The Dreaded Question

Full disclosure here: I am querying agents for a novel I am writing, and overall, I feel the less said about this the better. It only makes me alternately hyped up or sad, and neither feeling is really a pond I’m up for swimming in right now. The process is complex and requires attention to tiny details (first 5 pages? 10? 20? 2 Chapters? Three? Does that include the prologue?). It does helpfully remind me though that the best part of writing is … writing. That’s where the joy, though sometimes hard to find, invariably comes.

At any rate, on one of many online forms that asked for length, bio, genre etc, this question jumped out and mugged me:

Who is your favorite fictional character from a book or a movie?

No wrong answers, it promised.

And I mean…yikes. I was flummoxed, fully and completely. First thought: Max, from Where the Wild Things Are.

Except I recognized this more as an aspirational thing, that is, I would like to be more like Max (or, please God, Lynda Barry’s Poodle With a Mohawk), but does that mean favorite?

I tried again. But somehow, when I read a book, I don’t come away with “Oh, how I loved that character!” but more like “Oh, how I loved that book.” It’s the whole world they live in, the transportation to another realm.

Not to mention, of course, that I am putting this onto a form in which I am asking someone, essentially: Please love me and my work. Which is a special and weird kind of pressure.

Jane Austen characters come to mind, because they are so wonderful, but also…I don’t know, that seems crazy? Ditto Levin from Anna Karenina (too show-offy, but I do love him, as I do Pierre). Also: previous centuries seem like they might send, er, the wrong message. And I truly love Karenin as well, one of the painful great characters of literature. Except is he really my favorite? Cue concerns again about wrong century, book, person, life.

I promise I read a lot of contemporary fiction too, but…what am I to say? I loved Gabe in Lucky Us by Joan Silber (read it! It’s so good!) but that felt too inside baseball, and…ugh. Saying anything at all began to feel more and more fraught.

We are such a strange and confusing culture, so focused on trying to know one another and expose ourselves, when trying to do so ends up feeling, inevitably, partial and false. Anyway, I ended up, in a spasm of confused anxiety, saying Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden. Whom I love, truly. And I forgot to add her last name. And I am, as ever, suffused with regrets and confusion.

As is the way with weird and terrible experiences, I will now try to share this question with you guys: Do you, any of you, have a favorite character in fiction? No wrong answers, I promise (ha ha ha sob).

One thought on “The Dreaded Question

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