What a character
February 26 , 2008

People are messy, composed of conflicting bits, composites of everything they've heard, seen, and experienced—plus the miasma of DNA. That's why you'll have a conservative minister strong on family values preaching on the defense of marriage one day, then turning around and hiring a male prostitute the next. Or, in less inflammatory terms, why you'll have a writer who's cynical about the world but at her core a diehard romantic. People can be mean and kind-hearted in the same package. There are no pure people with purely one side to their personal equation.  

More than one reviewer has told me that my main character in the current novel is inconsistent. This goes back beyond the current reviews from my betas, back into workshopland. I wanted to make Carsten contradictory, did it intentionally, but I do think my execution must be off if more than one person is saying it. I haven't conveyed that particular aspect of her character with sufficient clarity, so much so that some people thought she was unlikable. I don't necessarily have a problem with an MC being unlikable, but in this case I think it's a matter of miscommunication and it works against the story. 

Other things are easier to deal with: some critters want me to be more romantic, others want all romance removed from the novel. That's an individual taste thing and tells me that I have to go with my own heart where that's concerned. One tells me that I should get rid of some characters, merge two into one. I think that assessment is correct overall and I've been eliminating superfluous named characters. I'm also combining two significant secondary characters into one later in the book.  

But there's a core triumvirate of secondary characters that I'm resisting melding into one or two. In my mind, they are distinct people, but again, I think my execution is off. They're not coming off the page as distinct, at least not to this critter, and since she's echoing a concern of my own, I'm thinking hard about it. I've been putting in "distinction" clues: reemphasizing physical differences, changing speech patterns to make them stand out from each other, playing up their quirks (really, it feels like I'm sledgehammering it at this point, but whatever).  

Still, a niggling worm inside tells me I need to let go. Maybe two of those three characters should be merged, even if another still stands on his own. Maybe on the next pass I'll realize that Resistance Is Futile and my two friends will have their separate existences ripped from them and be forced into one body in some horrible literary transporter malfunction. Right now I'm too close to know if that would be a good thing, or some heartbreaking monster.

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson