With the impending release of the Speed Racer feature film, I’ve been remembering the original Speed Racer. (Yes, I’m that old. *grin*) While other people were cheering for Speed to defeat the evil genius and win the race at the same time, I was watching for Racer X. Don’t remember him? Racer X was Speed’s racing nemesis, the only driver who ever stood a chance at beating Speed behind the wheel. He wore dark glasses and a hood, and the mystery of who he really was intrigued me far more than anything Speed and his cronies accomplished. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t the hero – not to me.
Before I started writing about pirates, I was working on another novel, one with elves and maps and motorcycle gangs and Renaissance faires. And no matter what I did, I had this sneaky little feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Eventually, after I had 300 pages done, I realized what was bothering me…I was more interested in the secondary character whose story was intertwined with the hero’s than I was with the hero himself. I’d given him all the flaws, all the real dangers, and all the fun. The book was really about him, I just hadn’t noticed. I wasn’t anywhere near as finished as I thought I was, since the whole thing would have to be reorganized. But now that I knew who my protagonist really was, I could go crazy, and give him even more to do.
I’ll be finishing that book this summer, so maybe someday you’ll all get to see it, and tell me if you think I was right. But in the meantime, I’m curious – have you ever run into that problem, of falling in love with a character who isn’t the hero? Writers, what did you do? Readers, who did you fall for?