11 responses to “What We Owe Our Characters”

  1. Nance

    Well. I just want to read it.

    Because, if a conversation the author has with himself about ending his novel sounds like this, then I’m certainly in for the whole thing.

    That’s one.

  2. Froog

    I am reminded of Churchill’s words about the Battle of El Alamein, Britain’s first great victory in the war, which turned the tide against the Germans in North Africa: This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”

    Have you ever read Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, a comic novel about the writing process? Its central conceit is that all fictional creations become ‘real people’, and have a ‘private life’ outside of the narrative chores the author requires of them. The central character is trying to write a novel, and finds that all of his characters come to live with him (luckily, he owns an Inn, so he’s got plenty of room). He has lazily borrowed some characters from a dime Western to fill out the bit parts in his own story – so, we find cowboys roaming the streets of Dublin.

    I sometimes picture you in similar situation. I imagine The Missus was quite glad to “say goodbye” to Emrys, a broody Welshman obsessed with beer, on whom it seemed to be always raining. But you still have quite a crowded household there.

  3. marta

    Well, my characters mean something to me too.

    I read At Swim-Two-Birds in college. It would probably mean more to me now. And Woody Allen has a film about characters coming to life. And, of course, Stranger Than Fiction… so many of us writers seem to have issues with this.

    Now you say something about the “get-it-to-press stage.” And you mention a timeline–couple to three years. This makes me curious about the process you’re going through–because you’ve said before certain things about the process you aren’t going to blog or facebook about.

    And this leads to wonder about the next step–the part of getting readers. Are you looking for early readers? Beta readers? I-don’t-know-what-else readers? Or are you keeping it under wraps until it is out in the world and we can actually buy it?

    Do you want people to ask to read it or do you want to ask certain people to read it? Or is that just too crazy to think about at this time?

    It is going to be a great day (confetti shall need to fly out from the computer–where is that app anyway?) when you state here on your blog that you are done–DONE!–with your book. You seem so close! That is very cool.

    FInished manuscripts are cool.

  4. Jayne

    I’m envious of the obsessive schedule and preoccupations gripping you. I wish I had such discipline. It’s a demon of mine, and you remind me that it’s time to face it so that someday I can see “the light at the end of the tunnel,” as you now do. I think the “demon” is fear of living too long with my characters, its distraction, and becoming unglued from reality. I’m not so certain how I would function between the fiction/nonfiction world.

    Also, I’m not one for conventions. But as you know, I’ve no experience with publishers (oh, but my son, my SON is having one of his poems published this fall! At 14, he’s already more prolific and successful than his mother–that’s how discipline works.) I can tell you only, as a reader, that two books I recently read–Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad both employ various POVs throughout–they switch in every chapter. I found it a little distracting–an entire change of voice for each chapter, and not always a noticeable change of voice (which is key, obviously)–but this is just my reader preference–which may be a function of my ADHD.

    I do like the idea though, of presenting various POVs within smaller, sectioned chapters along the rising arc. That sounds, very much so, like it would construct within the mind a sense of urgency.

    The interesting thing in Jennifer Egan’s book is the 64 page chapter written entirely in PowerPoint. Not very conventional, eh? Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be Jennifer Egan. Who, by the way, in person, is lovely, modest and approachable. (She was the writer’s conference.)

    Here she is discussing her recent novel, its unconventional structure, and perceived marketing issues–it’s also noted that you can see the PowerPoint presentation after the “jump” but I couldn’t figure out how to do this: Conversation with Jennifer

    I say follow what feels right to you… follow your instinct (a la Jennifer) . I love to see experimentation unfolding in a book.

  5. Jayne

    @Jayne – Oops, she was at the conference. She wasn’t the conference. Although, she did make the conference. 😉

    (Dang it takes me a long time to write in html.)

  6. Jayne

    @John – Ah! Thank you for including the above elements! I think it’s quite cool how she wrote Alison’s chapter. Very current. Her book would make a fabulous multi-media e-book. Especially w/the music enhanced version of the PP presentation. It’ll be the next generation (if it’s not already).

    As for my lack of discipline: “temporarily suspended discipline” is very kind. And while the children are a huge distraction, I’ll have you know that Jennifer has them, too–I believe she has more than I. (I want to say I heard her say she has four, or maybe five? But does she have a nanny?) However, she does have the journalism degree, which was obviously worth its weight in tuition. 😉

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