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When I think back over the years at what kept me from actually doing what I wanted to do in my life – write, I realize that a big factor was not wanting to always be the main character in my stories – or, any character for that matter. It just seemed so trite and quite frankly, really scary. And, let’s face it; everyone who reads your work is going to immediately assume it’s you you’re writing about. Watch any interview with any author and almost always the first question from the interviewer is; “So, are you so and so?” After much self-deprecating bullshit, the author always admits there is a little piece of him/her in the main character.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m glad that’s the way it works because I want to know something about the author I’m reading. But, for me I always thought – hell to the fucking no. Presumably, my mom is going to read my stuff and I just can’t bear the idea that she would have insight into the darkest crinkly corners of my poisoned mind.
I lived a pretty cool life and I’ve had successful authors advise me to build my stories around the experiences I’ve had. I was a private detective in Connecticut for years; something I hid from friends and family (I took “private” very seriously) under the guise of just being a guy who owned a limousine company and was involved in local and state politics both in the front line and behind the scenes. So, I was out there in the public pretty prominently, but the real story was I working cases for some pretty serious folk in some amazing and dangerous situations. I had an incredible team of people behind me all of whom had their own very distinctive characteristics and skill sets. They blew me away everyday.
So, while I agree with my author friends that my files could generate a plethora of best sellers, I owe it to my old clients and the people I met along the way to keep their secrets secret. I don’t even want to fictionalize the cases because they are so specific, the people involved would instantly recognize the story as their own.
Thus, I made a deal with myself, which really is like making a deal with the devil. I decided to keep me out as much as possible but to employ a certain alchemy in putting together the personalities and characteristics of my clients, employees and subjects from my case files in creating my own characters. One of my favorites is Charlie from Station Vermont, which appears in my book 5 Tales. Check out the excerpt here on the blog. The guy who inspired that dude is a real piece of work.
Then I realized omitting my experiences, personality and character traits from my characters is nigh to impossible and after many years torturing myself by de-constructing and re-constructing my characters to lose anything I saw as me-ness, I realized its ok to put yourself in the story either in a big way or maybe just a wisp. I prefer the wisp, but I would encourage anyone getting into this world to let themselves go. Everyone has a story and what may seem banal to one person could be someone else’s Great Expectations. Be yourself, people want to read about it.