I am wondering how many writers besides me live with a particular hero in their heads but never tell his story. I have lived with and loved Ben Colter for a good 20 years now. He’s the hero from the contemporary I have never written because I don’t feel confident writing contemporaries. More than that, though, it’s because I can’t pin the man down as far as who he really is. He is this “being” that haunts me almost constantly, asking me to tell his story, yet I don’t know what that story is, and this character is so special that I don’t want to mess things up by getting his story wrong.
I have decided that another reason I’ve never written Ben’s story is because doing so would mean I would have to let go of him, and I don’t want to. I selfishly and jealously want him only with me, in my head and in my heart. I don’t want to share him, or to let him slip away by having his story printed so that it’s no longer just mine.
My readers already know I’m a bit nuts. What I just wrote here proves it, I guess. But I have a feeling there are other writers out there who totally understand what I’m saying and feeling.
I want Ben to be the supreme alpha hero, but in a contemporary. Because of that I keep changing him – oh, not his basic character, which is a Native American, but he keeps shifting from Apache to Lakota – back and forth – and if I added all the elements to this man that I’d like to add, he’d be too good to be true. I can’t even say here what all those elements are because I can just hear those who read this laughing at my crazy conception of this man. He’s good, yet he’s a bad-ass who always stands up for what he believes. In one scenario, that particular quality costs the life of his young wife and nearly his own in an assassination attempt.
Ben is extremely talented, intelligent and accomplished. He’s a Yale graduate and an attorney who deals in D.C. over causes for his people – but are those people the Apache on a reservation in Arizona that has a ski resort – or is he Lakota, fighting (for his people) to hang on to what is left of the Black Hills? In both cases, powerful and wealthy factions outside the reservations are trying to get their hands on Indian land, and so Ben risks his life daily in being staunchly against letting go of any of it. Those he fights against are perfectly capable of hiring someone to get Ben out of the way. Therein lies the danger – and because Ben doesn’t let that stop him, therein lies his bravery.
Then there is the problem of what to do with the heroine. Who the heck is she? I only know that she’s a beautiful blonde from New England of all places, but how does she end up getting involved in the life of a modern-day “warrior” Native American? And why would he give her the time of day? I’ve gone through 3-4 scenarios of how and why these two meet, and because I like ALL the ideas, I will probably never decide because I like to live these stories in my head.
I really, really want to write Ben’s story, but I have a feeling I never will. I guess the man is too perfect. I’m not sure. I actually did start writing the story a few years ago. I called it A FIRE IN THE WIND, because Ben is a fiery character and in that story he’s Apache and it takes place in Arizona. Then I thought about changing it to LAKOTA PASSIONS and made him a Sioux man defending the Black Hills. Then I thought maybe THE POWER OF LOVE, after the song, because it would be a powerful love story.
The hardest part to get across to readers without them rolling their eyes ??? … Ben is a singer. No, not the nightclub type – that wouldn’t fit him. He has a powerful tenor voice and works with the young people (whether as Apache or Lakota) on his reservation – teaches music and a pride in their heritage – teaches them the ancient Native American songs and dances – and he raises money to support the expense of fighting through the court system (as an attorney for his people, remember) by putting on demonstrations of Native American dancing – and by singing, with the young people as his back-up choir – traveling all over the country to put on these concerts, spending his own money for a bus and other things that are needed. These concerts are Ben’s way of instilling pride in the hearts of reservation youth, raising money, and bringing awareness to the outside world about the ongoing battle yet today that Native Americans face in keeping what land is left to them.
Ben’s story could go in a thousand directions, and I will probably never tell it – at least not on paper. The purpose of this blog is to let readers know that most writers have special characters who live in their imaginations but can’t quite escape through the fingers onto a keyboard and to a screen and eventually onto the printed page or as an e-book. I feel kind of sorry for Ben, because he really wants to march out of my head and into the hearts of my readers. I keep him prisoner in my mind because I am terrified I might offend either the Lakota or the Apache if I tell his story wrong. I wish I knew a way out of this dilemma, because Ben is … wow … he’s just magnificent. He is everything a writer dreams of in a hero and probably too much so. And so I guess I’ll have to keep him with me always … and never let him go.
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Publishers Weekly Review
"This Western historical is chock-full of danger, with families set on a vendetta, the threat of Emma’s stepfather, and the daily demands of Mitch’s job, but Emma is no wilting lily, proving she is a match for Mitch in every way."
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