As a reader, have you ever come upon a fictional character who makes you a little crazy? Maybe he (she) is unpredictable and, at least early in the book, a bit insufferable. Hot-tempered, yet gentle with animals. A tendency toward arrogance, but likable all the same. A character you can't quite figure out but also can't put out of your mind. A mystery, a puzzle, a challenge.
Did you know that writers sometimes encounter this sort of frustration with a character in their own stories--a character they created? True for me, in any event. For example, in my Riverhaven Years series, Jeremiah Gant (the kind of character I refer to as the "anchor" of a story) throughout the entire trilogy kept me scratching my head on a regular basis. A riverboat captain turned carpenter. A loner turned lover. A seeker who settled. Each time I thought I'd nailed him, he'd show up with a new personality trait as if to say "Oh, yeah? Well, watch this." At times he displayed many of the dual character traits I listed above--and then some. Yet he was great fun to work with!
I think in every one of my stories there's a character--sometimes more than one--who tries to keep me guessing ... and usually succeeds, at least for a part of the story. Stranger still, I've come to realize that, even though these are the story people who tax my patience the most and continually challenge me to keep up with them, they're also the ones I most enjoy working with.
Jonathan Stuart of my Mountain Song Legacy kept me on my toes because at the begining of the series he was physically weak and ill, but he was a rock in terms of his faith and spiritual depth. He often presented me with a difficult personality to balance. I had to constantly be on guard to prevent him from taking on an aura of "saintliness" or "martyrdom."
Morgan Fitzgerald of my Emerald Ballad series at times could be a terror to work with. A vagabond, a poet, a statesman, and a rascal, there were times I just wanted to shake some sense into him, but it would have been a losing battle.
Probably the character who provided me with the greatest struggle, however (and at the same time possibly the most enjoyment), was Jack Kane, the Irish newspaper magnate of my Song of Erin duet. He's too complicated to define, but if you've read the books he dominated, you no doubt understand why I'd put him at the top of the list!
So when you're reading one of my novels, be assured that at some point in the story, both reader and writer are probably thinking, "Now why did he do that?" At the same time I try not to wonder what my editor (Nick Harrison) thinks about these ... "diverse" ... characters who periodically invade his life.