When I read something for fun, it’s important to me that the main character is easy to relate to – the sort of person I’d want as a friend. This doesn’t mean the character can’t be flawed. In fact, I find perfect people as boring in real life as I do in fiction. So when I’m writing my own characters, I always create people who make mistakes and who have room to grow. Personal growth is always a major theme in anything I write.
In Starring in the Movie of My Life, Samantha is far from perfect. She is probably the more likeable of the two main characters, because Melody is manipulative and calculating. Conversely, Samantha has a lot of love for all the people in her life; she’s giving and guileless. Yet I actually find both of my main characters likeable, because they both have strengths in addition to their flaws. Melody is smart and tough; she’s a survivor. She does what she has to do to get by. Samantha doesn’t have that skill. She does what she has to do to take care of others, but she’s never really learned to take care of herself.
That’s partly because she’s never had to. Unlike Melody, Samantha was raised by conscientious parents who sheltered her from the uglier parts of life. Samantha has been able to live with a consistent safety net surrounding her, and it’s affected her relationships and her work ethic. Now she’s at a critical point; she’s going to have to finally grow up and fend for herself. The question is, will she?
There is a lot of emphasis in my book about the difference in ages between Melody and Samantha. Melody is so much younger, but in many ways she’s a lot wiser because of everything she’s had to deal with growing up. However, while Samantha is still sort of stuck in a delayed adolescence, she has the emotional maturity that Melody lacks. Samantha can relate to her husband as an equal, while Melody can only play games and tries to control people.
In the end, I was satisfied with the journey both characters took over the course of the book. I read an interview once with Ann Tyler, and she said she knows her books are done when her characters don’t have anywhere new to go emotionally. I felt like both Samantha and Melody reached that point by the end of Starring in the Movie of My Life. Now, it’s up to the reader to decide if they agree!