While preparing for our weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes (Friday night from 8-10 EST on FlaglerBeachRadio.com) Armand and I were throwing around some potential discussion topics when Armand suggested Creating your biggest character and giving it the playful subtitle The Ike Syndrome – as a nod to my biggest character.
I started thinking about the origins of Ike and I quickly realized that I would have no great insight to share as to how my larger-than-life protector-of-Flagler-Beach came into being…because I never had any designs on creating a character of such mythical proportions.
Okay – maybe mythical is a bit much, but you get the point.
Here’s the story behind the story…
…cue flashback effects and eerie music…
When I began writing my first novel, Living the Dream, I never intended it to be released.
I’ve told the story about how I had a crazy dream which became the jumping-off point for the book, and that much is true…but what I haven’t told too many people is that I was really writing it as a way to pass time.
I had been living in Florida for only 5 or 6 months at the time. My social life was non-existent and there were many hours to kill, so I filled them with writing as opposed to watching TV. I assumed that when I got to the end, the story would spend the rest of time collecting virtual dust as a file on my computer’s hard drive.
Since I had no plans for my hobby/project to ever see the light of day, I decided to have some fun with it by naming characters after my friends and family. It was fun seeing how many I could squeeze in.
When Jimmy, the antagonist, needed a forged passport and credit cards I had to introduce a person with some black-market connections (Ralph – local bookie and mob type). Since Jimmy was not the type to associate with the criminal element I needed a go-between…so I threw in Ralph’s right-hand-man Ike.
Ike was named after one of my closest friends and barely had any significant role in the story (which is why I never bothered giving him a full name).
Eventually I convinced myself that Living the Dream was worthy of being published, so I started the process to make it happen – and in the meantime began working on book number 2 – Water Hazard.
The plot for Water Hazard came about from reading an incredibly insightful and somewhat scary non-fiction book called Water Follies, which dealt with the damage we are doing to the planet by over-pumping ground water.
I had a good lead-in to the story where the protagonist, Steve, is inadvertently tasked with rescuing a kidnapped teenage boy. A mission that subsequently lands him in hot water with a crooked land developer, putting his life, as well as the life of the boy and his mother, in grave danger (is there another kind?).
My problem was that Steve needed help.
That’s when I remembered the enigmatic Ike character.
I decided that Ike would prove very useful to Steve since he had access (via his boss Ralph) to all sorts of resources…not all of them legal.
This is where the legend of Ike really began to grow.
Suddenly I had written 5 books in 3 years and in so doing created a bit of a legend.
I have actually had women ask me to introduce them to Ike. (I haven’t figured out a good reply to that one yet!)
So when it comes time to discuss the topic of creating your biggest character on the radio with Armand…I guess I’ll have to come clean about how Ike was not so much a creation as a happy accident, sort of like the wheel or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
For all I know that’s the way it happens.
Maybe Robert B. Parker had no idea what he was setting up when he wrote the first Spenser book. Did Tim Dorsey envision Serge A. Storms as almost being a household name? How about Janet Evanovich? Do you think she knew that Stephanie Plum would take on a life of her own?
Want to read more about Ike? click here
Tune in Friday night at 8:00 EST to hear our discussion – and if you’re an author…leave some feedback below about your biggest character and how they came about. You can also interact with us live while we are on the air through our facebook page.
As always – thank you for reading