There is a convention, some say a misconception, that writers base their protagonists on themselves.
Not me, of course. I’m nothing like, for example, the main character in my novel Criss Cross, Cressida Barker-Powell. Nothing like her.
She lives in a massive house – we could probably justifiably call it a mansion – with a husband worth at least a million, if not two or three. She has a lady who comes in and ‘does’, whilst I have to wash my own dishes, and heat up my own baked beans.
Cressida wears designer clothes, has accessories to match and she goes to dinner and cocktail-parties in smart restaurants and posh houses, whereas the highlight of my social calendar is going to the supermarket for the week’s groceries.
And she kills people. Lest we forget. Not just one. And not by accident. She plots multiple murders in a vicious and calculating manner. I never so much as step on a woodlouse if I can avoid it.
And yet …
I researched those murders. I put the ideas into her fictional head. I wrote those words that come from her perfectly-lipsticked mouth. I chose her clothes, her bags, her shoes. When she is complaining about people who annoy her in some way, her impatience is mine, her anger, even her acerbic wit is mine.
And when, in those rare and tender moments, she does something nice for a change, that’s me too, isn’t it?
I tried. I had hoped to succeed – at least in part – in making her so different to me. Some of her views and attitudes and certainly her experiences are different to mine. But differences can be positive and negative. I would never – I hope – kill anything or anyone, but part of me can’t help but admire her decisive (if somewhat ‘final’) method of dealing with things and people she is unhappy about, whereas I am very passive, and I agonise and fret and usually fail to act. Let’s be clear, she is a monster, but she is bold and acts in ways I never could. It’s quite cathartic sometimes to allow her to do those things I choose not to do. But she’s nothing like me.
She’s more like my big sister.