Never thought about how hard it is to come up with a good hero…


I was just thinking the other day that the main characters for both my Duty, Honor, Planet series and my Birthright novel (working on a sequel to it now) came from ideas that I first had as a sophomore in college 25 years ago.  The main characters—Jason McKay (he was originally Ryker McKay btw) and Shannon Stark from Duty Honor Planet, and Caleb Mitchell and Deke Conner from Birthright—were children of the late 80s, who matured and had their rough edges worn off through the mid 90s as I wrote and rewrote, edited and re-edited the two books.

Now Jason and the rest of the characters in the Duty, Honor, Planet series have evolved even further in the intervening years since I wrote two more sequels to that work, but Caleb Mitchell is still a very interesting character.  Sometimes, I look at the partial novels that litter my hard drive in scattered segments of 20, 30, 50 or 100 pages and read through them.  Some of them are very good ideas, but none of the protagonists seem to call to me to write about them the way Jason and Shannon, Caleb and Deke and the others from those two series do. 

Is it that hard to come up with a  memorable protagonist?  It’s possible—even the greats are only known for one or two famous characters.  Heinlein has his Lazarus Long, Larry Niven his Louis Wu, etc…

Not that I am in the same conversation as those incredibly talented writers, but even they could only come up with one or a handful of truly memorable protagonists.  That has a very practical aspect to it for me.  I’ve been debating whether to leave Jason and the rest of the crew behind permanently and move on, looking for new stories to tell…but if he and Shannon are really the two most memorable protagonists I can imagine, maybe I shouldn’t abandon them so quickly.  Not that I’m never going to write in any other universe or setting, but I think I will come back to McKay and Stark one of these days…

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