Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The Right Age/ Fictional Characters
Michael Haskins was kind enough to ask me to put together an article for his blog, suggesting as a subject how my series character Noah Milano was allowed to grow and all problems that come with it.
It is a common problem for series characters to be outdated with the passing of time. Spenser should be an old fart by now, having fought in Korea. His creator (Robert B Parker) chose to more or less ignore this fact. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch seems to age in real time, which had his creator retire his hero for a book or two until he got lucky and the retirement age for cops was extended. The Punisher (from Marvel Comics) used to be a Vietnam veteran that lost his family to the mob. In his first movie they made him a cop because he’d just had to be too old. Similarly, in the movie version of the A-team they updated the characters into soldiers of the war in Iraq instead of Vietnam.
With all of that in mind I made sure my main character, Noah Milano, was pretty young in his first story (http://www.thrillingdetective.com/fiction/00_06_2.html) and novel (http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Syndrome-Milano-Mystery-ebook/dp/B006N0MBI0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331714278&sr=1-2) so he could go years without becoming too old to kick some serious ass or bed all the hot girls. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I made him in his twenties in his first story. When I wrote that one I was the same age, and although I loved guys like Matt Scudder, Spenser and Amos Walker I also couldn’t quite relate to their divorces, or love for jazz. So, Noah liked metal, hadn’t had any meaningful relationships. Instead, he was a young guy who just left home and was trying to find himself through a new job. That I could relate to.
Now, more than 13 years later Noah has become a bit older as well, like I have. When he tells his friend (Minnie) in the novella I’m working on now that he isn’t much of an investigator (he specializes in security and body guarding) she tells him he solved way too many murders for that one still to fly. With those words I acknowledge the fact he’s slowly been changing and aging. Generally I don’t change the character too much though. He’s still single, he’s still trying to find redemption for the life he used to live as a fixer for his father (an LA mobster). That’s because every story can be the first one a reader gets in his hands and I don’t want to feel they’ve been left out. Lee Child really does a good job of that too, but of course Jack Reacher’s military past (and acknowledgment of his exact age) might harm his longevity.
In twenty years Noah will be about sixty years old. Will I have him age along with me until that time comes? I’m not sure. Hey, I’m not sure people will be reading about him to justify him being around that long. What I do know is that I’m happy I studied the masters enough to know the pitfalls of a series character and did my best to avoid them.
If you want to know how I did you can pick up the novelette for Scoundrel (http://www.amazon.com/Scoundrel-Noah-Milano-Novelette-ebook/dp/B009L5Q8Q0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371044451&sr=1-1&keywords=%27%27noah+milano%27%27) for free the next four days or check out some of his other stories ( http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Jochem%20Vandersteen&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank#/ref=sr_nr_n_0?rh=n%3A283155%2Cn%3A10468%2Ck%3A%27%27noah+milano%27%27&keywords=%27%27noah+milano%27%27&ie=UTF8&qid=1371044435&rnid=1000 ).