Having just published my fifth novel and begun my sixth, I’ve found myself experiencing a curious sensation of: Wait. I’ve been here before.
It’s not that I recognize the same problems – each book has many of the same problems, and a dozen others all its own – or that I’m beginning to repeat myself. A certain element of repetition is inevitable as I refine my understanding of certain human conundrums I’m trying to address in my work – the necessity of love despite its limitations, the social nature of not just morality but truth, the hypocrisies of justice. I’ll be tripping over that furniture in the dark for as long as I write.
This time the sense of circularity concerned my characters. And since I’ve staked my pennant on that particular narrative overlook, I found it troubling, this suspicion that I might, in fact, be simply parading out the same cast of players in different costumes.
[pullquote][E]very writer has a given theater in his head, a repertory company. –Gore Vidal[/pullquote]
In particular, I realized the decent but troubled cop in The Mercy of the Night, Jordan Skellenger, bore no small resemblance to – guess what – a decent but troubled cop in Done for a Dime, Dennis Murchison.
Not only that, both had politically incorrect, wisecracking sidekicks: Dick Rosamar in The Mercy of the Night, Jerry Stluka in Done for a Dime.
Now by resemblance I mean exactly that: these men were similar, not identical. I have my limitations but I’m not a total nitwit. I did the hard work of making these characters unique. But in the end I had to recognize they were variations on a theme.
How many themes – how many characters – did I in fact possess? How could I know?