A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on a discussion board about science fiction and fantasy stating that readers always prefer stories with protagonists who look like themselves.
I can think of only two protagonists from novels I’ve read who look like me — and the resemblance is mostly in that we’re tall: Harry is a little bit shorter than me (his author never gives an exact height, but by the way this character interacts with his environment, he’s about 6’3″ — any taller and he wouldn’t be able to fit into that Volkswagen), and Nik is a few inches taller (his author says 2.03 meters, which comes out to 6’8″). Aside from that, I’ve got dark hair, like both of these characters. My eyes are green, though, whereas Harry’s are brown, and Nik’s are grey. But I don’t go seeking stories about characters who look like me, not only because I know there aren’t that many, but because I don’t care. Yeah, I like Emma Bull’s novel Falcon, and I like The Dresden Files. I also like Lois McMaster Bujold’s stories about Miles Vorkosigan, and Miles looks nothing like me.
Anyway. Thinking about this made me realize that I do understand the ‘I want stories about people who are like me’ thing better than I realized. Again, I had to look at the people in my own fiction to reach that conclusion. Y’see, one of the characters from some of my stories has, at times, felt so alone that he will read anything, watch any movie or television series or whatever, that has characters in it who look even a little bit like him. (Only in regard to specific details of appearance, though.) He’s read some really bad fantasy fiction because of that. He’s also watched some really good science fiction movies and television shows because of it. (Yeah, I’m being vague on purpose. Ever notice how difficult it is to write about a character — even when it’s just blogging — without thinking a bit like that character?) In fact, his initially difficult friendship with a certain other character whom my blog followers may have heard of (*cough* Drake *cough*) is partly a result of the two of them sharing one or two physical traits. (No, damnit, they’re not related. Not even a little bit. That retrovirus is irrelevant to this discussion. Shut up.)
Can you tell that my clone-sibling has been working on another novel and that’s why my thinking-about-writing is all over the place? 🙂 (Sometimes, mindlinks are a bitch.) Yep. He decided to set The Awakening series aside for a little while (to allow readers to catch their breaths, perhaps), and the obvious next thing to work on was the contemporary sci-fi novel that he’s had partially complete for a few years now. It is, after all, slightly a sequel to The Fallen. (Spoiler alert: A couple of the rather minor characters in The Fallen are major supporting cast in this current WiP. Yes, even though it’s a contemporary story and The Fallen is set about nine hundred years up-line… Did I mention lately that we don’t do time-travel stories? *evil co-author grin*) Since the new project happens, from the viewpoint of those two characters, quite soon after their thread in The Fallen, that makes it a sequel, right?
The clone is also working on a final revision of the very first novel he ever wrote, which is the closest thing to mainstream either of us will ever write (although it isn’t mainstream by a long shot). That one is… loosely connected to the other current WiP, through the latter’s protagonist being friends with the male lead from the former. (Harrison is friends with Delling. Not that Delling is in the novel with Harrison — and as soon as I type that, I start to wonder if I’ve just jinxed us, if saying ‘It won’t happen’ will make sure it does happen and that something having to do with Delling — or, Murphy help us, his sister and her friends– becomes a minor story thread in the next book or whatever.) There’s a sequel to the almost-normal novel, too, again needing only a final revision before being ready for proofreading and then publication. (You’ve never seen either of the novels about Michelle and Delling, have you, Loyal Reader? Mwa-ha-ha-ha… eep.)
On the other hand, all this means that the publication of “that novel” (which is now more accurately “those novels” because the clone is right, I think, to want to divide the story into two volumes) is being pushed back even more. The first one must wait until after the third book of The Awakening series. Publish “that novel” before The Madness Engine (for this book, I can be reasonably certain that my clone will not change his mind on the title) and we’d lose dramatic irony that, while not necessary for the plot, does make the story a hell of a lot of fun for the reader. (‘Nother spoiler alert: A character who is very minor in The Fallen — doesn’t even get any dialogue — is one of the main characters in “that novel.” But first we need to see him in The Madness Engine, becoming the person he’ll be in “that novel.” Otherwise, the reader will be deprived of the joy of knowing all about this character while the other characters in “that novel” are highly suspicious of him because they don’t know. And besides, if everyone is looking at him, no one is looking at that other character, y’know? 🙂 )
Oh, yeah — the clone’s current works-in-progress mean that I’ve got to come up with new names for Frost’s older brothers, and do it soon. *sigh* Especially since he wants me to seriously think about publishing “Finder’s Fee” and any other short fiction I have completed. Don’t worry about possibly plot spoilers, he says — no one will remember those by the time the relevant novels are published, and besides, readers love Easter eggs — even if they hatch dragons instead of ducks. 🙂