Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing Exercise: Convince Me

I am in the process of writing a novel. Part of the "fun" of writing a novel is that it can surprise you, even when you think you're in complete control. Unfortunately, not all those surprises are pleasant. For example: I recently discovered that I don't really like my main character.

For a while, I tried to fix the problem by ignoring it. I'm working in a multiple-POV format so I just wrote chapters from another character's point of view. But though they get to speak, no one is as central as this one character I suddenly don't like, and as much as I tried to work around her, I found I couldn't. So then I stopped writing for a couple weeks. When I came back, as a warm-up, I decided to write a monologue from her point of view. I asked her to convince me that I should like her.

She started out stating facts about herself, things I already knew. It was a little stiff. She seemed nervous. But then, as she got going, she started talking about her passions and her fears--some of which I hadn't thought about since I first conceived of her several years ago. She came to me in the form of a waitress at a bar where my husband and I liked to play trivia: helpful but distant with an interesting forearm tattoo. But she was not that waitress. I discovered, as my character spoke, that she was much more solid than I was portraying her on the page and yet also delicate, though not in the ways I'd been writing her. The selfishness I'd attributed to her was really a function of anger and exhaustion, though I'd been thinking of her as childish. I'd been making her do things she didn't want to do and not understanding the things she did on her own.

The good news is, I'm back to liking my main character. The bad news: I'm going to have to do a lot of rewriting.

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