Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Writing Is A Socially Acceptable Form of Schizophrenia?

The quote in the title is from E.L. Doctorow (Billy Bathgate, World's Fair), but as I was procrastinating so I didn't have to work on revisions   working out a few days ago it came to me that the characters in my head could very well land me in some trouble one day.

How? Simply by being there. Because sometimes when I'm ordering them around they talk back and thats when the other shoppers in aisle 12 or at the gas pump take a few steps back.

Take the book recently finished revisions on. I've known since I started revisions that the Hero loses a little of his character near the mid-point. Oh, it's not that he does a 180 and begins acting like another character, he just lost his mojo...and it was driving me crazy. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what was wrong he just didn't feel 'right'.

So I tried the character interview - and scared an older woman at the park by interviewing an invisible man. Didn't work.

I tried rewriting the entire section with a 'manned up' version of him. Didn't work even worse. He just turned into a jerk.

I reverted to the original version and tried adding in a few extra sentences here and there - about his past, about his goals, his motivations. That slowed the entire mid-point down so I cut it out.

I was seriously considering trashing the whole thing when it hit me. I was on the right track but going the wrong direction. When I tried adding 'more' to his POV it didn't work. Because I was making him dwell on the past when he was actually ready to figure out his future. A little early in the manuscript, perhaps, but he's always been an in-touch-with-his-feelings kind of guy. So by ordering him around and making him do what I wanted I was stifling his character.

Which brings me back to schizophrenia. I truly believe the character was trying to tell me all along what he needed and I simply wasn't listening. He, the fictional and non-existant character, knew exactly what he needed. I, the very real and flawed writer, was having none of it. I wanted him in his little box where I'd grown him for the last few months.

Is that crazy?