I am my characters
People often comment on how “real” my characters are and they ask me how I create such believable heroines. I suppose it is because most of my work is grounded in reality. My characters are not me but some of their struggles, particularly with men, come from my own struggles—even if I don’t realize it until after the book is released.
Take for instance, Stephanie Cohen in Just Friends with Benefits. Stephanie is an attractive, intelligent, funny and interesting woman but she often refuses to acknowledge what is right in front of her. Rather than take things at face value, she will analyze things Ad Nauseum. And often, she will draw the conclusion that favors her own desires. In a word, she is a bit delusional. I cannot begin to tell you how much time I have wasted wondering what a guy was really thinking and making excuses for him in order to save my own ego. As a result, I was blind to some much better prospects who moved on by the time I realized how stupid I was. Lesson learned: You snooze; you lose.
In A State of Jane, Jane Frank is under the inaccurate assumption that she is in control. If she acts a certain way, looks a certain way, plays by the right “rules”, everything will fall into place. What she fails to consider is that regardless of how pretty, smart, intelligent (insert other positive attributes here), one is, a man who is only looking to get laid will not want to settle down with her. If he’s a jerk, he will still be a jerk no matter how nice she is. If he’s just not feeling the chemistry, she can’t force it on him simply by being “better.” And a man can change his mind, flake, lose interest, be a douchebag for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with her. It doesn’t actually matter what the reason is; it is what it is. This novel was inspired by a period of time in my life when one after another, a guys I was dating who was seemingly really into me *poof* disappeared without a word. I had no idea why and it was so frustrating because I felt like I needed an answer and that I deserved an answer. Lesson learned: Relationships are a two-way street and it’s not always my fault when things don’t work out. No sense beating myself up. Just move on!
Kim Long in my newest release, Blogger Girl, is definitely more grounded in reality than Stephanie and Jane. She’s not deluded and she’s not a Type A Control Freak. She does, however, have an insecurity complex and often wonders “why would someone like him be interested in someone like her.” I, too, struggle with feeling insecure and not good enough. Not all of the time and only in limited company, but there have been men in my life who, intentionally or not, made me feel “less than.” Lesson learned: most of the time, insecurity comes from within and needs to be dealt with. I try to be conscious as to how I feel in a man’s presence. Any man who deserves my time should build me up, not cut me down and if I find myself second guessing my appeal on any level, he’s probably not the one for me.
In my WIP, my main character Maggie is 39 years old and struggling with her impending 40th birthday. Although she’s been in many relationships and even lived with her last boyfriend, she has never been married. She looks young and she feels young but she is terrified that her window of opportunity to settle down has passed by right along with her twenty and thirty-something years. Successful, bright and pretty, she has no problems getting attention from men but fears that the pool of available men who are actually interested in a relationship with her is shallow. This is probably the most difficult novel I have written so far because it is very close to home. I struggle with this daily. I have also had my share of relationships but none of them resulted in marriage. I admit that much of this was my fault. I wasted my twenties and early thirties dismissing some great guys for one reason or another not realizing it was fear that was holding me back. I’ve since moved on from that but now I’m wondering if the mistakes of my past have irrevocably, excuse my language, fucked up my future. I wonder if I am being punished somehow for being a late bloomer and, well, stupid. I know that’s unlikely but to be honest, I sort of wish I was being punished. If I could repent for my “sins”, maybe I could be forgiven and things would magically work out for me. I’m not desperate and while I want to settle down, I have no desire to settle. I figure I’ve waited this long, better to hold out for someone who makes me truly happy than settle at this point. I would so much rather be alone, spending time with my friends and family, than in the company of someone who I feel lukewarm about. But I’m lonely. I yearn to share my life with someone. There. I said it. It wasn’t that hard.Lesson learned: Not sure yet. Hopefully, by the time I finish this novel, the answer will be clear. And maybe, just maybe, I will meet someone wonderful, available and, most importantly, desirous of having a relationship with me. If you know anyone, please let me know 🙂
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You WILL learn a lot from every character you write. You’ve learned a lot already. Here’s another lesson to learn: don’t be so hard on yourself. And another: it’s not always about what you have to offer someone else. I know, coming from someone who’s been married her whole adult life (literally), this is all so rich. I can’t possibly relate, right? But these particular lessons I’ve mentioned aren’t exclusive to dating and romantic relationships. They apply to all relationships, all facets of life. It sounds so trite, but be okay with yourself, and others will follow suit. And those who don’t? Who needs ’em? Big hugs, sweetie!
