As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t write “The Reluctant” with an audience in mind. I wrote the book to experience what it was like to write a book. There are many authors I admire and that have provided me with hour upon hour of enjoyment. I just wanted to see what they went through.
I don’t think I would have done it any other way, but there are consequences to not giving the audience exactly what they want. Tom Crayder’s character is one of those consequences.
Tom is a typical guy. As a reviewer recently said, he thinks about women and food…a lot. That’s true, he does. So does every man that I know. Tom also wants to be more than he is, wants to provide for his family, wants some excitement in his life, and has his own view of right and wrong. So does every man that I know.
Like a bachelor’s bathroom, a glimpse inside the head of a “typical” man is not for the faint of heart! It’s messy in there. It’s conflicted.
Immediately after I hit the “publish” button on the book, I thought, “What will women think of Tom?” I was confident that many men would read Tom and identify with him but I am waiting for the hate mail from some of those men: “Splitter! You’re giving away all of our secrets!”
To those men I would say that women figured us out a long time ago. I am gratified, and relieved, that women are receiving Tom Crayder well. They recognize him. They appreciate the glimpse inside his head. They understand that he really is a good guy, sometimes despite his shortcomings.
Had I considered my audience, I may have chosen to make Tom more heroic, more evolved even. In other words, he may not have been as real. He may not have had room to grow as a person (fictitious though he may be).
We suspend a certain amount of belief when we read fiction. Fiction requires some abnormal situations. What we won’t suspend, as readers, is our knowledge of human behavior. We want our favorite characters to be larger than life, but we also want to be able to know them and, more importantly, believe them.
One of my favorite actors was John Wayne. Yeah, he was tough, he could kick some ass, but all of his better characters had flaws. All of the good ones had a weakness or a vulnerability. They drank too much, they had a physical ailment, or they felt a compulsion to do the right thing even if it was to their own detriment. Those flaws made the character real.
Wayne was often called the prototypical American male. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that when he had a good script, his larger than life characters were somehow believable to the audience. Gender didn't matter, he was appreciated by nearly everyone.
That’s what I wanted for Tom Crayder even though he is no John Wayne. He is supposed to be the common man…maybe just a little more. He might do the unexpected, maybe even the heroic a time or two, but his flaws are what allow the reader (hopefully) to believe he is real.