The Protagonist Who Is Afraid of Much: R.M. Greenaway on her favourite character

The Protagonist Who Is Afraid of Much: R.M. Greenaway on her favourite character

Posted on April 13 by R.M. Greenaway in Mystery
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When I was a kid, this intriguing fairy tale title caught my eye, "The Boy Who was Afraid of Nothing." I dropped everything to read it. This was someone I could relate to, somebody who is afraid of many things—but of nothing most of all.

I recall the disappointment as I realized the boy in the title was not afraid of nothing. Indeed, he was not afraid of anything! Big deal! All heroes, it seemed to me at the time, were fearless. When I was young, that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted courage, and how can a fearless hero be courageous?

I wanted a character with knots in his gut, one with nameless dreads, like mine, perhaps one marching out of step with the world but trying valiantly to fall in line. As I've grown up I still have a place in my heart for a character who limps, who doesn't trust his own voice. He jumps when he has to jump, and jumps high, but doesn't necessarily land with grace. This character doesn't know what he's fighting for, at times, even with his dukes up. He is lost, probably in peril, but he won't give up.

All these years later I've lost much of the nameless dread, have in fact stabilized quite nicely, as I've realized I'm no more out of step than anyone else in this great Oddball Club called life. But in spite of my maturing and groundedness and accruing of great family and friends, I wound up creating that character I never quite found in childhood: my backup plan, the spokesperson of my insecurities. Cal Dion is one of two main protagonists in my B.C. Blues Crime series. Unlike the boy in the fairy tale, he is afraid of much.

Of course with a few skeletons in his closet, Cal has plenty good reason to be afraid, but add to his burden the aftereffects of head injury, a strain of paranoia, and a broken heart, and he has become a human tailspin of worry.

What else can I say about him? Fairly young and, without a doubt, good-looking. Depressed. Doggedly loyal, though he doesn't seem to recognize the fact. The first to throw in the towel, but the first to pick it up again.

Also, by the way, he's jinxed. Trouble definitely has a bead on Cal.

He could be smarter, but isn't. He's more intuitive than he realizes. He needs solace, but can't seem to locate it in the faces that surround him. He's a good man marching—out of step but single-mindedly—toward redemption, and that's why I like him.

Plus I owe him in a big way. He lights up my day whenever I'm back at the keyboard, writing him into another predicament. Can't forget that!

R.M. Greenaway

Posted by Kendra on January 19, 2016
R.M. Greenaway photo

R.M. Greenaway

R.M. Greenaway has worked in probation and travelled British Columbia as a court reporter. Her first novel in the B.C. Blues Crime series, Cold Girl, won the Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award. She lives in Nelson, B.C.