No More Mr Nice Guy

A recent four star review of Shattered Reflections on Amazon said that although a lot of the characters were not nice this made it a better story. This review pleased me as it suggested that he had understood what I was trying to do. Making characters likeable is not something I have ever been concerned about.

It is certainly true thatShattered_Reflection_Cover_for_Kindle even the more appealing characters in Shattered Reflections have a nastier side. Jamie Hartnell, one of the main characters, begins the novel as a studious, sensible character. If he had remained that way throughout the novel, he would have been pretty one dimensional and no one would have cared about him. However, when it is discovered at school that he is gay and his so-called friend George starts to make his life a misery, I felt it was realistic to show the changes in his personality as he became more defensive and so very angry. His relationship with his mother also deteriorates, something he feels particularly angry about. He could not remain the same, no one could go through that and still be the same person.

At the same time, I do not believe that having characters that are irredeemably evil is any better or any less one dimensional. George could be seen as the villain of the piece but he was struggling with issues of his own relating to his sexuality and I wanted to make it apparent that this was the reason for his violence. Even the most terrible of characters – Patrick Bateman springs to mind – have to have something to keep the reader interested. For example, while obviously Bateman is not likeable, it is possible to feel concern for him and understand that he is trapped in a system that alienates people so much that they consider murder the only way they can be noticed.

Finally, I wanted to write a novel that was quite psychological and while it is written in third person, it is always from the various characters’ points of view. I think that if you could genuinely see inside other people’s heads you would find that most people have a less than likeable side. Most of us think things that we would never share and part of being a nice person is not sharing them with others. However, when you are writing from a character’s point of view, you cannot afford to leave such thoughts out. It would be dishonest and you would be left with those nice, one-dimensional characters that make for such bad fiction.

 

80000 words so far.

Over the last week, I have been reading over the 80000 words that I have so far written of Choose Yr Future. I decided to read through even though it is not finished because I felt, on the one hand, I was getting lost, and on other, my ideas were spiralling out of control. Getting to grips with my original ideas seemed like a good idea. Some of this was written quite a while ago when I was editing Shattered Reflections so I wanted to see if it all still fitted together.

I don’t work in a linear fashion. (That’d be too easy, right?) It has always been the same for me, whatever I have written, essays, lesson plans; I just don’t seem to be able to work in a straight line. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know where this is going and I do have a plan of events and also other things that I wish to include. But the story will be told from different viewpoints so if I get going with one of the characters I might write all of the events that they are going to narrate, rather than the events in chronological order.

As you can imagine there are endless possibilities for confusion with this method. But I am satisfied that it will all come together in the end. It always does. And it is good, I think to remind yourself of what you have done and where it is going.

It is interesting that some of the oldest bits of this writing are definitely the worst. They explain straight off to the reader what I have expressed more subtlely in other places. It will involve more re-writing then I might have envisaged at this stage. Ultimately though I am pleased to have done it, to see which ideas work and which don’t means I can focus my attention now instead of waiting until the very end.

So, a lot of work still to be done but this is the part that is the most enjoyable so I don’t really mind.

Day 15 – A character who you can relate to the most – Little Women and The Robber Bride

This gave me food for thought as a lot of the books I read include narrators / characters that are not the sort of people that you would want to identify yourself with – Patrick Bateman, for example or Vernon God Little, any of McEwan or Amis’ impossibly difficult narrators. Also, I felt that didn’t identify with any narrators who are mentally ill in The Bell Jar, Surfacing, Catcher in the Rye or One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest, for example.

The first character that I can remember really appealing to me was Jo in Little Women. In fact, I went on to read the rest of that series of books many times because I liked her character so much. One of the first things that Jo does in Little Women is cut off her beautiful long hair and she is frequently found to be doing things that were considered slightly unsuitable for her sex. This appealed to me at age 12 when I first read it as I was a tomboy and really didn’t see the point in make-up, dolls, jewellery or any of the other things that nearly teenage girls seem to be obsessed with. It was good to find a kindred spirit.

It is surprising that I have managed to get this far in this challenge without mentioning Margaret Atwood who is one of my favourite authors and one of the few writers where I have enjoyed all that I have read by her. Her female characters often seem to find life difficult in similar ways to me. The character I have chosen is Tony from The Robber Bride. I related to her straight away as she is left handed (as am I) and as a result of this learns how to write backwards. (This is a logical conclusion. If you have ever watched anyone left handed write, you will see how awkward it is. It would make much more sense to write backwards.) Furthermore, she is constantly reversing words in her head and sometimes out loud in conversation. It often feels as if the world is entirely the wrong way round when you are left handed. It seems that this has even effected Tony’s thought patterns and language use. Often the backwards words were exotic looking, forming a new language that only Tony could understand. It made me wish for the ability myself.

Shattered Reflections: Now on Amazon

At last. Shattered Reflections is on the shelves in Amazon (Is it still a bookshelf if the bookshop is virtual?) and will be available on Kindle in the next couple of days. It is both exciting and absolutely petrifying. I feel like it is the most amazing and the most stupid thing I have ever done. It’s like letting people into a corner of my mind – a pretty scary place at the best of times.

It is strange for other reasons as well. I will never have to edit or re-read this book. It is finally finished. Over. It is out of my hands. I will never have to think about the characters again and as I have grown quite attached to them over the years, this makes me a little sad. It feels like having a friend move to the other side of the world – I may have occasional contact with them but, in fact, they don’t belong to me any more.  I have to hope that people enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

Now I have to decide which of the myriad scribblings which are currently waiting patiently in the draw of my desk I should start work on now. A whole new set of characters to get to know and develop. Of course, there is the matter of promoting this book and I know that this will take up a lot of my time but that seems more like work. Starting a new writing project is definitely a pleasure.

Check out Shattered Reflections on Amazon here