Glamming Up

on December 10, 2010 in Misc

I’ve decided to glam up Layla.

I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t it late in the game to be changing your lead character? Like, uh… Didn’t you claim to be almost FINISHED with the FINAL REWRITE of The Compass Master?

So sue me.  Besides, by glamming up I mean making her warmer, deeper, more fascinating — changes that won’t take much work or alter the plot.  It’s something that has to be done.

Remember how I told you that reader Robert Read (such a cool name) did a great job critiquing my manuscript?  Well, he also reported that Layla was “admirable” but that he liked several secondary characters more. Of course I felt stung, but deep down I knew what he was getting at. A couple of friends who’ve also read TCM praised Layla as a character, but I realized in retrospect that neither of them talked about really LOVING her.

And that’s what we want for the lead characters, isn’t it?  For them to be so deserving of our love and attention that we’ll follow them through thick and thin, or if they’re sometimes unlikable or infuriating they’re still so fascinating (take a bow, Scarlet O’Hara), you can’t tear yourself away from them.

Fellow blogger Ketutar (Ketutar writing) wrote the other day about not finishing Jonathan Franzen’s ballyhooed novel The Corrections because, among other reasons, she didn’t like the characters.  I know just what she means.  I once wasted my time trudging through a John Updike novel in which – I kid you not – ALL of the characters with the sole exception of the toddler were so unlikable that I wanted them to drop dead.

Of course Layla is already pretty likable. And the painful irony is, for more than a year I’ve chronicled my unfolding plan to become like her (I’ll report on the results in an upcoming post).  Yet all this time it seems that I’ve been keeping some distance from Layla even as I created her.  You see, I can really, really hide large parts of myself from people.  Sometimes I’ve got protective armor around me as tough as steel.  This shouldn’t affect my writing, but with Layla I’ve projected parts of me into her, which means that on some subconscious level I’ve also thrown my armor around her.

So you know what this means.  I gotta tear off that armor and let Layla out in all her realness and depth and wildness and whatever.  And you know what else?  I think I’m gonna enjoy this.

Wow.  Who knew that writing could be like on-the-cheap therapy?

4 Responses to “Glamming Up”

  1. Ketutar says:

    “ALL of the characters with the sole exception of the toddler were so unlikable that I wanted them to drop dead.”
    LOL I think Tart wsa talking about someone who had managed to make even a 7 years old girl unlikable :-D

    Love that dog harnesk! Good dog :-) I don’t think one could get Boris (our Springer spaniel) to wear something like that. He barely wears a scarf. :-)

  2. Helena says:

    Ketutar – Sometimes in the mountains I see hikers with their dogs, and the dogs are wearing doggie vests that carry their water and treats. Pretty cool.

  3. Hart says:

    I totally think I’ve read that Updike Novel–Jacob’s Version? If it’s a DIFFERENT Updike novel, then maybe that is a bad habit of his–whatever the case, I haven’t read anything else of his. And Ketutar is exactly right–I WAS just talking about a book like that–in this case, an early Jeffrey Deaver novel–I think maybe he’d never met any women before he wrote it.

    If it’s a relatively easy fix, I see no reason not to. She doesn’t even necessarily need to be someone to fall in love with if you give a sympathetic REASON for her keeping distant (think of Katniss in Hunger Games–she is really prickley, but volunteering to save her sister, plus her background, make it all believable and give a reason to root for her)

  4. Helena says:

    Hart — I looked it up and Updike’s book is Roger’s Version, so we must’ve read the same book.

    Thanks for the support on changing Layla. And on my TO READ list are the Hunger Games books!