I must admit, for a long time I have not had a lot of respect for the claim that someone’s story or characters dictated their own actions. I still don’t, really. Writing is a craft as well as an art, and as a craftsman it is my job to discard materials (i.e. products of my imagination) that are faulty or do not work in the context of the plan.
Kevin, the protagonist’s long-time boyfriend, is not playing according to game plan. I could fix it, but I have considered where my subconscious wants to go with this one, and I think it will work out better. When I wrote this as a short story, one of the issues that I had was that Liz, the main character, didn’t do enough. Stuff happened to and around her, but she was clearly supposed to be a protagonist. I had that mistake firmly in mind when I laid out the novel version of the outline. The original outline called for Kevin to get weirded out by events, and cut and run. That way there would be no temptation (for Liz in the story, or for me while writing) to hide behind the bigger, stronger Kevin. However, the particulars are making that less of an issue:
- Liz is clearly establishing her space on the pavement.1 She makes it clear early in the story that her response to a strange situation is to confront it and try to do something about it. She also shows that she wants to do things for herself, even when she has other options.
- Liz and Kevin are very lovey and cute. She leans on him for support without going far enough to make him a crutch, and he tries to be there for her without smothering her. This story isn’t about Kevin, so we don’t get to see their dynamic when he’s the one whose life is in chaos, but I am thinking it would be very similar.
- I think that Kevin being available as a sounding board and support structure will make for a better reading experience than his absence would as a cause for angst and depression.
I was all set to manipulate him around to the point of wanting to leave when the heavy stuff starts. Last night I wrote a scene wherein Liz does something unpleasant, then goes to Kevin for the comfort of his presence after the fact. It was very natural for her to do it herself rather than look for help. I really think this is going to work.
Last night was my most productive single night of writing. 3853 words, bringing my total to 16,525. The story became my official longest piece on Wednesday. I was confusing my page count with the 1000s of words that made up the shorter version of Mortal Voice, which was called “Grandpa’s Violin.” It was 12,000+ words and 18 pages, not 18,000 words. Yay, new milestone.
You know, I should probably stop calling this the novel version of “Granpa’s Violin,” or vice versa. I have changed so much about it, it’s more like two different works with the same basic premise.
1: Thank you, Neal Stephenson. That’s one of my favorite metaphors ever.
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