It’s an interesting experience, writing in first person. You see, when you write in first person, the reader is in your main character’s head. And, well…
SOMETIMES READERS DON’T LOVE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER.
Sometimes your main character does things less than heroic. Sometimes your main men might not say something when they should. Sometimes your main women might not be the best moms, or wives, or daughters.
Thing is–those are the characters that stick with me, so that’s why I write them.
I don’t like when people describe characters as “flawed,” but that is code for flaws like: they don’t brush their teeth 3x a day, or they lie to cover something up, or they forgot to get their girlfriend a Valentine’s Day card. When I say “flawed,” I’m talking about people who resemble the real people I know, including myself. I figure we all have one besetting sin, our Achilles’ heel, if you will. And we like to hide it. And we like to clean up the outsides while sometimes our insides are rotting away (Click to Tweet!).
Those are the people I write about. And I realize it might make people uncomfortable, being in their heads and seeing them do the wrong thing or act the wrong way. I figure God feels that way quite often with us…but I digress.
I’m kind of saying this as a heads-up, because I know for sure that Freydis is not going to fit into any box of how to act and obey the rules. And I’m bracing up now for people to hate her. But you know what? She was a real woman, and she really did much of what I’m going to write about. And I have to try to understand why she did much of that. Just like I had to try to understand why Gudrid sailed with all three husbands, and yes, the last time, probably while she was pregnant. I had to try to see what it would be like living in a camp full of men as a woman who was known for her beauty. Of course, with my Viking historicals, I’m working with main characters who were indeed real, living, breathing people. And I know they did things I might not understand, but as an author, I need to understand them enough to bring them to life.
I love Thomas Hardy books. Many times you’re shouting mentally at his characters not to make those fatal choices, but they do. Same with so many classics, from Vanity Fair (aptly subtitled: A Novel without a Hero) to Anna Karenina.
So if I garner some one-stars because people don’t get my main characters, I’m okay with that. I’m just hoping you won’t ever forget them. You may never struggle with the same issues they do, but you might run into someone who does. And I’m hoping you’ll say, “Hey–that reminds me of __________.”
My characters might not always even get their acts together by the end of book one. I know some real, live people who don’t get their acts together till the end of their lives, and it’s a tragedy. But it does happen, and I’m not scared to write about it.
So that’s why I write some seriously flawed main characters. That’s why I enjoy reading about seriously flawed main characters–because I usually see in them something I’ve seen in someone else, or in myself. I want my characters to tell their stories with their choices, even if they’re not always superior role models. I never claimed they would be. But the light of God will always shine into their lives, even if they reject it. Because I truly believe it always does for real people, too.
Sometimes we learn about the way others think by reading about them. For instance: Scarlett O’hara. Love her or hate her, but by the end of Gone with the Wind, we knew how that gal was thinking and dealing with life. And there are women like her out there today.
Just wanted to open up and share this with you readers now, at the beginning of this journey. I know some of you were able to relate to Gudrid and some were not. I know some liked Freydis and some did not. I imagine some will “get” Tess Spencer and some will not.
I guess I’m saying all this to say: a) I love writing first person, getting into flawed characters’ heads, and b) I don’t think I’ll stop writing that way anytime soon. I’m willing to take the chance that not everyone will love my main characters, so that those who DO relate to them will find them…well, utterly relatable, and those who don’t will at least not soon forget them (a la Scarlett O’hara or Becky Sharp). So please buckle up!