I’ve been thinking a lot about Evan and that entire series.
Even though the fact that I’ve been writing for such a long time slips from my mind quite often, I seem to always remember that Michael Connor is my first character. When I was eight, our teacher forced us to write stories using our spelling words for the week. As a “cute” Christmas gift that year, my mother put a lot of my stories together in a little booklet and passed them out to relatives and such. I remember I was always being “praised” for these stories and couple poems, but what still sticks out to me is coming up Michael Connor. Out of all the “characters” I created for these stories, he was the only one I used in more than one story and he was the only who I could actually visualize. At eight years old, I knew what he looked like, what he sounded like, and a bit about why he behaved the way he did. I continued to write stories involving him into the fourth and fifth grades and have been writing him as a more or less subsidiary character since then.
My plan with Evan was to make Michael my protagonist in the last book, but as time passes and my writing improves, I’m thinking that I’ll never be able to really write the Evan series and my first character will never see the light of day. The idea of it really, really disappoints me because I feel like I’ve grown up with him and I’ve evolved his character over time. At one point, he was just a little boy who acted out in class, but by the end, he’s a full girl-hitting, druggie. It’s like I can see how things started for him and then I allowed him to progress. I just love this character because I’ve “known” him for so long.
What really feels devastating is that I don’t think I’ll be able to write Evan, not because I haven’t the time, the will or the energy, but because of all the other projects that will come before it. There’s no way Evan will ever be as good as Damen or even Flight for that matter. It’s just not good enough. And, to almost add insult to injury, if I ever got to writing Evan, I’d be too wrapped up in what other people would possible be thinking about it to do any real editing to make the book as good if not better than its predecessors.
I know there’s something to be said in the fact that I have the same chemistry surrounding similar-looking characters in a lot of my projects. For example, in Damen, Damen and Brit are two characters who have that “Will they/Won’t they” thing going on that’s amplified by the fact that he’s white and she’s black. Again in Luka, granted there’s so much going on that I think people would be hard-pressed to fully follow these thoughts, but Luka and Elia have that same “Will they/Won’t they” thing and, again, he’s white and she’s black.
I suppose I could get away with it in two different books because Luka and Damen are so incredibly different people as are Elia and Brit, but it’s something that could definitely raise an eyebrow or two.
I think I could probably allow the same thing in Evan if I didn’t have Alex as my protagonist in the third book. Even though Alex is bi-racial and the “Will they/Won’t they” between her and David is more of a when rather than an if, it would be the third set of characters that fall into this kind of line. It is almost like I’m doing this subconsciously, writing a black female and a white male over and over and over again, but then again, if I know what’s happening going into the story, I can’t really blame this on my subconscious.
I’ve always said that I write the stories that come to me. I try to spring in Jesus wherever I can, like Jonathan’s dependence on his faith in Flight or even Brit’s faith in Damen, but for the most part, I write the characters who pop in my mind. Most of the time…
You know, it’s just now occurred to me what’s happening with this white boy/black girl thing…
When I develop a story, it normally starts with a single character and from him or her, I create a cast and from there a plot. Most of the time (though, I’m still not sure why), that first character who comes to mind just happens to be a white male and, since I cannot/will not write something without a strong black female somewhere near the forefront, this white boy/black girl thing always finds its way into the story. Evan, Luka and Damen are all white males and whether it was subconscious or purposeful, I’d found a strong female lead to accompany them; it’s probably my own way of projecting myself into my stories and, quite honestly, that disgusts me.
Now, that I’ve had this little revelation, however, I doubt I’ll be taking steps to change anything in the future. Again, I write the stories that come to me. I’ve imagined that I’ll get a lot of push back and criticism for not writing stories that centre around black people, but I write the stories that come to me. I’ve come up with stories surrounding white females also and there are few if any blacks in those stories; I write the stories that come to me.
I can imagine the insults now: You don’t care about the black community! You’ve lost touch with your own culture! It’s not like I don’t care about other blacks or something; I just write the stories and characters that come to me…
Miles will probably be the biggest chore of all the major projects I’ll be writing in the upcoming years as it does centre around a black male, but does not paint the rosiest picture of the “black community” throughout the plot.
I think one of the hardest things about desiring to be a good writer and not just a good female writer and certainly not just a good black writer, is staying true to myself. I suppose if anyone accuses me in the future of not writing anything that “uplifts” the black community, I can just show them how to read between the lines.
Outside of Miles, almost every black character that appears in my stories remains outside of the bounds of liberal stereotypes. They don’t speak like “blacks” are supposed to speak and they don’t do the things that “blacks” are supposed to do. I suppose I put a little of myself in every black character that I write, which makes Damen all the more special to me. Alex’s story in Evan hints on these same things in a different way, but Brit practically screams it in Damen.
I write the characters that come to me. I think I’ll just have to keep repeating this to myself as I continue; it’ll probably be the only thing that’ll keep me from changing what and how I write to suit the wishes of others.