I was recently asked by two fans of the Peter Savage novels about the motivation behind the main character. Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to provide a succinct answer right away. It took about 5 minutes of discussion to provide an adequate response. You see, fictional characters are often very complex–far beyond what most readers are likely to experience through the unfolding of the plot.
In my case the protagonist, Peter Savage, is more or less an ordinary guy. He has never served in the military, he’s not a secret agent, and he really doesn’t posses any special skills (I’ll come back to this). He’s ethical and honest and wants to help others; he loves dogs as pets and is devoted to his family. This was fairly easy to invent, but then came the name. It had to be fitting, but not over used. Also, I wanted a name that I could use in the plural possessive without it being difficult to say–example, Savage’s. “Savage” is a simple, old, and strong name. “Peter” reflects simplicity and commonality.
Over the course of three books (and a fourth that is in editing), I’ve added layers to the Peter Savage character. History, friendships, education, musical preferences, favorite foods and beverages. The process of writing this is really akin to developing a friendship; it’s a gradually process, like peeling the layers of an onion. But there are deeper layers to Peter Savage and what makes him tick, and this is the truly fun part of creating characters. In particular, certain traumatic events in Peter’s history have profoundly shaped his personality. And this really is his special power, for lack of a better term. But it is a power within all of us. Peter has a singular drive to do what’s right, and when he is pushed into a corner, he will fight ferociously to prevail.
This is the exact opposite of giving up, quitting. That is something Peter simply can’t do–it would go against every essence of his being. He has drive, and a can’t-fail attitude–I’d like to think this is a trait common to top athletes and soldiers. But Peter is not an athlete or a soldier. He’s simply an average man, but he represents how one may choose to respond when the chips are down and there are no good options.
That makes for exciting adventures–and many more to come!