|Must needs I change mine protagonist?
||[Jun. 8th, 2006|12:21 pm]
Save my Scenario - A Community for Writers
|||||the seven deadly sins // flogging molly||]|
Right, so I've got a novel that's about two-thirds done, and suddenly I'm having trouble with the main character. Or I shouldn't say suddenly, I should say I've been having trouble all along, but this is new trouble. For some reason, he's not operating as he should be - he should be a bright, somewhat brittle, extremely intelligent, charming, manipulative sociopathic bastard that manages to flatter most people into liking him, or at least enjoying his company. I've known a couple people exactly like that, so I think this bit is believable. Basically, as long as they give him what he wants, he's willing to give them what they want, which usually boils down to "attention".
Where the trouble comes in is that I made him a moderately-using heroin addict and, previously, a prostitute. The story arc is such that, though the book itself ends on an up-note (the goal is achieved sort of thing), his story ends on a down-note (the goal has required his personal destruction, though not his death - more a breaking and remaking sort of thing). This is very witty. I chose to give him the history and the personality I did because I hate perky heroes anyway, and I felt that it was more interesting to explore the weakness of the character. The people around him need him to be strong to achieve the goal, but the character is fundamentally very weak. Additionally, it got into some questions of will - did the character choose to join the goal-oriented group, or was he simply unable to choose not to join it, for example. I'm finding now that the character is not acting as I think he should, and there isn't room in the story to describe this duality of life, where on the one hand he's fighting with the forces of at least Ambiguously-Good against Definitely-Bad, and on the other pursuing his destruction by means of needles and sex. And it gets even more witty when the reader starts realising that the character, while not able to avoid helping the good guys, has been manipulating the situation for his own ends.
I think the problem boils down to this. There would be room in the story if I went back and rewrote everything from a single perspective (his), rather than skipping in and out of heads as the need arises. As it is, I would be telling two stories about him and four other characters' stories as well. This will go long. REAL long. (The story is currently at 105K words; I'm shooting for 150K words total. You can see why I'm saying it's long already.) So I am trying to decide if I need to shift to third person limited perspective, or if I should simply drop the drugs-and-sex backstory and find some other way to indicate that this character is, actually, not capable at all of making a decision, least of all any of the ones he's been asked to make in the last hundred pages, but is still quite capable of being a manipulative little bugger, or if I can (somehow) bash him over the head into cooperating and make this all work as it's supposed to. I keep thinking that the problem with the latter is the drugs and sex. I envisioned the character as a very personable bugger, but he's failing to interact, and I'm not sure why. Maybe if he were normal, it would all work.
Any thoughts on this that would help me either save my scenario or make it into less of a limping, pathetic creature?
If it helps to provide some character references (I know that the original description probably comes off as somewhat having my cake and eating it too, in terms of a flattering sociopath) I'm thinking a lot of the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, book version, (or in the remake, Twist, if anyone knows that movie), or the protagonists in Layer Cake and Fight Club - men who were manipulators and manipulated at the same time. Obviously, neither Layer Cake nor Fight Club imply exactly the situation I'm thinking of, but I think the characters are in somewhat similar enough situations to be useful.