The relationship between writers and their characters takes many forms. For me some characters I have created are irritating, others entertain me. Some make me feel cuddly and comfortable, while others I positively loath. And some I love, especially my flawed and rugged detective, Andy Horton. I even like my alpha male, Detective Superintendent Steve Uckfield, head of the Major Crime Team, with all his irritating and course habits whereas DCI Lorraine Bliss, Andy’s immediate boss, I (and my readers) find a pain in the proverbial.
Then there is former Royal Marine Commando Art Marvik now an undercover investigator for the National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS), tough, resourceful, fit, able to operate outside the law if it means he gets the baddie, but troubled and trying to find his way in civilian life. He's a fairly new kid on the block with two missions to his name, namely Silent Running and Dangerous Cargo. He will appear in two more missions, one that concerns his past and his parents' deaths in 1997, killed in an underwater earthquake off the Straits of Malacca.
Whatever the relationship between the creator and characters though it should never be dull.
It’s easy to become a little bit obsessed with your characters. Oh, alright very obsessed and more so when writing a series because the main cast of characters are with me all the time, they are as much part of my life as real people, they occupy my thoughts throughout the day, but strangely enough I never dream of them. Perhaps there is some hope for me yet and I’m not about to be carted off to the insane asylum.
I think about my characters a great deal. Where are they? What will they do next? How will they react to this or that situation? What is happening in their private lives as well as in the job? What is their relationship with their colleagues? This is all good stuff because their actions, feelings and motivations drive the plot, which can be annoying especially if I think I’ve got the plot line all nicely worked out. They can have the habit of taking me right off track even to the extent that often I thought I know who ‘done it’, why and how, only to discover the killer is someone completely different. Do I hear the distant siren of an ambulance approaching?
Thinking about your characters is not the same as thinking about your ‘real’ friends or the people you know because with your characters you are creating their lives, although they do often have a habit of doing something that surprises you. Marvik is not bound by the law or police procedure so he can push the boundaries. But Andy also frequently operates outside the law, much to the annoyance of DCI Lorraine Bliss. In ‘real life’ Andy would probably either have been promoted or kick out of the police force by now! But, hey, this is fiction.
So before you call for the men in white coats I assure you I am quite sane, well as sane as any writer (and especially a crime writer can be – after all we kill people for a living).
Creating characters and their lives is a fascinating game, as many children know from their play, and perhaps that's what a lot of us writers are - kids at heart. It’s either that or we’re closet villains or psychopaths. I know what I prefer, I leave you to make up your own mind.