What would I want the protagonist to do next?
Silly, but it has some logic. By putting yourself inside your own novel, it places you one step removed from reality.
It is akin to the farmer who always knows what to do with his neighbor’s livestock, or how glib you can be advising a breakfast companion to invest his retirement. It’s not your money or cattle, so you are not emotionally involved, so it is easier to be completely objective. Kind of like buying up hotels in a game of Monopoly. They are only pieces of plastic and paper notes.
Being a character in a novel holds other benefits. It makes you choose the more interesting option, for example, rather than following the same routines. Who wants to read about a guy who eats store brand pasta?
Although I know few people who would acquire the extreme lifestyles successful authors attribute to their lead characters.
I’m reading a series right now where the protagonist is of course young, handsome, and rich. He attended Harvard and Yale, worked as a beat cop, got his law degree, inherited wealth from his artist grandmother and a mansion from his woodworker father, married a wealthy widow who died and left him even more money, along with hotels, more homes, and even a brilliant son.
Every novel a suitably endowed female companion waltzes into his life, with the requisite long legs, red hair, green eyes, advanced degrees, CIA training, and gift of wit. Every courtship is brief, often the romance is consummated after one dinner date.
I understand these are artistic devices to attract readers. Who would want to read about our own lives? With our dumpy bodies, mid-management careers, and predictable conversations, we wouldn’t sustain any narrative past the first chapter.
The most striking aspect in this “novel world” is how quickly decisions are made over life-changing acts that would paralyze most of us in the real world.
One character purchased a warehouse with one phone call, talking the seller down from $6 million to $5 million in one cursory phone call.
Two Broadway dancers agreed to push their tables together after a 2-minute chance meeting.
The lead character signs movie deals, sells ranches, buys jet airplanes (and the hangar), over lunch. If he needs a new alarm system or a new identity, he picks up the phone and a service has it done by the end of the work day. He has speed dial to the head of the CIA and the President of the U.S.
Money is never an issue. There is always an off-shore account, linked through an untraceable network of computers.
Nor is expertise scarce. Waiting to answer his call is a cadre of lawyers, financial leaders, a security team, and a Senator or two.
I would describe this as porno for milquetoasts. We who are paralyzed deciding which brand of toothpaste to purchase, quiver before the gallant who buys a warehouse, a jet, and a Senator with three phone calls before noon.
His clothes are tailored. His food is catered. His bourbon is nine years old.
Even his name is manly–Stone.
So, those of us starring in our own stories–let’s try to raise our games a bit, what do you say?
Here is a toast of nine-year-old bourbon.