Character Education (Brian Katcher)



A writer friend of mine once said that a Brian Katcher novel always consisted of a nerdy boy meeting an unconventional girl. Well, I'll have you know that I just finished writing a novel about a nerdy GIRL meeting an unconventional BOY. Also, I have a novel where a nerdy boy meets an unconventional boy, so I think we can put that crap to rest.

One thing I notice about all my POV characters is that they are the most shallow author avatars. This was especially true in my early books, but it comes through in every story I write, published and unpublished. No matter how cool, no matter how strong or athletic, every teenage boy I create is awkward, funny, and secretly afraid of girls.

I don't think I could ever write a YA book with a genuinely cool POV character. I just wouldn't know how to get in their head. I mean, how would I go about that? Would I go out and interview popular people? Get some cool people as sensitivity readers to make sure I don't misrepresent their lifestyle? It's baffling. 

After one of my first author events, I told a friend how all these teenager girls were lining up to get their picture taken with me. I asked why that never happened when I was a teenager. My friend replied that if I'd been popular with the girls as a teen, I wouldn't have ended up as a writer. That was probably true, though he was conveniently forgetting about my high school girlfriend who lived in Canada and I totally dated, though her family didn't own a camera.

Ian Flemming really was in British intelligent. Clive Cussler really was an adventurer. But the rest of you slogs...have you ever successfully written a character who was cooler than you?



  1. I have a theory that we ALL feel like nerds inside.

  2. I'm writing one in a new book. She's a 22 year old orphan and was homeless. This afternoon, she hid under a dock from a homicidal maniac and when he made the mistake of kneeling with his hand over a gap between boards, she shoved a stainless steel barbecue skewer through his palm, then jumped out from under the dock and bent it in a u-shape so he couldn't chase her. She's waaay cooler than I ever was, or will be.


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