There was a point in my life when I read a lot of westerns. I read so many, I began to recognize authors I liked. And then I realized I had read a number of books by one particular author who had only one main character.
Each protagonist had his own name, and the details of his existence differed (slightly) from all the other protagonists, but as far as the character of all these characters, they were the same person; taciturn, gentle, logical, intelligent, even-handed, knowledgeable, frugal, probably secretly rich, and when push came to shove, the best tracker, the best horseman, the best and fastest shot in the west. Reading about such a ‘superman’ once or twice is kind of fun. But I can’t relate to a superman protagonist, can you? I don’t want them as a solid diet; I’d rather read about people who are more like me – complex and not perfect.
I try to keep this in mind when I’m working with my characters. Luckily, all my characters have different life histories, different things they want to accomplish, different problems to overcome. I even go so far as to figure out what their birth order was. I am well aware that a youngest child and only daughter will act differently than the eldest adopted daughter or the middle, unusual daughter who didn’t fit in.
I have a lot of characters living in my mind. They move in before I start writing about them, tell me their story as I write it down, and then stick around, occasionally whispering a tidbit they ’forgot’ to tell me before. You’d think my mind would be housing a huge fight, it’s so crowded, or else a big party. Well, okay, each has happened, upon occasion. But one thing I haven’t been able to avoid is that all these characters have a little bit of me in them, so most of the time, they quietly get along.