This mantra is so true. Lately, in my own writing, I’ve found it quite troubling. Not only have I proven that my mind goes far further into the macabre than I’d like to think possible for myself (this is something I can live with). I’ve noticed in two of my three novels, my main characters are not very likable.
Truth is, I’m an awkward human being to interact with. My abilities to engage in social situations is, how shall I say, uncomfortable for everyone around me. These truths about my social awkwardness comes screaming out onto the pages.
I’ve rectified many of the problems with Collins. To a large degree, I think she’s likable and true as a person. My male main character in “Owned By IT”, is neither likable nor emotionally “with it.” It’s as if he has no emotions to what happens around him. He interacts with the world as if he had Asperger’s Syndrome. After three revisions in attempts to make him emotional, it’s as if I’ve reached a brick wall.
Problem is, I am that main character. I travel through life with few emotions. Or, more accurately, the emotions I have are neither socially acceptable nor in any way positive in nature. I’m a walking awkward sentence. Perhaps that’s why I write. The art of writing takes place in solitude. It’s the editing that is a social event. I’m guessing Albert Camus did not attend many critique circles.
But, to end this deeply depressing post on a somewhat brighter note, I’ve taken this lack of social aptitude as a challenge. Over the last couple years, I’ve gotten much better at making others around me uncomfortable and am myself less uncomfortable in public. Now, I need to do the same to my characters.
My goal this year, as a writer, is to give my characters feelings, emotions, and likability. For the rest of the year, every main character I create will be someone you’d want to have a beer with, or have a long chat with, or be married to. This year, I’m focusing on character development rather than plot or undercurrent topics or social commentary. This year, I become a storyteller!
Post Script: Driving to work this morning has me realizing what my problem has been all these years as a writer. It’s not my awkwardness in public or my lack of emotions. No. My problem is that I’ve pulled back the punches all along. I’ve feared someone coming by and saying “Jesus, what the HELL is wrong with you!?” By pulling the punches, I don’t have to explain when my character murders a child, or when my character is raped, or when my story includes the darkest child abuse you thought possible. But, I’m a writer. I create lives. Do some of the ideas tumble around in my skull? Yes. But just because I’m using that dark side to create something you want to read, I hold no obligation to tell you why it exists in my head or whether it even exists at all. I’m simply showing an F’d up world as I see it. So, to my loving and unloving readers alike, for you, I promise, to stop pulling punches! You will get honest characters. Where that leads me or my characters, I cannot say…