Sometimes my brain feels like the Chelsea Hotel.
Unusual types live inside me and this post is about them—the characters that many authors create so vividly that, from time to time, they pop into my head, altered from their originals to be sure, but able to move in two or three places at once and very much alive in my memory.
Here are some that haunt me today:
- Gemma James in the KINKAID/JAMES mystery series by Deborah Crombie. Not short, not tall, the slightly anxious mom, woman, and detective, Gemma James, walks with a deliberate gait and/or drives in traffic or flares up at her partner, or puts criminals at ease or is busy being mesmerized by another character. Wisps of her copper hair fly.
- Ivan in DEATH IN A WINE DARK SEA by Lisa Davis. Ivan pirouettes in my head, this great, unwashed character: “He pulled his shirt up over his barrel chest, showing weathered, hairy skin as he turned in a circle. Generous love handles spilled over his belt.” But he also drives his boat, knocks on the door, twirls, scares, smiles so that the skin crinkles around his eyes and he forgets the gun in his hand.
- Marcel’s grandmother In SEARCH OF LOST TIME by Marcel Proust. Marcel’s grandmother sits at the far end of the Piazza San Marco, shaded from the sun by her heavily-veiled hat. Still and still moving, she glides in her garden in Cambray, pace stately, dress flowing. Her head is slightly upturned. She is mute, large and sad, like lost time.
- Gil Hodges (really) in MATINICUS, AN ISLAND MYSTERY by Darcy Scott. I’ve just begun reading this book so Gil Hodges is the new kid on the block. But he’s such a larger-than-life character that he’s entered my head already, swilling his beer, gulping his pie, sitting up in bed on a dark night, listening, waiting, scared.
- The possum (no name) in “The Third Pile,” an achingly sad character in a short story by Ken Brosky. In my head the possum sniffs the road on a moonless night, searching for its lost child.
These characters rub elbows with Anna Karenina, Dilsey, Augie March, Shurlock John, Judge Deborah, Jack Reacher, Sarah Berg, the white rabbit, Dalziel, to name a few.
I could go on and on, but I’d rather read your comments about the characters who hold you captive. What makes them memorable?
Photo, Wikipedia Commons: Hotel Chelsea, aka The Chelsea Hotel, 23rd Street, New York City.