Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

Changing Protags
By Tina Whittle

My protagonists, they are a’changing, and in some very surprising ways. As their author, I’m trying hard to keep up.

I’m working on the sixth book in my Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver series (working title: That Blankety-Blank Book). My two main characters have been solving crimes together since the first book and in a romantic relationship since the second. I’ve grown comfortable in my understanding of them and how they relate to each other.

Tai is a spitfire, a self-identified Southern redneck. She’s smart and fast and tough and assertive, sometimes to the point of aggression, and prefers taking action to thinking things over. She’s not above bending the rules if the situation requires, and then bending them back before anybody notices. Luckily for her, she’s got good instincts to balance her tendency toward recklessness. If I ever got caught in a bar fight, I’d want her by my side.

My other main character, Trey, is cut from different cloth. Equally smart and tough, he’s former SWAT and therefore prefers to operate through rules and procedures and laws. He respects authority, and he expects to be respected in turn. He’s data driven and analytical, prone to hesitation, though once he decides to act, he’s pure forward motion – no stop, no retreat, no change of direction – until the situation is rectified. If I ever got caught in a bar fight, I’d want him on my other side.

Reckoning and RuinAnd now I’ve dropped the two of them into a situation where the more latent parts of their personalities are being pulled to the forefront. Because of the trauma Tai suffered in Reckoning and Ruin – the dynamics of which are still playing out in her life as Book #6 opens – she is more guarded and protective than I’ve ever seen her. For the first time since I started writing her, she’s becoming reluctant to take on a case. She has donned her armor, and she’s going to have to be pried out of it.

Trey, however, is behaving in exactly the opposite fashion. I’ve pulled up a dark case from his past, one left painfully unresolved, and now he’s chomping at the bit to finally put some closure to this investigation once and for all. He learned some things about himself in Reckoning and Ruin, most importantly that the Big Bad of his nightmares – a psychological breakdown – isn’t really as terrifying as he once thought it would be. He’s become reacquainted with his own powers of resilience, and is ready to tackle whatever comes his way.

It’s a bit anxiety-ridden for me right now, writing characters who are surprising me on every page, even though I know the mechanisms that led them to their current states. I feel as if I’m on the edge of a high dive – exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

What about you? As a writer, do you find yourself a little nervous when your characters start behaving out of character? As a reader, do you like it when characters change and grow, or would you prefer them to stay basically the same?