My favorite character in SWEET SALT AIR
Do I play favorites when it comes to my characters? That depends on how you define playing favorites.
For starters, I couldn’t spend a year writing a book about people I didn’t like. That said, if each of them is totally loveable, the book is boring. Also, I like to see growth in my characters, which means they have to start off being not-so-great in some part of their lives, right?
Sweet Salt Air presents a slew of characters needing to grow. There’s Nicole, who has led a charmed life but suddenly finds herself and her marriage facing a monumental challenge. There’s Charlotte, who has been running from life and is suddenly at a crossroads. There’s Leo, who grew up in a slightly dysfunctional situation and doesn’t know how to deal with actual functionality. There’s Angie, who, after her husband dies, has to figure out how to save her relationship with her daughter as she builds a relationship with a new man. And there’s Kaylin, looking toward finishing college and panicking about what comes next.
Which of these characters is my favorite? It has to be either Charlotte or Nicole, since they’re the major voices in Sweet Salt Air and the ones in whom I invested the majority of my creative energy. Honestly? I thought my feelings for them were pretty equal. Then an interesting thing happened. When my editor first read the finished book, she didn’t like Nicole. At the proposal stage, she identified most closely this character, and while she did like her as written at the end of the book, not so at first.
This is a problem. If the reader is turned off by a character at the start, she may not read on.
So I went back and modified Nicole’s personality, but not without a significant amount of soul-searching on my part. What I realized was that I personally identified with Charlotte, and in so doing, albeit subconsciously, made Nicole a lesser being.
Not so anymore. Nicole rose in the ranks during the revision process, and while she does still have issues right along with the other characters, readers have a better chance of being drawn to her now than they did in the first draft of the book.
Me? I still love Charlotte. I love her for being headstrong and independent. I love her for being a writer and a daring traveler. I also love her for finding something that summer on Quinnipeague that has given her reason reconsider her choices.
How about you? Once you’ve read Sweet Salt Air, will you tell me which character you like best?