As I sit here today, gazing wistfully at my own navel (and my computer screen,) my Willow and Tara action figures stare down at me from the shelf, dusty from years of not moving, their tiny plastic mortar and pestle poised, ready for some witchy spell-weaving. Miss Kitty Fantastico, forever seated at their feet eyes me watchfully, ever in anticipation of the Slayer’s younger sister shooting her furry flesh with a crossbow. Next to them stands Xena, an early incarnation of the warrior woman, fresh from her conversion to goodness, preparing herself for the long journey of redemption and amends, culminating in her own death at the hands of an evil Japanese spirit. I could wear her gold-colored chakram on my finger like an engagement ring and be forever betrothed to Gabrielle’s gal pal. If I wasn’t sitting here like a lump trying to figure out whose story I’m writing.
Mine, yes. I know that. I mean in the fictional sense. I’ve been working on a new novel and even though there are some great characters developing, I still don’t know which of them the story is actually about. The most likely candidate is the one who’s also the biggest a$$hat. Does anyone want to read a story where the main character is a total jerk? That is the question of the day.
I guess we can all relate to being a jerk at one point or another. We can even relate to recognizing that we have been jerks in the past and feel kind of bad about it. But does that make for good fiction? I guess it worked for Xena. I am still working through some kinks. I read somewhere recently that the first draft of a project like this is just telling yourself the story. I am floating in the mist of telling myself a story right now, and along with two plastic witches, tiny tuxedo cat, and a three-inch tall warrior princess, am silently judging my efforts about whether or not the story is even worth telling.
It occurs to me that Willow is the only survivor from the above mentioned gang of great characters. Tara, Miss Kitty, and Xena all meet untimely (and rather bloody) ends. What’s up with tragically killing off good characters anyway? I mean, as a fan, I’m grateful that Willow survived, and persevered beyond her addictive decent into dark magic to come out the other side as a powerful force for good, but the writers could have kept Tara alive as well. Also, the kitten was super cute. And Xena—I don’t know how they’re going to reboot that into a feature film without some serious alternate universe sleight-of-hand. She ended the series with her head separated from her body.
So, as I ponder the story I’m telling, I am considering what makes an appealing character and how a story hooks a reader’s interest and keeps it. Does anyone want to read a genetic modification sci-fi war story featuring an a-hole soldier intentionally named after a species of shark? He’s not even the one who’s been genetically modified. Maybe the transgender bounty hunter is more interesting? He has a telepathic cat and an unrequited crush on a political prisoner. These are the things I ask myself at night instead of sleeping.
In summation, I’m brainstorming. Don’t steal my ideas.