Thank you, Brea! Hugs back at you 🙂
I am write there with you on your WIP. We should start a club.And reading what it’s about, I cannot wait to read the book. I think it is great that you are learning something about yourself through each of your characters. I think the most important thing I learned to date is what you said about Jane- just move on. I also have to say I take some comfort in the “he’s just not that into you” message. It seems less of an ego blow to me.
Thanks, Ashley! I’m sorry you’re in the same boat as me. I’m not sure if it consoles me or scares me more when I have such amazing friends dealing with the very same things. I’m excited about my 4th book. I’m working on keeping the balance between funny and light (like my other ones) and deep because there are some bigger issues. It’s fun though 🙂
I’m mortified that I used “write” above when I should have used “right”. I think I just had writing on the brain from reading your post. There are bigger issues with all of this, aren’t there? We should talk off-line.
Great post. What else is there to write from except experience? I love your books and still need to read “Just Friends…” I am already looking forward to your next one!
Thank you, Melissa! I know that I need to write from some sort of familiarity and I have such a respect for authors who create completely foreign worlds. I’m glad you are excited to read my next book and, of course, thrilled that you love the ones you’ve already read 🙂
Mistakes *do not* mess up your future, they bring you closer to success 🙂 We’re all human and if that were true, no one would meet someone special or accomplish much if we were all “punished” for our mistakes! I heard some great advice a long time ago…it goes something like, ‘when the lesson is learned, the teacher disappears’–so the pain stops when the lesson is learned or when the lesson is learned success is around the corner…however you want to look at it 🙂
This is true, but every decision we make has a consequence and I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason or that all mistakes are great lessons – sometimes you make a grave mistake and it truly %#Ws you up…. I’m self-aware enough to own up to my mistakes and admit that my life could have taken on a different (and possibly better) direction if I had chosen differently. That being said, if you are going to make a mistake, you should at least try to learn from it.
This is a beautifully written post, Meredith. Such a gift to your readers (like me) who were so drawn to your characters because they mirror our own struggles. I love how you draw upon lessons learned and that book 4 is still developing. You are so right that there’s a lot of discovery in writing. What an amazing gift the craft of writing is in your life. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. And I hope your every wish comes true, Meredith. I really do, because you’re a wonderful person who deserves only the very best life has to offer.
Thank you so much, Julie, for the very kind words. This was a difficult post to write actually because it’s difficult to admit my weaknesses publicly, but I thought it was interesting that my books parallel aspects of my life a bit.
What a cool concept! I totally want to go look at my books and see what lessons I’ve learned. I CANNOT wait to read your WIP, Meredith. Absolutely everything you say about it resonates with me and I know it’s going to blow me away.
I am so excited that you’re looking forward to my next book – Since we’ve spoken a bit on this topic, I do think it will resonate with you – in a good way, I hope 🙂
This might sound cheesy, but I really believe it: You’re always exactly where you need to be and there are no mistakes in life. Even the “whoppers” (and I’ve had more than my share of what-was-I-THINKING moments) are just fine, because we learn something from them, plus they move us to a place we need to be. Chin up, Meredith–you’re doing just fine! 🙂
Thank you, Jayne. That’s what I try to tell myself. Just not so sure I truly believe it!
It’s tough sometimes, that’s for sure!
You’re amazing! This post is so heartfelt and real. I love it. Our characters do have things to teach us – because they are so often so much a part of us. I’m right there with you on my latest WiP – my mc is so much me, that I have to step away sometimes to get my bearings and make sure I’m staying true to the written character. But I’ve learned so much from her.
Wherever your road leads you is where you’re meant to be…xoxo
Thank you so much Heather. I’m glad you appreciated the post. Also glad that I am not alone in putting so much of myself in my characters even while creating their own unique personalities and life journeys.