The Vicarious Life of a Writer

I have decided that most of us writers have one thing in common – the desire to “be” like the characters we write … or perhaps we are only writing about ourselves. When you consider that we write in genres that we love, then we must be wishing we could actually live in another realm, or perhaps in old England, or in the WWII era, or maybe experience being a pioneer, or a gunslinger, or an Indian, or a doctor or nurse, a lawyer, an FBI agent, in the Secret Service, a King or Queen, a Duke or Duchess, an astronaut, a werewolf, a reporter, an actress, a vampire, a policeman, a fireman, maybe even someone who is single and wildly sexual, a model, a rock star, a football player. The list is endless.

Whatever the fantasy, we put it into our books, and I’m willing to bet that we choose our genre along the lines of the way we’d really like to live ourselves, or perhaps at least have the characteristics of our heroes or heroines. If you can’t picture yourself as the character you are writing, the story won’t seem as real. And “the characters are so real” is the comment I get more than any other from readers. I think it’s because I “am” the hero and I “am” the heroine.

I have discovered something about myself. Since spending the last two years working on my “outlaw” stories about Jake Harkner, I find myself “feeling” his persona in me … and here’s the weird part … I find I am carrying myself with a little more of an authoritative attitude. Everyone knows that 99% of the time I wear designer jeans and glittery western belts. I find myself wishing I could hang a gun on my belt. I carry a gun now … never used to. I took the training for it and can carry a concealed weapon. I realized recently that’s partly because I “feel” Jake inside of me and he’s got that “don’t mess with me” air about him. I have become more outspoken and more confident and have come to feel the same way.

Writers are a strange breed. I hope I don’t come across as arrogant or too sure of myself. If I do, it’s the “Jake” in me, not the “Rosanne” in me. And if my heroines are strong and brave and totally loyal to the hero (which mine are) it’s because I have been totally loyal to my husband for 50 years – and we’ve been through a lot together, so I like to think I am strong and even brave at times (long story).

If you take a closer look at the books all of us write, you will see one tiny truth in all of them – that the author aspires to be like her hero or heroine. You will pick up on the fact that the heroine’s personality is an awful lot like the personality of the author who created her. Or perhaps when we read someone’s book we are seeing the author’s fantasies come to life. Maybe the author is a bit timid and would rather hide behind a bookcase in a gunfight … but she’s writing about a powerhouse heroine who says it like it is and stands right up to her adversaries and shoots back. Either way, I think we can always get a tiny insight into the mind and heart and personality of the author when we read his or her books.

Truth be told, I would love to be just like Jake Harkner, because I envy the power and sureness men have – their strength – their position as head of the household – the fact that for the most part they are the decision-makers. I mentioned in an e-mail about how to write that I don’t like being told what to do or how to write … and you see that in Jake. No one tells him what to do. He does what he wants and you’d better get out of his way. I’m a “girly-girl,” but there are times when I wish I had the authority and power most men have. It’s not that women can’t be the same way, but there is always that thread (even in today’s “forward-thinking” world) of truth that a woman is a woman and a man is a man and never the twain shall be equal. Too bad, but it’s a fact that will never go away.

Isn’t it fun to “live another life” in our writing? Isn’t it fun to live vicariously through our firemen and cops and cowboys and lawyers and strong female heroines? Isn’t it fun to have affairs with these men who don’t really exist while being totally in love with our own husbands? Isn’t it fun to be a pioneer woman for a day, or an astronaut for a day, or even a vampire, a gunslinger, even a prostitute? Most non-writers don’t have a clue what goes on in our heads as we perform our normal daily routines and love our husbands and raise our children and grandchildren and cook supper or go to the office. While we go about our daily business, we can be having a wild time in our heads! And that’s how books are created … from the wonderful fantasies taking place on the inside while on the outside we seem to be “normal” people. I don’t think any writer is “normal.” Do you? If they were, we wouldn’t have all these wonderful books!


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