Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Hard and the Easy

A lot of the time, we tend to write narrators whose experiences roughly mirror our own. That's why there's so many "I thought I was ordinary but then found out I was THE CHOSEN ONE alllll along" narratives. It's intuitive to the point that sometimes we end up doing it by accident - lookin' at you, Ian Fleming, because James Bond is about as Scottish as a kangaroo.

But what happens when you want to write about someone whose experiences don't resemble yours in the slightest?

I actually think sometimes this isn't as big a deal in fantasy and sci-fi. Because, sure, your MC might be a bipedal green half-cat-half-human (or, more commonly, a nominally middle class human used to hanging out with bipedal green half-cat-half-humans). But you get to make up the whole of that world, so you can make up circumstances that feel right to you.

Then there's contemporary fiction with not even a hint of the speculative. And that, to me, is where things get really tricky.

Because I can yodel on all day about the malfunctioning magic of my half-sprite hero, but when you're talking about a person who has experiences that real people will relate to and be able to verify or dismiss as outrageous... that's scary.

I prefer to sit at the keyboard and smile as the words stream out of my fingers like those zoom lines in Tron. 

But my last novel (coming soooooon...) has not been like that. It's been a lot more of sitting and agonizing over each. 500. Word. Increment. Because this heroine whose experiences and character are so different from mine, what would she think? What would she do?

There's nothing wrong with writing what you know. I'll be back to it shortly and gratefully. But, as difficult as this has been, I'm glad I did it. I think I'm a better writer for it.

P.S. The Hard and the Easy is also the name of an album by Great Big Sea! Have a song that iTunes tells me I have replayed an embarrassing amount of times.


  1. Hmm...I guess there's no denying there's a little of me in all my main characters, but I've also had some MCs that were wildly different. (For example, my MC in my current WIP is a little shy and socially awkward. Not me at all. ;) ) Even when it's difficult, it's a fun experience, right?

    1. Definitely! For this last MS, my heroine was a tough, experienced bodyguard. A fighter, not a lover, and more given to action than thinky thoughts. It was a challenge for sure.

  2. In the story I committed to, the protagonist is part me and part my husband....because, my husband is a career investigator and I'm a career computer programmer. lol

    I plan to make her a believable character by inserting my values and flaws.

    I hope I get it right!