I realized the other day how much I love the protagonist – her name is Annie – of my current novel. It’s partly because she resembles, a bit, my eldest daughter. Partly it’s because she’s my creation. I’m the one who decides what she does, what she says, how she handles challenges I toss her way.
In part, though, I love her because of two things: she deserves love, and I’m capable of loving her.
To people who don’t read much fiction, or who don’t much enjoy it, that may seem odd. Annie’s not real. She doesn’t, in the classic sense, “deserve” anything.
But characters are extensions of ourselves and our imagination, whether we write them or simply dream them up. In that sense, they deserve, as we deserve, good treatment. I understand that some people gobble up books in the horror genre – for example, Stephen King. I don’t like it a bit, because terrible things happen to his characters. What must King feel about himself, that he’s willing to wrench his characters this way and that in horrific ways? How do his readers feel about themselves, to enjoy it?
Annie faces challenges, of course. Drama is created by conflict, and you can’t get through a novel without conflict, even in something as light and amusing as Bridget Jones’s Diary. Annie’s challenges are largely interior. She struggles with changing feelings, with people who emotionally push her. She discovers who her friends are and copes with unexpected shifts in cash-flow. She creates integrity.
In that, she’s biophilic – life-loving. She deserves to love life and to be treated with respect. She merits it because she’s my creation and I love her . . . and also because I, just as much as my characters, deserve love and respect.