Playing favorites

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?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on

40 thoughts on “Playing favorites

  1. I love all of my characters, but I have a special fondness for Imogene Little. She’s a friend of the main character in my Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series. She’s energetic, kind, and devoted to animal rescue. I like her so much I made her the star of the spinoff short stories. (P.S. I love Gus too. How can you not love someone who dotes on their pet hamster so much?)

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  2. Like Marla, I love all of my characters in the Natalie McMasters Mysteries. My fave is Natalie herself. She’s a smart, sexy, brave and loyal twentysomething. However, I’d probably tie her up and lock her in the closet if I had to spend much time with her. She’s got a potty mouth, she’s opinionated and tends to do whatever she pleases without consulting anyone else first, including her wife, Lupe, and her husband Danny.
    The person that I’d like spend time with is Ye-ye. He’s the newest character in the series, an eightysomething Tai Chi master who survived Mao’s China and came to the US in the 1950’s. A close second is Maribeth Woodrow, a longtime FBI agent who looks a lot like Leslie, who’s come out of retirement to run a team at the BAU.

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  3. Kathy, I don’t blame you. I would happily invite Gus over for a evening of fun.

    I have a soft spot for my deputy coroner, Tom Burns. He was supposed to appear in a single short story, but he kept sticking around. LOL

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  4. Gus is a good dude. Thanks for introducing him to us, Kathy. My favorite character from my books is Sloane Winchester. She’s Allie’s bestie in my Allie Cobb Mysteries. Sloane is full of life, generous, and very perceptive. She’s the light to Allie’s darkness and is the kind of person I would hope for everyone to have in their lives.

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  5. I like my team of Brook (Brooklyn) and Sugar (a 6’6″ crossdresser.) No one else has met them yet, but that may be changing. They’re flawed, and a hysterical team. They can set each other off like an atom bomb! 🙂

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  6. Kathy, I love Constantine/Gus, too! You’ll have to fight me for him, lol. (For some reason, I always think of him as Constantine.) I guess one of my favorite characters in my Ladies Smythe & Westin series is Summer’s best friend, Dash. He’s the son of a famous mystery writer– gorgeous, fun, a little persnickety–and helps Summer focus her energies. He often goes along with her to keep her out of trouble, and he never, ever sweats or gets his designer shirt rumpled. He and his partner Julian (a workaholic attorney we rarely see) are dads to an extremely sophisticated, 7 yo Francophile named Juliette-Margot. I’ve gotten a few requests for a spinoff series. Hmm…

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  7. My go to answer for something like this is the Bob-Whites from the Trixie Belden series for kids. I seriously wish I could meet them and join them in real life. That’s been a dream for over 30 years, and I don’t see it changing.

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  8. My favorite character from my Sally Solari series is Sally’s Aunt Letta, the black sheep of the family who left town to sail the vast Pacific, returned to the States to work at Chez Panisse, and then opened her own restaurant in Santa Cruz. A teller of fabulous stories, a terrific cook, and an all-around pistol, Letta stole my heart.

    But then I killed her off on page four of the first book in the series. I still kind of regret that…

    And I love Gus, too–and his hamster!

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  9. Great post, Kathy! As a mystery writer, part of me would still love to be Nancy Drew — and drive that roadster!
    I won’t make a laundry list of all my fave Chicks’ characters, but I’ll mention a couple. In Kathy’s Maggie O’Malley series, it’s Constantine for me, too! In Ellen’s Cajun Country series, I have a soft spot for Grand-mere. You probably shouldn’t choose between co-stars (I’d never choose between Liv and Di — publicly). But in Lisa’s Smythe & Westin series, I am partial to Dorothy!
    And, okay, Marshmallow for me, too, Jen!

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  10. Love this! I think my favorite character in general might be Miss Marple. I’d love to spend time with her because it would mean hanging out in a gorgeous, bucolic English village – St. Mary Mead. Plus, she’s always knitting. I used to knit but everything fit me wrong. Miss Marple could give me some lessons!

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