Do you ever read a book and become irritated with one of the characters? I know I do. For example I might read about how a woman deals with her husband's affair, her mother's dementia, her child's tantrums, and think why on earth did she react like that? I might find her weak or vain, unimaginative or cruel, unfeeling or a whole host of other things, while another reader might identify with and approve of her actions and really enjoy the book.
None of this is very surprising because we all have different tastes and attitudes, but what I find fascinating is how a character in a book can generate real feelings of dislike and irritation, and I'm not talking about the anti-hero here. We are meant to be upset by him or her. No I'm talking about the main characters, the people who are pivotal to the story.
Some writers put a lot of thought into the development of their characters. With others it is more instinctive. Whichever method is used however, the writer is still responsible for their behaviour, and this is where life and fiction overlap.
Can a writer ever make the main characters do things they disapprove of? Will they let them behave in a way that is contrary to their own moral code? Are their heroes and heroines truly separate entities or are they who the writer is, or who she/he wants to be? And do I sometimes find a character irritating because their take on a problem isn't mine? It happens in real life, so why not in fiction? From time to time we all disagree with our friends and family, and we disagree even more vociferously with the behaviour of celebrities and politicians as reported in the Media, so when I dislike a character am I actually disliking the author's own views?
When I write is my heroine reacting as I would in such a situation, or is she behaving how I would like to behave but know I could never manage?
To better answer myself I've been revisiting the characters in some of my books and discovered that my heroines are hardworking, ambitious and feisty, and never ever prepared to accept second best. Are they me dressed in camouflage? I wish!! The truth is, they are my better self. They are the people I would like to be, and maybe that's fine. Better to recognise that than to never think about it at all.
In Mending Jodie's Heart: Book 1 of my When Paths Meet trilogy, Jodie is pint sized, braver than almost anyone I've ever met, and has a heart that puts everyone else first. She is the heroine I most admire. I'm proud of Jodie. She is who I would like to be.
Extract from Mending Jodie's Heart