I just finished Family Honor by Robert B. Parker, and I got to wondering what it is I like about his books. I like them well enough to read until I literally can't keep my eyes open anymore. I had to re-read the last few pages from last night because I couldn't remember any of it.
It's not just the female protagonist, I like Parker's Spenser almost as well as I like Sunny Randall. But it is part of it. I like that Sunny is independent. That she's not afraid to try things. She's not afraid of mistakes. She moves along, not knowing the answers, just doing what seems best and trying to figure things out. She takes risks.
Parker created Randall. I know this to be a fact. (Well I suppose it to be a fact. Semantics you know.) And yet, I feel as though she is real. It's as though I could know her, I wouldn't be surprised to meet her. I'd say "Oh sure, you're Sunny Randall. You took in that fifteen year old girl. How's that going?"
It takes a certain amount of skill to develop characters who seem real. Human beings are complex creatures. Motivations are rarely straight forward. It's hard to create characters that are complex and likable without bogging your story down with detail. The trick is to deliver a story that seems light, that doesn't drag, but still supports complexity of character and plot.
It's something to strive for.