Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't call me Clark.

By Gayle Carline

Raymond Strait, a writer I met at the Southern California Writer's Conferences, once told me that all the stories we tell are a little bit autobiographical. He may be right; even when we are writing about other people, we pour so much of ourselves onto the paper, it's hard not to mix a little of our spirit in with the words.

Writing fiction always begs the question: is the author living vicariously through their protagonist?

In other words, is Peri Minneopa my alter-ego?

Yes and no. Physically, we are nothing alike, except we are Caucasian. I am a petite redhead and she is a tall blonde. We've both been married three times, but I'm still married to my third husband, quite happily so. We are both impatient and stubborn, and get cranky when people are stupid; the difference here is that Peri has less filters to stop her from saying what she's thinking.

For example, it's become very common when I go to the grocery store, for people to think that the crosswalk markings are some kind of force field that will repel any car trying to enter their space. As I creep into the parking lot, driving so slowly the needle doesn't even register my speed, a shopping cart will barrel out in front of me, pushed by a clueless person. They can be male or female, usually on a cell phone, and always with their back to me.

Here's the difference between Peri and me: I slam on the brakes and give them my best "you idiot" stare. Peri would slam on the brakes, lay on the horn and yell, "Get out of the way, you moron! If I hit you I'll have to clean up the mess!"

Peri argues with authority and fights with her boyfriend, Skip, too. I have to believe that I'm absolutely correct in order to challenge people. Peri only has to think she's possibly right in order to debate someone. She tries to be tactful, but she can only hold her tongue for so long.

So does this mean I'd like to be like Peri? Not really. I like her, would be friends with her, but I don't want to be her. I like it knowing when to shut up; I think that's a valuable skill.

Now it's your turn. If you are a writer, what qualities do you share with your main character? What qualities would you like to share?

If you're a reader, who are the characters you like to live through? Who would you trade places with, if you could?


  1. My main protagonist is a male homicide detective so we don't have much in common except that we're both workaholics who also try to put family first.

    As for my female characters, there's a little of me in all of them. They act out my many personalities.

  2. I like the idea of filterless characters. I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy writing. Things I would never say or do in one life, I can do in another. It's quite liberating.

    Then there are the characters who I'm quite sure some friends and family might think I modeled after them. That could either be a good thing or a very, very bad thing. I ain't sayin'.


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