Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Turning a Character's Life Upside Down ... Again

None of you know Sean McNabb, because I have been keeping him a secret. I have trumpeted this great writing project I have done but told you very little about it. I don't want to give away plot, don't want to put sections of the novel online lest I start the publishing clock ticking. I am still sold on the idea, but I need to improve the writing. The silence from agents is telling me that. So that is what I'm about to do ... and Mr. McNabb is none too happy that he is going to get jerked around again.

So, with no more hesitation, here is Sean, one of my two protagonists. Young man, not quite 30. Divorced, talented, committed to his job and his dreams, damaged goods by history, motive and happenstance, recovering self-absorbed fool and still addicted to hope. He is trying to smoothe the rough edges of himself and his life, and some others are happy to take part in the project.

Sean: So, what's all this crap I'm hearing about you changing me? Haven't you done enough damage already?

CM: Changing you is not entirely correct. I am not planning to revise plot ... at least those aren't my plans now ... but I am changing the way you are presented. Your life was told in third person; now it is going to go to first person.

Sean: And you are stripping me bare before the world for what reason?

CM: To let people understand your heart and soul better. I think by letting people climb into your body and mind that they will feel more of what you are going through. That way they will understand your wants, your needs, your desires, your transgressions. You know, you aren't the easiest guy to get along with sometimes.

Sean: The problem is not me, it is other people.

CM: One of my points exactly. We will still confront that, and that is rock-solid promise.

Sean: You novelists are all alike. You think you are your own little God.

CM: That is true, but with a difference. God gives you a choice. You can believe ... or not. You can hear good advice like "thou shalt not covet ..." and you can take it to heart ... or not. It is all free will and choice, and those are gifts. A novelist doesn't allow choice. If I want you to feel the thrill of holding a woman you love in your arms, then tear her out of your life, I will do it. If I want to build a dream you reach for with all your heart and soul, then deny it, I will do it. If I want to put you on the knife's edge as far as life or death, I will do it.

Sean: That is my greatest fear. Be honest here ... am I going to die?

CM: We all do, Sean, but in the context of the novel ... no options are off the table. It makes no literary sense to take away one color from the palette.

Sean: Well, if you are going to be that cavalier with my life, then screw you.

CM: Ah, it's not wise to be sharp with the one who holds the keys to life and death in his hands. I can erase you simply by putting fingertips to keyboard ... but I prefer to mold you, put the knife to your faults and make you dangle in midair a bit. You know all those literary devices ... goal, conflict, black moment. Maybe I will postpone resolution. And maybe I am acting a little more like God here. It is all for your own good.

Sean: How long is this going to take?

CM: Could be weeks, could be months. The standard I need to reach for keeps taking me a little deeper all the time. I am big about reaching for certain standards.

Sean: Are you going to continue to toss so many elements into this story ... all the crime, passion, romance, spirituality? You would make it easier to sell this story if you stuck to a single genre.

CM: Oh, you sound like a novelist yourself. The answer is yes. I want you to read like a real life, and every life has elements of love, loss, tension, defeat, renewal, great questions and search for answers. I will lead you through various phases. Maybe I want people to see a bit of themselves, feel great triumphs and face their greatest fears. If it makes it harder to sell, then so be it. I have never been one to worry about going against the grain.

Sean: And you think you can do that, form my story and make that happen?

CM: Why do you think I am rewriting so extensively. I am committed to making you and John Craft that real.

Sean: Ah, poor John.

CM: Yes, poor John. As I said, no options are off the table.

Sean: I have one last question: Will this hurt?

CM: I promise you you won't feel a thing ... until your pain makes literary sense.

Sean: Oh, screw you.

CM: Sean, I warned you once ...

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