By Ane Costa
I’ve always believed that you need to be an excellent reader to become a great writer, and so much of my experience confirms this assumption. So I read and read, and I fell in and out of love with characters and started building my own idea of what a good character was. And I must confess, as a heterosexual woman (personally, the worst thing a woman can possibly be nowadays), I fell for the bad boys. The first one must have been John Willoughby. Marianne’s preserver is a great man to have around if you happen to be wandering free in a hill and is unfortunate enough to fall and twist your ankle. And if you are indeed that unlucky, Jane Austen’s Willoughby will be soon to your rescue, and he will get you in his arms as if you weighed nothing. That is a man worthy of a lock of your hair! Obviously, later on, you’ll find out he impregnated a poor young woman who happened to fall for his good looks and his love for poetry (as you did), before running off to marry rich. That was my first bad-boy crush.
Then, I fell for Morrison’s enigmatic Ajax, with that transcendental quality that can’t be described. It’s a way of talking that might be easily confused with a genuine wish to listen to you. You might even think that he is interested and that he cares. But don’t get too attached because he’s no marriage material (but what a heck of a boyfriend that man would be, hu?). Ajax makes me think of Hurston’s Tea Cake, with that artistic quality and that living-the-moment disposition. It is not for granted that they made the lively and hard-to-please Sula and Jane fall and fall hard.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of Adiche’s Curt – that kind of man who wakes up and says, “Let’s just go to Paris today.” A type of man with so much self-confidence that he can’t help himself and just go about controlling you and thinking he can solve all your dilemmas. All these unforgettable male characters and their quintessential artistic quality made me realize I am a softy for emotionally unavailable men. It shouldn’t come to a surprise that, when the time came for me to develop my own male character, I went for the womanizer, the bad-boy teenage fantasy, with all the incomparable way of talking and walking, all the artistic quality, the inflamed ego, and that maleness charm that makes you desire him. Men who flirt, know what you want to hear and say it (in the most vulgar way possible), and are in love with their own penises. And that’s how my main male character came to be.
On a side note, you might refrain from letting your husband read your work. I say that because mine did and soon realized I was in love with my own character, and I had to convince my good-guy that the bad one is fictional. We both know it’s not true and that my bad-boy is very much alive in my head. But we agreed to just let it be for now, fortunately.
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