Monday, July 26, 2010
For the Love of Character...
Though I doubt I've hidden it from you until now.
(This is not actually the point to this post. The digression stops here, folks! Insert poorly written segue...)
What is a story without strong characters? There are many answers to this question, but the one that's vital is, it's unpublishable. This is hardly a new concept. Characters are bread and butter in this industry. A great story can be written with little conflict (though I wouldn't recommend it), but a story is nothing without its people.
Tying all of this together now, my crazy brain likes to dream in wild ways that are so far from reality that the Milky Way looks no bigger than it's candy bar counterpart. In this fantasy anti-reality, my current WiP comes complete with a soundtrack and full cast. Well, not full, but close. And by cast I mean actual contemporary actors who would play a certain role well.
Now we understand why I write fantasy—nothing in my head is real :)
While trying to keep my balance on the worn, slick brick path through the woods on campus, I had a startling, painful, depressing realization. I have no actor for my MC. The story's told in first person. My MC should be the person we know the best. So why couldn't I pick an actor to play her?
Okay, there are two possible answers to this. The optimistic one: I don't watch a lot of teeny-bopper TV and movies (Gossip Girl aside) and therefore don't know of a good actor to play this 19 yr old girl.
And the pessimistic one: she's not developed enough.
I just about needed a triple bypass after that thought.
I've been nervous about this ever since I received some preliminary notes that said the reader didn't get a strong sense of who my MC was and that she was a little too perfect. I mentioned this to another reader, who responded that my MC is a normal teenage girl thrown into an awkward situation, and acts more or less appropriately. I've been trying to rough up my MC a bit during this round of editing, but I'm questioning everything. Is it enough? Is her response here too predictable or not predictable enough? Should she be good at this task on her first try or not? Is she being honest enough about this awkward situation, or too honest?
Then a fleeting thought raced through my head (crashing desperately just above my ear, preventing its escape), whispering that there are examples of first person narrators in literature who have little to no personality, and who are merely there to enjoy the boozy partying. I won't name anything specifically because I wouldn't dare want to imply any comparison between me and said author(s), but it exists. Do I think it's publishable in today's market? Hell no. I have no illusions here.
I really wish that thought had flown right out of my ear before I could hear what it said. Hmph. It shouldn't have been talking on its cell phone....
Okay, enough rambling from me. I should get back to destroying my overly perfect, goodie-goodie narrator.
What do you do to further develop your characters? Do you write diaries or external scenes that should never see the ink of print? Do you outline or chart different characteristics? Do you simply listen to the voices in your head? (This may be the only industry where that's not considered unhealthy.)
PS—I want you to know that I'm a member of GGWA (Gossip Girl Watchers Anonymous). It's been six months since my last viewing. There's a meeting tonight at 9pm EST/8pm CST.