Today I mentioned to Pinckney that I’m currently working to make a couple of the central characters in CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS a little more sympathetic when they’re first introduced. He said that he was doing the same thing for the screenplay he’s working on. We agreed that we need to show that our characters are worth caring about before we totally demolish their worlds. (He writes extensively about the notion of what we do when we’re writing stories–Here’s a really smart blog on the subject that, if you write, I guarantee will rock your world!)
But what has me thinking tonight is the act of presenting our characters. When I finished the draft of CALLING MR LONELY HEARTS, it was pretty much complete for me. The characters came and told me their stories and I wrote them down. I love each one of my characters, but, as with people I meet in the so-called real world, they don’t reveal everything about themselves at first blush. There are so many details, things that distract from the story at hand: minor surgeries, childhood bicycle accidents, petty thievery, what kind of breakfast cereal their mother always served them. Any one of these details could feature in a chapter or scene. The key is to choose carefully.
This is where I get to edit the story a character tells me. People don’t always make the very best first impressions. I’m always delighted when I meet someone who looks as though they might be dour and unpleasant suddenly lights up with a cheerful smile, or performs some unexpected act of kindness. Characters in novels, films, stories, etc. can sometimes also make impressions that do them a disservice.
I want you to know the characters in CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS the way I do. I want them to be multi-dimensional and exciting. I don’t want them to tell you everything at once. I want there to be a slow reveal–with some surprises at the end. People can be occasionally unpredictable. Characters we love–and love to hate–should get to be that way, too.
I felt a little reluctant to share this behind-the-scenes look at character creation. Part of me wants to be able to present CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS as a perfect, finished product next year. But so many of you followed along with CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS as I wrote the draft–I think I can trust you with a few details about me, and how I work!