A Character Blooms


Who are you, anyway?

I have this character who’s been on my mind a lot lately. She’s a part of the novel I’m re-thinking and rewriting right now, and she’s sort of a sub-villain. Well, that’s not exactly right–she’s not really a villain at all, but definitely an antagonist to the main character. She’s had an interesting life, lived largely in the grey areas of society, because of who she is and who her father was. In a way her life has been a big lie, or a series of big lies, but since her father passed away, she’s felt the itch to do something. To confront the forces from her father’s past that impacted their lives every day. She plays a moderately important role in the draft as it stands now, but lately I’ve been thinking her part needs to be expanded. In fact, I’m thinking about getting inside her head a little more, and giving her more of a voice in the story.

She likes the notion, although she’s not giving up all of her secrets to me yet. I know she’s a bit of a maverick, with a devil-may-care attitude and a motivation to make life difficult for my main character. As she’s written right now, that’s almost all I know about her, and that’s the extent of how she comes across. That, and the fact that she has some secrets she’s not yet ready to share.

However, I’m thinking there’s more to her than that. I’m trying to understand her motivations, and, even more importantly, her goals.

Her goals as she was written in the first draft were mainly to find out more information about my main character, and hassle her a little without doing any real damage. Those goals work, but I’ve come to realize that they are not deep enough, or at least that I have not thought them through enough. I don’t really know why she has these goals. I don’t know if she really hates my main character, or only thinks she ought to hate her. I don’t know what she thinks she will get out of her current course of action. I’m not sure she knows, herself.

I do understand something of her motivations–my main character’s family “wronged” this character’s family, or at least that’s the way she sees it. And she definitely wants to do something about that. She’s driven by a mix of curiosity and a desire for vengeance, but she’s also searching for something. She knows that in some important ways, my main character and her family are like her, so I think she’s unwittingly drawn to them. It could be that without meaning to or expecting it, she actually comes to like my main character.

That may influence her actions, or it may only influence how she feels about her actions. I’m not sure yet. The storyline as it currently stands leaves much about this character unresolved, left for another time and another book. I’d like to retain some of this open-endedness, but I’m not sure how I’m going to do it if I do end up inside her head. I’ll have to reveal a lot more about what she knows and how she thinks. It might not be as neat and tidy as it is now.

But I think…I think it will make for a much stronger story, which is really the bottom line, isn’t it? And once we start hearing these little whispers from the characters in our heads, they become pretty difficult to ignore. She’s telling me “I have more to say,” and I think I’d probably be wise to listen…

Photo credit: mzacha

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