Loving your characters, warts and all – Kate Michaels
By Kate Michaels
When I started writing my debut novel, The Morning After Memoirs, I knew the basics about my main character, Jess. I knew she was female, somewhere in her 20s and single. Sounds like a million other characters, right? Luckily she had ideas of her own.♥
From the moment I typed my first word she was in control. I might run home with a concept for a hilarious new situation, but once I threw her in, it felt like she rushed off to have fun and I sat back with a glass of wine taking notes. She did some stupid things, she developed some bad habits and she fell for some questionable men, but as I joined her on her journey I began to love her not in spite of those things, but because of them.
Jess constantly surprised me, made me laugh and made me roll my eyes. She can be sarcastic, frustrating and a royal pain in the ass, but aren’t we all? Who wants to read about a character that’s perfect? Where’s the fun in that? Her flaws create chaos, they get her in trouble, they generate humour and they help define the other characters by pushing their buttons or dragging them into the turmoil. They make us feel better about the fact our lives aren’t perfect and neither are we.
I won’t quote Jane Austen, but there’s something in universal truths. In archetypes. In aspects of characters that we can identify in ourselves. And usually these are flaws. It’s like sharing a secret with a friend. Sometime Jess makes us feel better about ourselves, because she’s more of a mess than us. Other times we realize we’re as much of a mess as she is, but at least we’re in it together.
And, when you’re writing a book, you are in it together, and you’re in it for a long time. While you’re holed up like a hermit for months on end, you’re probably spending more time with your characters than people in the real world. Luckily, I love Jess. I may have missed out on a few social gatherings, but in exchange, I have a character I’d be happy to go for a drink with at the drop of a hat.
Hopefully if I think she’s worth spending time with, so will readers. After all, she’s not just one-dimensional, she’s a real person with family issues, work pressures and rent to pay. She drinks a lot, she can be irresponsible, she’s sarcastic and she doesn’t always think before she speaks.
Obviously, just as people do, she needs to learn. She needs to change some of her more destructive behaviours. Bu this isn’t an after-school special. It’s not about Jess discovering the meaning of life and living happily ever after. I’ll say it again – perfection is boring! I live vicariously through her and it’s so much fun. And, because I love her, I never disapprove. Which is just as well, because Jess is going to do exactly what she wants. That’s what I like about her. And, really, who am I to judge?
Kate Michaels was born in Birmingham. After studying English, drama and film, she moved to London where she lives with her boyfriend and two cats. As a journalist and copywriter she writes about everything from bars and theatre to luxury property. Her sexy, laugh-out-loud debut novel, The Morning After Memoirs, was released on July 14, 2015. A smart, candid slant on the world of dating, it reimagines the world of Sex And The City with the biting realism of Lena Dunham’s Girls, telling the story of one woman’s search for love, meaning, and a low-calorie alternative to wine.