I don't know why, but I've always liked to start my blog posts with context. I like talking about where I am when I'm writing, what time it is, and why I was thinking about the particular topic. I always like reading this stuff in other blog posts and like to think there are other people out there like me.
God help us all.
So it's almost midnight, my wife is watching a recorded episode of ALL MY CHILDREN and the house smells like the dry rub I used earlier to grill some ribs. I've just returned from seeing THE TOWN. Good movie. Ben Affleck is an underrated actor and I hope his new writing and directing cred makes people realize he's got acting chops too. But this isn't about that movie. Not directly at least. It's about characters.
As I'm prone to overthinking things about what I do and why I do it, I've been thinking about the characters I like to read about and those I like to write about. Anyone familiar with my work in the short form probably has a good idea who I like to write about (and it's not just strippers and writers), but I noticed one real overarching theme: I like writing about people on the fringes.
This whole conversation in my brain was actually started several weeks ago with a post Dave wrote about when he returned from his honeymoon. He mentioned being on a cruise that made him feel like James Bond might show up. That got me thinking that I would never write about that cruise, or that type of character. I don't care much for perfect heroes or perfect characters. If I was going to write about a cruise, I would most likely write about the staff in the casino on board, or write about the restaurant workers or some guys who won the trip in a bar pool or something. Or even more likely I would write about a discount cruise. I'd write about one of those rundown river boat cruises full of old people and loud people who can't afford real cruises. This is the kind of cruise that I've been on. And that's when I realized I've always been a character on the fringe, which is probably why I like writing about them.
I grew up blue collar, in a nice area, but the sketchy neighborhood in the nice area. We always had nice things, but we had to work harder for them and usually got them later than everyone else. All of that turned out well for my parents when the economy collapsed and they weren't up to their eyeballs like everyone else, and it also formed my writing voice. I'm drawn to autobiographical stories and like dumping everything from my life into my fiction, so it makes sense that the sorts of things I experience (like discount cruises and sketchy spring break vacations and time share horror stories and other sorts of adventures that come with trying to scam the system) would form the heart of my repertoire.
Thus, crime fiction is a perfect venue for me. It's all about people on the fringes. Granted, most of the time they are the victims, but I like them as the heroes. I like fallen characters, or characters working for their dreams the hard way. I REALLY like characters who had their dreams and either lost them or gave them up. I realized I have a lot of characters who are former something or other or aspiring something or other. This of course comes from my experiences living the dream as a newspaper reporter and an editor in New York City, but giving them up for the exciting world of medical clerical work. Perhaps it's a subconscious message to myself that the one major dream I have now in my life is my writing career and that I need to be careful not to expect too much from it. But my fiction, as with the rest of my outlook on life, still has a healthy optimistic streak (except for a brief burst of stories with suicidal characters and characters looking to rid themselves of children). I find all of this odd considering I have such a romanticized view of everything else, but there you have it.
So let's use this as a springboard for discussion. I suspect the bulk of the readers here are fans of the fringe, but are there any out there who dig the giant heaping spoonfuls of truth, justice, and the American way? Anyone prefer Superman to Batman or Richie to The Fonz?
Definitely Batman and The Fonz. Superman and Richie are fun; the other two are interesting.
If you set one of your fringe stories somewhere in England--Surrey, maybe--the Oklahoma reference would write itself.
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