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Must needs I change mine protagonist? [Jun. 8th, 2006|12:21 pm]
Save my Scenario - A Community for Writers


[mood |anxiousanxious]
[music |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.

[User Picture]From: it_gurl
2006-06-08 08:03 pm (UTC)
So basically you've gotten to a point where your character won't do what you need him to do for the sake of the story?
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[User Picture]From: channonyarrow
2006-06-13 11:16 pm (UTC)
Not quite. I can still make him do the things that need to be done, but he's not acting right. He's more depressed and quiet than he should be - this character should be able to spit in the devil's eye and laugh about it, no matter what. He's out of character, and I think it has to be the backstory.

I don't want to lose the drug story, because it's important to the end of the book, but it's not integral, and I'm feeling like this burden of backstory is the problem. Like, if he weren't a drug user, he would be more personable and would be acting right - but then I have to deal with giving him a reason to end on a down note. It's all feeling very frustrating.

Sorry this is so late - LJ didn't want to tell me that anyone had commented on this.
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[User Picture]From: it_gurl
2006-06-13 11:23 pm (UTC)
hope this helps, because I really like your character concept...

keep in mind that just becuase he's a drug user and basically a moral weak person doesn't mean that HE knows that. I have met too many people who are functional drug addicts, who have weak wills and basically are like leaves on the wind, but truly believe that they are strong, powerful, smart people who are in charge of their lives.

Maybe that tweek will help?
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[User Picture]From: channonyarrow
2006-06-16 04:19 am (UTC)
Oh, I think that will. I think I'd gotten too far into my own head (I've realised that part of the problem he's not acting right is that the other characters won't let him because I can see through him). And having him not realise that he's not as strong as he thinks he is...oh, I think that will work indeed. That not only sets him up to behave as he should be now, it also sets up an even better ending where he doesn't realise why everything went to crap.

Thank you! You have not only saved my scenario, you've made me want to start writing again!
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[User Picture]From: it_gurl
2006-06-16 04:07 pm (UTC)
Yay! Glad I could help :)
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[User Picture]From: inner_v0ice
2006-06-10 07:05 am (UTC)
Sorry, but I don't think I can help you--I work in fanfic, so I don't have much experience creating a character from scratch, especially in such depth as you've described him.
I think your idea of contrasting the overall-quest up-note with a personal down-note is very interesting, though, and your description of this complex character that "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" is extremely interesting.
Sorry I can't be of more help; all I can do is offer encouragement because it sounds like something definitely worth continuing!
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[User Picture]From: channonyarrow
2006-06-13 11:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! At the moment, I need encouragement, given that I lost 12K words over the weekend and am going to have to call someone to recover it for me as none of my tricks are working. Though that did sort of jolt my engine about writing more.

But he really is a complex char and I'm fond of him, so it's making me crazy to see him acting wrong.

What fandoms do you write in?
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[User Picture]From: inner_v0ice
2006-06-15 07:07 am (UTC)
Oh GOD, that sounds like a terrible thing to happen! Good luck recovering your work!

I actually don't write much (very lazy, you see), but so far I've dabbled in Rurouni Kenshin, the Silmarillion, The Mask of Apollo (by Mary Renault), and From Eroica With Love.
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