chandler-meets-the-PGA-Tour. It has grown beyond that conception, but those roots remain.

So, no, I am not Jack Austin.

But Jack Austin is me.

He has to be, at least in part, and I don’t believe I’m alone. I don’t know any writer who says plot is what they love; plot drives them to spend upwards of a thousand hours at the computer crafting a novel. Many writers enjoy the puzzle, enjoy trying to keep readers guessing, but at the end of the day, plot doesn’t keep them doing this. Phrase it any way you want—developing characters, exploring differing themes and ethos—but the exploration of the human condition keeps us all going. Sue Grafton, in an interview with MYSTERY SCENE, said, “Mysteries are about the psychology of crime and the psychology of human nature,” when asked why she hadn’t tired of her alphabet series.

Therefore, Jack Austin (and my other protagonists, consciously or unconsciously) is my vehicle for exploring a host of themes. So in the end, Jack Austin is partially me. But, although I wish I had Jack’s golf game, I am not him.

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