Thursday, June 23, 2011

That stinks!

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.


  1. i think one of your problems is that you have a very, very strong antagonist, if you want to call gabe an antagonist. he's very well defined. then you have their mother, also a strong character. you also have the voice of maggie's husband. not so strong a character, yet, but he's there and competing for space. so we can infer from them who maggie is, but we need you to be sherlock holmes for us and spell maggie out. anyway, you've created quite a maze for yourself to get out of, nevermind a hurdle.
    : )

  2. I've got news for you, Bobbi. You were present when you realized that you didn't know Maggie. That took some insight. Although it probably feels like you're going backwards, you're actually moving in the right direction. Keep working. Maggie will come to you.

  3. Congratulations - revelations! Even the ones that suck mean you're really getting somewhere. One thing that *might* work at this point is to focus on (write about) some other thing that is bugging you, that seems to be demanding attention. Like that house. Something you can't explain, whose connection is not clear to you. Writing that uninvited guest (it might also be a bit of conversation, as you seem really susceptible to that) with an eye toward your characters might yield something. I have people I want to write, and things I want to write, and I can never arrive at the people--really arrive at the the heart of what's eating them--except through the things that surround them. Push the house toward Maggie until they collide. Or some other thing that's eating you. But something concrete. I think that's a great place to be. I think this is a point in a work when you're getting pretty far along. In fact, you might know Maggie better than you think - what you may be driving at now is her story, the heart of the whole thing, which is AWESOME.