How has my main character changed me? Not sure if my main character has as I haven’t written a novel with him, private eye Ivan Monk, for several years. Oh, I’ve written other books but just not books with him. Though I have cranked out several short stories with the character since his debut in Violent Spring, a mystery set post the riots here in L.A. in ’92.
I can definitely say when Monk first started out, much like Robert Parker with his PI Spenser and Mickey Spillane with Mike Hammer, our ages were roughly the same. But now, more than two decades later, he’s aged some, and me, well, best not dwell on my decrepitude. Suffice it to say I’ve long been contemplating the next Monk novel and know that certain changes in his life. Monk I should note is a better man than me, more forthright, more driven, braver, stronger. We do share a fascination with human nature, but he’s taught me in his outings to be more patient, more observing of a situation – not just react. Be strategic, yet be more in the moment.
As I began this post, I stopped because Steve Inskeep on NPR was interviewing bestselling fantasy wrtiter Neil Gaiman about his writing a new chapter in the saga of the Sandman, this comics character he reimagined for DC Comics some 25 years ago. At one point Inskeep asked Gaiman if he was the Sandman, also known as Morpheus, the lord of dreams. Not, Inskeepo added was he exactly his character, but did he direct people’s waking dreams.
Gaiman answered that he’d once done a Sandman story arc called The Prince of Stories. A title, he noted, he borrowed from a song title by the recently departed Lou Reed. Gaiman said that’s what a writer does, he or she if their worth their salt is directing the dreams of the reader…that if only for a little while your story does magical things to their heads. We are the Prince and Princess of Stories.
Our characters invade our dreams, and the writer, in turn, gets to step inside their head and in telling their story, some of us infuses them as well. The stuff of dreams indeed.