Day Three of Loving my Protagonists: Colin and Peter (and Ren)

While I was writing my protagonist list, the book with Colin in it hadn’t sold yet and I worried I was going to jinx it. But Red Lettering and Black Shades have both sold to MLR and the third book White Canvas is coming out in the spring.

Writing a main character who is a writer is one of the three or four books writers have to write when they’re learning how to write. You have to write about the magic sword/Prince as a pauper/white talking horse story, you have to write the story set in second person, you have to write the getting away with a perfect murder story, and you have to write your main character being a writer. You don’t have to write all of them, and the magic sword can be swapped out for the Star Trek/Wars story with the serial numbers filed off for science fiction writers, but they’re like milestones of being a writer.

Colin was my first main character who was a novelist. I bent what I believe is possibly by having him be a writer supporting himself at 22 on his writing which is possible, it’s just not very likely. I started writing at eleven, when everyone else around me was “taking notes” I had my paper under my textbook, scribbling away. I was so afraid that people would realize that in note taking, quotation marks aren’t really necessary, but I didn’t quite realize at that age that no one really paid that much attention to what kids were doing, as long as they were doing it carefully.

In the first book Colin says in the narration:

He’d been a quiet observer of the universe, narrating his field notes to himself. Now his biggest seller was a series about a man who had all the emotional response of a turnip but liked blowing shit up. But he’d known what it had felt like to be loved fiercely, and love just as hard back. 

He’s always been a quiet kid. When he meets Ren for the first time, he doesn’t realize that Ren just kisses all the young men he meets, gay, straight or any point in between. For Colin, who just had a computer problem that his friend brought a friend over to help him with it, he went from having a file that hadn’t saved when it should have to having a lap full of Ren who wriggled when he kissed people.

His life changed in an instant. They run back to Ren’s room because Colin would have died before he purchased condoms at a store. Ren opened the door and wheeled his roommate out into the hall, still in his office chair. Ren was the kisser of boys, not the answerer of questions, so when the summer apart didn’t go as planned, Colin realized he wasn’t just going to be saying good bye to Ren, the man he loved but also to the first bit of colour Colin’s life had ever seen. He’d lived a lukewarm, grey life that peaked at a four. Ren lived at eleven. They had seven amazing years together.

It’s no spoiler to say that Ren died. Ren died eight years before the story starts and Colin was still in mourning. I had just lost my cat and writing from the point of grief of an otherwise amazing life gave the story colour in ways I probably couldn’t have planned. My wife found the anthology call for a main character that hated Hallowe’en on the 27th of July due on the 31st, and what came out of me was a very rough 26,000 word story that was a reverse phantom hitchhiker.

I’ll talk more about Peter the next time, but Colin and Peter in a lot of ways were the same character. They were both artists, both quiet, both a little shy. Colin had everything work out perfectly before Ren died and it took him a long time to get over it, Peter was Colin in the way fear ruled his life but Peter without finding his Ren just pushed on without his life clicking into place.

And Ren was just Ren. You don’t get too many characters like Ren in your life. He was a drag queen who got voted the Homecoming King and campaigned hard enough as the write-in candidate to be the Homecoming Queen that he swept both categories. He was voted in both un-ironically. It was chemically impossible not to love Ren, but that wasn’t saying he was the easiest to live with. As much as Colin wants to, he can’t move on unless he can look at Ren as a whole.

Other than the fact that there are ghosts in the story, up until I wrote a straight up gay cowboy story this month, it was the closest thing I got to writing non-paranormal. I still feel like there’s a very private couple in BC that I’ve just been peering in on and airing all their dirty laundry.

Peter quotes the whizzing sound deadlines made over Douglas Adam’s head. Colin shoots back that the only sound this deadline made was “splat”. I love these boys so much they make me happy to have blown life into their stories.

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