I know something is wrong with my hero when I am struggling with how he will react in one of his scenes. It is a scene I am eager to write: my hero is responding to a crisis that has an interesting twist. But, you’d think I was giving a cat a bath -it is that difficult! So, I decide to take a walk to the mailbox, which is a special feat, now that I am wearing a robo-cop hinged knee brace. The healing is going fine but I seem to have atrophied while I was R.I.C.E-ing. It also feels like my brain has atrophied too. So, the two W’s, walking and writing are a slow stumble at the moment.
I pull open the mailbox and Woo Hoo! A Jesse Stone DVD from Netflix is in the mail. I pause in the road to text my husband “Jesse Stone DVD for date night this week!” I am sure that this was worth interrupting and has made whatever meeting he is busy trying to stay awake, that much better. He responds with the obligatory happy face – heart combo.
On my way back to the house, I reconsider my problem. I sit and stare at the pond but my line of sight drops to the Netflix envelope. Jesse Stone… Magnum PI… and Bingo! I realized that regardless of how much I had written in my character sketch, I have no evolution. After all, Jesse Stone and Police Commissioner Reagan, two of Tome Selleck’s current roles are basically two divergent potential paths that Magnum PI could have walked in his life thirty years later.
I drew a character timeline in my mind. The Magnum PI character was actually a spinoff of the Lance White role developed for Tom Selleck in the Rockford files (episodes: Nice Guys Finish Dead, 1979 and White on White and Nearly Perfect, 1978) Just two episodes which if you haven’t seen, you really should catch on Netflix streaming. Lance White was such an over-the-top good guy character -his youthful idealism was a wonderful contrast to Rockford’s cynical world-weary attitude. Thanks to Netflix, I watched the episodes again to see if it helped me with my guy.
Then, I looked at the characters Tom Selleck has played on television. All could arguably be places the idealistic Magnum or Lance could have ended up. The good-guy, ‘safe’, older boyfriend on Friends, the adorable cad, Ivan on Boston Legal… He is nice and handsome and a rugged heart-throb. He’s how you hope your husband ends up in middle age: still nice, wiser and protective. Even as a burnt-out damaged Jesse Stone, who is drunk and lost –still treats women with respect. Heck, he still loves his ex-wife who was unfaithful.
The first thing I noticed while watching that first episode where Tom Selleck appears in the Rockford files was that Jesse Stone has turned into Rockford -he’s a cynical mentor.
1. Still believes in doing the right thing, even though it might not be the wisest decision.
2. Still goes out on a limb for the underdog, even though it always backfires
3. Still gives people the benefit of the doubt even though they are usually lying
4. Still remains a gentleman even though the little kid or old lady won’t appreciate the effort
5. Still gets manipulated by the damsel in distress but now knows the other guy is going to get lucky
So, my character sketch -for my hero includes, how he was raised, what kind of boy he was as a prom date, a college date, a young man -how did he handle a broken heart and how did he handle breaking hearts? Suddenly, my difficult scene is an enjoyable one to write and I am able to understand why he is doing what he is doing. He is no longer the cookie cutter guy.
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