All week, I've wracked my brain trying to think of which single character I wished I'd written. The problem seems to be that throughout my reading history, there were too many. Starting with the little girl Sarah in one of my early favorites: Swampfire. Yeah. No images available of that one on Amazon. It was a Scholastic Book. I won't say from what year. Are any of you old enough to remember the catalogs of Scholastic Books teachers handed out to kids in second through sixth grade? My parents dreaded that. I'd mark every book that wasn't about sports. I'd end up having to pare that down to ten. It was torture. The books about horses always won at that point in my life.
That changed to an addiction to fantasy and science fiction. Somewhere in there, romance got added to the mix. But it wasn't until yesterday when chatting with fellow Word-Whore, Jeffe, that something clicked into place in my head. She mentioned being a series junkie - If an author created a compelling, interesting character and maintained conflict and character arc without going way off into left field, Jeffe said she'd follow that series forever.
Hmm. What made me follow an author through book after book? What made me envy someone else's story? At the risk of sounding like a self-absorbed actor, the answer was: Characters I wanted to be (or play in the movie!) In most cases, it wasn't just that I wanted to be Menolly in Anne McCaffery's Dragonsong and Dragonsinger books. I wanted to live in that world when I was in junior high. Being killed by falling Thread couldn't possibly have been any worse than junior high was right?
Now, I could talk about the stories that stay with me long after I've read them. Any of Robin McKinley's heroines. Charles de Lint's stories and the world he's created. Linnea Sinclair's characters. Anya in Laura Bickle's Sparks and Embers series. And this last one is totally unfair and I know it because I got to read it before it went out - Jennifer/Gwynne from Rogue's Pawn - Jeffe Kennedy's upcoming release. (As in next week. You've preordered, right?)
Looking back, there's a common thread running through all of these characters and stories I love - the ones I keep going back to when I'm sick or need a mental boost. The characters may be tortured - physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. The characters may be broken in some fashion. None of the characters I adore have everything they need when they start a story or a series. BUT in every case, no matter how terrible the circumstances become, the characters retain (or recover or discover) the ability to think and to subsequently change.
There are stories that begin with great promise which ultimately betray my readerly expectations (but I'm clearly in a minority as my preferences seem to do no harm to the author's bottom line) start out with sharp characters, but then the character does stupid things. Repeatedly. With no justification (or motivation for my fellow writers). You know, the characters in the books I love sometimes make stupid choices - but there's a compelling reason within the story for the character to make that dumb choice. I get cranky when an author tells me a character is smart and then shows me the character is really, really dim. So, apparently, I won't follow a series (hi, Star Wars, fancy seeing you here) past the point of it pissing me off.
Ultimately? Who do I wish I'd written? The crew of the original Star Trek. :D