I've come to the frustrating conclusion that I don't know my protagonist. Sure, I could describe her physically. I can tell you where she went to school, what she studied, what she eats for breakfast and what kind of car she drives. But I can't tell you how she feels about certain things: life, whatnot ("Life is not whatnot and it's none of your business"). I can tell you that she's sad inside because her brother up and killed himself, but most people wouldn't take the death of a sibling very well (self-inflicted or not). I don't know who she is. And that really kind of sucks. Because for all my yammering about writing without consequence and freeing myself up to jump the curb and go off-roading, I can't very effing well do that if I don't have a clue who my effing protagonist is! I mean, I can write about all sorts of things going on in the story, but it all feels pretty insubstantial when I look at it through this new epiphany. Damn you, insight!
I know what you're thinking--this is exactly when I need to buckle down and keep writing. I get it. I know it. Betsy once said, when we were talking about the hurdles we needed to clear to get to the good stuff, "You have to be present for those moments." Those eureka moments. The moment when you finally break through all the gray, cloudy, empty, directionless crap you've been writing and get to the rainbows and unicorns and roads made of lollipops. It's true. I won't figure out who Maggie is by watching the Wire (or maybe I will). I'll only get there by spending some time with her (sorry for the Tori Amos-like personifications. It even unnerves me a bit as I write it).
And I guess just as I have those unwelcome insights about what the story is lacking, I'm sure to have more revelations about how to get where I need to go.