There are a few ways you can approach what you write. You can make up a character and invent a bunch of different, varied and brilliant stories. That’s wonderful. Or, you can take the time and make the effort to find your literary soul mate.
Agatha Christie has Miss Marple and Poirot. Jeff Lindsay has Dexter. Lee Child has Jack Reacher. Author Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes. Shakespeare has Hamlet (and a few others…).
The difference between these characters and others we forget the moment we read the last words on the page? These ones are genuine. They have depth and a kind of reality and makes us believe the story they’re living no matter how insane.
I’m willing to bet that all the best books you’ve read have characters that you remember. You will most likely not recall all the details of their story, but you’ll remember them. You’ll know their height, their moods, their look, their feel, their smell, their attitude, how they walk, what they eat, what they like, what they don’t like, what they will and won’t do, how far they can be pushed, what their breaking point is and what is likely to happen when they reach it.
As a READER you know these things even if they aren’t explicitly detailed in the books.
The great thing with these literary soul mates is that authors can put them into just about any situation they choose because they’re so well known and understood that their responses, no matter what the crisis, will be true. They never let us down. It’s like the author has stepped out of the way and the character has taken on their own life.
Here’s my thinking on the subject of finding your literary soul mate
There’s a literary soul mate (or more than one if you keep looking) for every dedicated writer. A character that will come back again and again and again. A character that no other author but you can write. It’s a character that feels as much a part of the you as your own liver.
You’ll know when you’ve found your literary soul mate because it feels like coming home. The character makes sense to you. You see them as an entire person, not a list of attributes and pivotal moments. That character will wake you in the morning, shadow you through the day and fall asleep with you at night. Any other character will feel like a cardboard cutout compared. You will love this character and want to spend time with them. You’ll want to put them through hell just to see how they save themselves. For them, you’ll want to be the best writer you can be. They’ll demand it. When your writing stumbles, they’ll tell you you’re being an idiot and get you back on track. They will take the story over.
The best series are led by literary soul mates. The reader knows that, so they come back for more when the next book comes out.
So how you find your literary soul mate? How do you find the character you want to spend hours and days, months and years of your life with?
STEP ONE: Get out the way.
STEP TWO: Don’t try too hard.
STEP THREE: Shut up.
They’ll speak to you when you’re ready.