Peter Pan was my first die-hard literary crush who I found tucked beneath my comforter and two fluffy pillows, with my reading lamp on all night. He was mischievous, daring, a little bit clever, a little but naughty, a little bit sexy in that first-heart-flutter kind of way; a curious mix of devil-may-care confidence and wide-eyed innocence, wearing his heart on his sleeve for all to see. He was a leader, a visionary, a wily sweet-talker who was not above pulling a con for a laugh or to rescue his friends; and his vulnerability was that he was just a little bit lost. What better mission for a girl than to find and rescue him?
What can I say? I liked that in a guy.
It colored how I saw books and male characters. I studied trickster myths in college (true!), finding all those common elements like the color green and sexy music-makers; following the origins of the g-d Pan, Kokopelli, Anansi, Coyote & Fox, morphing through the ages into Br'er Rabbit, Bilbo & Frodo Baggins, Robin Hood and Sir Gawain's Green Knight. I admired the knowing wink and shush to sit quietly and see what happens next. I discovered that getting into trouble was almost as fun as getting out of it again, and while these guys may not get away clean (dipped in tar or with all fingers intact), they did get away with it in the end, becoming as much the hero as the crazy guy out front with the bloody big sword and the target on his chest.
One of my favorite cartoons by Gary Larson, Super Genius
To me, there was something that much cleverer about the quiet one in the shadows plotting revenge with a wily ploy or a flute to his lips. Just like any other child or mouse, my heart followed the piper and begged him to *play*.
Now I write stories with male characters of my own. At least one crops up in every story with some element of my Peter Pan: a sly mannerism, a smirk, the boyish overconfidence or guileless daring-do. I catch him in immortal innocence or the tempting hand offering our main character to come away, step off the path, and leave it all behind. Tender, Wish, Ink, Reynard, Jallywag, Ryan & Thomas One-Punch... He's still there peeking out at me through my own pages and I'll admit: I smile right back!
Who was YOUR first "literary crush" and have you seen him/her anywhere lately? ;-)