In the advertising world, we’re discouraged from falling in love with our ideas in case the client hates them or they die on the cutting room floor. (And by “cutting room” I mean “creative director’s.” And by “die” I mean “squashed like grapes made into a post-work glass of wine.”)
Despite decades of adherence to this edict, I didn’t apply it novel-writing, not because I felt passionately about my books’ concepts or plots or writing (and I do and did), but because I fell for one of my characters.
Confession: I love Constantine Papadopoulos.
I probably shouldn’t play favorites with my characters, but I do. Sure, sure, I also love Maggie, my protagonist. She’s the hero, the catalyst, the thread that ties everything together. (She’s also in the series’ title, so there is that.) But it’s her best dude Constantine who really won my heart.
A friend suggested that perhaps I love Constantine (aka Gus) because he’s a bit of a physical amalgamation of my first high school boyfriend and someone I dated in college. Okay, Dr. Freud, I see your point. But really, my affection is the platonic variety.
When “The Office” was the topic of water cool conversations (remember water coolers? remember working with people?), Jim Halpert was bandied about as The Perfect Man. And I can see where people are going with that. He’s smart, kind and handsome. He also knows how to put office supplies in Jell-O and still have it set up correctly. (I can barely handle the addition of fruit.)
But I think Constantine gives Jim a run for his money.
Constantine has the three Fs that I adore: he’s fun, funny, and flawed. While Maggie’s flaws run deeper and a little darker, Constantine’s failings complement his other two Fs. He’s immature, rash, prone to using humor to cover discomfort, and a teensy bit annoying, which, more often than not, crank up the Fun and Funny dials.
In fact, Constantine’s weaknesses are foils to his strengths. He’s fiercely loyal, hard-working, brilliant, thoughtful, and true to himself, right down to his penchant of consuming coffee with everything, including sushi and pizza. He’s a study in contrasts, at once wise and childish, sensible and goofy, steady and impetuous.
I think I love Constantine because he represents one of my ideals: someone who’s not ideal. I believe it’s our quirks, rough edges, missteps and how we handle them that add depth and richness not just to us as individuals but to our relationships with others.
I plan to keep playing favorites with this character, just as I plan to continue acting as if he exists outside my books. (I often think to myself how much Constantine would enjoy a movie or a thrift store find.) After all, more friends mean more joy, even if those friends happen to be make-believe.
Who is a beloved character that you hold dear, whether in books you’ve read or those you’ve written?
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