The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey

Intransigent Characters

      I am having a hell of a time getting a couple of my characters to behave the way I want them to. Louise Layne and Ken Clark were planned from the very beginning and I thought I understood them pretty well. Now I'm finally on the chapter [29 — Interview] where they make their debut and it's just not happening the way I envisioned it. The whole premise that I had carefully plotted out for them falls completely flat and they come off as cardboard caricatures.
      Not every character has to be well rounded, to be sure. After all, there are typically a number of 'bit' players hanging around to provide color and variety or further some plot element — or just wind up as cannon fodder. If you spend too much time on minor characters, it bogs down the narrative. In order to save time and still employ a believable character in a minor role, it's OK to use something like a cliche or caricature, since these kinds of shortcuts are familiar to the reader. Why reinvent the wheel? — as the saying goes. Trying to get by with this technique for a major character is stale and unimaginative, though.
      It's funny, really. There have been some major characters who really just wrote themselves, much to my surprise. Mrs. J is a prime example of someone who was to have a very minor role and blossomed into something unforeseen that had the effect of changing my whole plot. It's very spooky, as I've commented before, and I think we have all experienced this stange phenomonon at one time or another. It's something that authors report all the time.
      But when a major character refuses to come to life — then what? Does this mean that I don't really have as much control over my own story as I think I do? Then who's writing the fucking story?
      In other respects, the chapter is coming along nicely. In fact, there's a scene that I had envisioned years ago that simply rocks — I swear to God it almost made me cry to read it.

       The lights glowing through the neighboring windows wanly illuminated the figure casually drifting in the grey gale just a few feet away.
       Her hair flowed wildly around her, highlights from caught snowflakes glinting like sequins as it tumbled and tussled. The bitter cold seemed to be harmless to her, beneath her notice, unable to bite her with its stinging rebuke. Her cape billowed magnificently, at its own majestic pace independent of the furious wind, a dramatic backdrop against which she was gloriously displayed. She was a study in effortless levitation, heedless of the giddy height and unfazed by the storm's commotion, anchored to nothingness by her whim.

      Man, I am really fucking proud of the way that turned out — makes me believe I must've actually learned something about the craft the last year or so. And some other parts aren't bad, either. Which makes it all the more frustrating that I can't get these bozos in line.
      I need to get wasted, I suppose, and hallucinate myself into a meeting with them so I can work this out. I dunno. Gotta do something…

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© Patrick Hill, 2000