How Do Your Characters Change You?

by Meredith Cole

The main character in my mystery series was very different from me from the beginning. I started writing about Lydia McKenzie when I was about to become a mom. And Lydia was a single woman in her twenties. It was fun to write about someone who didn’t have to worry that their newborn had colic, and could just go out clubbing all night if she wanted to.

Lydia’s worries were pretty different from mine (I didn’t have to worry about tracking down a serial killer and she didn’t have to fret about paying for someone’s college someday). But we were both artists who wondered if anyone was ever going to buy our work (photos her, books me) and we both worried that our neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) was getting too expensive and too trendy. And while I began to look around for the place I wanted to move my family to next, Lydia clung even tighter to the neighborhood.

Writing fiction definitely allows you to see the world from a new point of view. Lydia helped me see my neighborhood differently. I walked around thinking about what she would notice and how she would react to the things that happened to me. I learned to slow down and observe more carefully. I thought more about photography and framing shots. I paid more attention to vintage clothes.

In the end I’m not sure if Lydia changed me much, but the act of writing about her definitely did. I became a published author, thanks to her, and launched a new career. I moved to Virginia and have a house and a mortgage. And she is still in Williamsburg worrying about killers, rents, finding her true love and launching that art career still. But I think we’re both pretty happy to still be so different.

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