01 April 2012

When Bad Things Don't Happen To Good Characters

I’ve reached an emotional impasse in the novel I claim to be writing.

I say “claim,” because although I’ve claimed to be writing it for more than decade now, I haven’t actually added anything to what’s already there (I’m about three quarters through on the first draft) for several months now. The problem is that I know exactly what has to happen next, but I really don’t want it to.

Basically, I have to take one of my main characters and break her. I’ve spent the last eight chapters or so bringing all the players in to place, and now comes the part where I deliberately and methodically smash her heart to pieces.

And I can’t do it.

They say everyone’s first novel is autobiographical to a certain extent. This character is a tightly wound, socially appropriate female orphan, so you can make of that what you will. But while she isn’t based on me in any literal sense, in another sense she has been written to personify all the things I hate about Church culture. And since these days I’m so enveloped in Church culture that it’s hard to tell where I finish and the worship band starts sometimes, in a sense I’m taking a very large knife and pointing it at myself.

But when I first started writing, way back when I was fresh out of school, full of bravado and ready to take down any institution that thought it could tell me what to do, I wrote this character and put a skeleton plot together that would give me a way to show the Church exactly what I thought of it. As far back as 2001, this character has always been heading for this. I have purposefully crafted the plot in order to bring her to it, and at last the moment has come.

And I can’t do it.

It’s a very strange sensation to discover that you have grown emotionally attached to a character who is not only fictional, but is quite literally a figment of your imagination. Especially when I don’t particularly like her. But, perverse as it sounds, I think that’s some of the problem. Not only is this character not real, but the only reason she has even been conceived of and written down is because I invented her. She is entirely dependent on me for her unreality, and I’m about to drop a piano on it.

Not an actual piano, you understand, nor even an unreal piano. I mean in the story, it’s not an actual…she not going to... She’s just…

Oh shut up! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a slightly unreal piano or an entirely metaphorical one. The point is I can’t do it.

And it’s not as if I’m only in this for all out destruction either. Without giving too much away, this isn’t the end for my unfortunate fictional acquaintance. I’m a loving, merciful and gracious author, and the story’s really only three quarters written. I have every intention of picking up the pieces I smash her into and making something new and more interesting out of them. From my omniscient perspective (ie. perched in front of my laptop, surrounded by empty coke bottles and an assortment of clothes in various stages of the laundry cycle) I can see where all this is leading. I can see the resolution I’m trying to get her to, and I can see why there’s no way to get her to it without seriously hurting her. I know that if I want to this plot to advance to the next stage and get past this difficult moment, then there’s nothing for it. I have to break her.

And I can’t do it.




Garry with 2 Rs
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