Revision is a little punk b#?ch! There I am toiling away on the second draft, almost to the end of the novel and starting to think about characters in the novel (mentally preparing for the “sweeps” portion of my revision process), and then I come to realize my main character is an asshole.
I toil, yes. Right now I’m busting down walls of action and scene selection as I move through the more tangible portion of the novel. The second draft for me is about pulling out concrete details. I don’t get to the inner monologue of the narration until the start of my third draft, which I affectionately call “sweeps” because I’ll repeatedly sweep over the text and wipe away unnecessary information while adding more details. The sweeps portion of my revision process is when the story begins to look like a real story.
So I had already come to the determination that my main character, Dean’s, main flaw was that he didn’t trust people. I had concluded he only trusted his wife’s opinion so when his coworkers came to him about concerns he didn’t trust what they were saying. Now I don’t hit readers over the head with this aspect of his character. Through Dean’s repeated second guessing, the reader eventually realizes this flaw: lack of trust. I do this so readers will pick up his character flaw only moments before the climax of the novel. Then the reader understands his final actions a little better.
“Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions.” — By David Corbett
Then I’m thinking this through, getting ready to begin my “sweeps” stage of revision, and I realized not only does he not trust people but the way he deals with this mistrust is by being critical. So I’m thinking through the internalization of a third person point of view, which is how the novel is written, and I’m simultaneously reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore (we all know Murakami is the king of internal monologue), and I’m asking myself, “So how should I gear Dean’s internal monologue?” Then I asked myself, “How would he talk to his coworkers if he had no filter?” All of a sudden I heard Dean start to be judgmental. In fact, he was so harsh I could only conclude one thing: Dean’s an asshole.
“Great fiction is fueled by bad decisions and human weakness.” — By Kristen Lamb
It’s kinda scary because he’s loosely based on myself. That must mean I’m an asshole. I’ll have to mediate on that one and get back to you later. For now, Dean is the asshole (not me, well, maybe me), and he will be an unlikable character. So for some strange reason that gets me excited. I like the idea of writing an unlikable character. More evidence I might be an asshole. But the reason I’m excited to write an unlikeable character is for the challenge. I’ve not had a character who came to fruition as so distinct as unlikeable. This is an exciting new avenue for me.
So I guess it’ll be. I’m writing about an asshole, who may or may not be like myself, but either way I’m excited for the “sweeps.”
(Image was borrowed from Wikimedia Commons)