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[GUEST POST] Susan Klaus on Choosing Your Protagonist

Susan Klaus was born in Sarasota, Florida. She has been published in several magazines including Cats, ELL, and SRQ. Klaus is the founder and president of the Authors Connection Club, and is also the host of a Web radio show called Authors Connection that went into syndication this year. Flight of the Golden Harpy is Klaus’s first novel. Follow Susan at her website, Twitter as @KlausSue and on Facebook.

Choosing Your Protagonist

by Susan Klaus

Okay, I’m a newbie here, newly published and new to blogging and posting, so I’m hoping you’ll cut me some slack. My first fantasy novel comes out this week, and my first thriller was released last Oct. and its sequel hits bookstores in August, three novels within ten months. As you see, I’ve been busy writing books and haven’t had time to dabble with Social Media but I’ll try to write a profound, inspiring blog that you’ll never forget. Therefore, let’s talk about Brad Pitt.

As you might have guessed this blog is not written by an eloquent author sharing his or her wisdom, but by slightly delusional woman with a thing for Pitt. My fantasy is dedicated to him, the protagonists in all my books resemble a young Pitt, right down to the little scar on his left cheek, and a few years ago at age sixty, I got my first tattoo, his face on my upper arm. Okay, perhaps I’ve gone a little overboard with my one-sided love affair with the actor, but hey, I’m not alone. Magazine issue sells out when his mug is on the cover, and he’s box office gold, all proof he has a few other admirers. But my point is: if an author doesn’t love and care about the characters, why should the reader? This seems to work for me since the majority of my readers like the blond, blue-eyed boy in my novels. I’ve also found it easier to describe a character’s looks and behavior if I have a real person in mind. Beside the protagonist, all my characters are based on actual people. No big surprise, many authors do this. I’ve even heard some place people’s photos on their writing desk.

Why did I pick Brad Pitt to represent my protagonists? Actually, a movie studio picked him for me. Ten years ago I applied for job as a movie extra in Florida. Thought this should be fun. Thousands showed up for the audition but only 300 hundred were chosen including me. I drove to the St. Pete dog track and found myself on the set of Oceans Eleven with Brad Pitt.

The guy wasn’t a disappointment. The photos and movies I’d seen of him didn’t do this lanky actor justice. Brad is even more gorgeous in person. After 12 hours of gawking and drooling, I learned he was also a nice, down-to-earth guy. But his looks and personality had nothing to do with my book dedication or why he’s my main man and character in my books. It came from how Brad was treated when he first walked on the set. The extras immediately mobbed him. He smiled, signed their autographs, and pose for their little cameras, desperately trying to appease the crushing crowd. It was sad. Even on a closed set, he was smothered and harassed. Going out in public must be a nightmare for him. Sure he’s handsome and has fame, and fortune, but is it worth a hectic stressful life with the press and fans constantly stalking and pursuing him like wild game. The director finally stepped in and save him, ordering everyone to leave him alone.

I drove home and realized that good-looks can have drawbacks, especially in his case. That night I started writing my fantasy about a jungle planet with the point of view of the beautiful winged harpies, half-bird, half-human creatures that can’t understand mankind or why humans hunt and kill them for their wings that become mounted trophies on a wall. I gave Brad Pitt credit because he inspired the story, and the novel is also dedicated to our vanishing wildlife.

Maybe I am overly passionate or even a little eccentric when it comes to my main character. I haven’t met many authors with their protagonist tattooed on their arm, but to write fantasy, I believe it helps to have your own delusions and flights of fantasy. Although, kind of makes me wonder about Stephen King. The fact is an author spends hours and days in a room, hammering out a novel on the computer with only the characters for company. So if you’re a woman writer, you have to ask, “Do I want to spend this time with Brad Pitt or some other guy?”

6 Comments on [GUEST POST] Susan Klaus on Choosing Your Protagonist

  1. Very funny. And true.

    Somehow, though, I don’t feel too sorry for Brad Pitt. The harpies, yes, but not Brad.

    • White, I’m sure most people agree with you. Pitying Pitt isn’t the norm, but consider he can’t shop, dine out, or see a movie without creating a scene and needs round the clock security especially when he steps outside. Despite that hassle, he’s still lives a charmed life.

  2. In roleplaying games, we call this a “Casting call”. You pick an image for your character or NPC, and that image can, or can’t, to varying extents, influence your character.

    For example, I just introduced an NPC into my game modeled on Anna Torv (Olivia from Fringe) and that portrayal has influenced how the character acts.

  3. Susan, I can now appreciate the Brad Pitt tattoo. You are one dedicated author! You make some really good points in this piece and I liked how up-beat it is. Not only do you have your own delusions and flights of fantasy, you have a good sense of humor. Keep up the great work.

  4. Susan, I love your writing style. I felt as if you were telling me the Brad Pitt story as we shared a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. You make good points about loving (or hating) one’s main character. Loved the humor too.

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