Monday, April 26, 2010

Trying on a character for size

Generally speaking, I'm a pretty nice person. A nice friend, teacher, daughter, wife...not to say I don't have my sparkling moments of snarkitude because we all do, but as a rule, I try to be nicer than not.

However, not all my characters are. Recently I was finishing a book whose protagonist was a queen bee type in her high school. She's the sort who is very competitive, even with her friends, and who expects that she will always get the prize. Always. And if she doesn't, she is NOT happy.

She also speaks her mind, whether it offends or not. Speak first, apologize later, I suppose is her personal mantra. And if you don't have to apologize, so much the better. I spent a couple of months in her head, writing her story (which is a lot of fun, actually, not nasty or anything), so her thoughts must have intruded upon mine this weekend.

I was in a situation that could have gone one of two ways: nice or nasty. And Leigh, of course, is always nice and tactful. But Ashleigh, my character, is not. The scene was not directly out of the book but it could have been since it was a setting with people that would have been familiar to Ashleigh. A friend asked me a question about a mutual acquaintance and rather than respond as genial Leigh, I said what honest Ashleigh would have! It was most certainly blunt and to the point, a little rude, actually, and it shocked the hell out of my friend who was clearly expecting Leigh to answer her, not this other person.

In the moment, I didn't care and I felt quite superior and queen bee-ish, but I regretted it immediately afterward and made a mental note to apologize when I see my friend next but it only occurred to me this morning that I was acting like Ashleigh! That was Ashleigh talking, not me. I've written lots of different characters but most of them are genuinely nice people. Meg Shanley, Veronica May, Callie Bellflower, Kari Manning...nice girls. This was the first time I had written an entire novel from the POV of a not-so-nice person. I wonder what would happen if I wrote a book whose main character was a killer. Now THAT could be an interesting situation.