How I Chose My Protagonist

I’ve been asked a number of times why I chose to write in the voice of Cal Sheehan, a male deputy sheriff, and not a woman. My first (unpublished) manuscript was about woman who suspected her deceased husband had killed someone when he was a child and her quest to find the truth. In that first work, Cal was a secondary character, and I liked him so much he became my protagonist in the next novel I wrote. But while revising The Equalizer seven times, I did try one version in the voice of a female investigator. Although I liked her character, I found she was too serious, and I didn’t want to mess with her private life like I do Cal’s. Perhaps I will try a female protagonist again someday. 

When I chose to use Cal, I wanted to avoid the stereotypical detective (a rogue, smart-aleck, violence-prone alcoholic who skirts the law in his job.) I wanted my character to represent what most cops are: honest, hard-working, dedicated, and honorable individuals.

When writing Cal’s stories he is in my head nearly 24/7,  so I chose to make him someone enjoyable to have around and look at. He’s handsome, but not conceited; a big guy, 6”3″, 220 pounds; a family man, although he’s struggled with finding the right woman; and intelligent and witty with outstanding detective instincts, of course. (Although, it may be interesting and challenging to write about a detective with poor instincts.) Cal’s a good guy who steps up to help people in his community.

But! He has flaws. He’s been known to hold a grudge especially against three men: his absent father, a jerk of a co-worker who went after his women, and one of his wife’s former lovers. He’s a rule follower and rigid in some ways. His need for order and tidiness wreaks havoc when he has children. Unfortunately for Cal, he is stupid concerning his love interests and makes poor choices in women he dates or ends up in a love relationship. I give the poor guy lots of trouble with his relationships, but I have plans for allowing him to be happy in upcoming novels. Happy endings and all that.




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