There is a convention, some say a misconception, that writers base their main character–their protagonist–on themselves. Not me, of course.
I’m nothing like, for example, the main character in my Friendship Can Be Murder trilogy, Cressida Barker-Powell.
Nothing like her.
She lives in a massive house–we could justifiably call it a mansion, it cost millions, with a husband worth at least another couple of million. Cressida also 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; she goes to dinner and cocktail-parties in smart restaurants; weekends in posh houses; pops off to London for a few days’ shopping, or nips to an exclusive spa for some ‘me time’. Whereas the highlight of my social calendar is going to the supermarket for the week’s groceries.
And–lest we forget–she kills people. Not just one. And not by accident. She deliberately plots and plans and obsesses over multiple murders in a vicious and calculating manner. I never so much as step on a woodlouse if I can avoid it. And if I do–well there are tears, self-blame, and a very charming funeral for all its friends.
And yet …
It was me who researched those murders. I put the ideas into her fictional head. I wrote the words that come from her perfectly-lipsticked mouth. I chose her designer outfits, her bags, her shoes. When she complains about people who annoy her in some way, her impatience is mine, her anger, even her acerbic wit is mine. I even placed her victims in their lives, specially to annoy her.
So when, in those rare and tender moments, she does something nice for a change, that’s me too, isn’t it? (It doesn’t happen often.)
I tried. I had hoped to succeed–at least in part–in making her so, so different to me. Some of her views and attitudes and certainly her experiences and lifestyle are different to mine. But differences can be positive as well as 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, or her willingness to exact her cold revenge for the sake of people she cares about (those few, few people!) whereas I am very passive, and I agonise and fret and usually fail to act.
It’s quite cathartic sometimes to allow her to do those things I choose not to do. To be able to do the unthinkable, the immoral, to do exactly as she pleases. It’s the kind of vicarious pleasure we get from watching box-sets of evil people doing terrible things and willing them to get away with it.
But she’s nothing like me. Let’s be clear, she is a monster, but she is bold and decisive, and she takes action in ways I never could. She’s nothing like me. She’s not me.
She’s more like my big sister.
(warning: these books contain terribly naughty words and graphic scenes.)