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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Characters seen through other eyes


The 4th draft of my novel has now been read by four readers (or possibly five if you count the very dodgy self publishing out fit i had the miss fortune to try) , all of which have given lots of great feed back, each of them have seen characters and situations in the book a little differently. Which is only to be expected, After all no matter how much the writer may feel in control of his words how those words are interpreted is at the end of the day at the behest of the reader .
This has however left me with a quandary or two as i approach the fifth draft, which was always going to involve some major rewriting, if only because i have let it sit so long.

The first quandary is a simple one, and much to do with my approach to writing, In the first quarter of the novel there is a lot of info dumping and back-story which, while it has a place, that place is spread much further through the book or dealt with in other ways. I suspected this to a degree, but having received professional advice on the subject from the wonderful  Steph Roundsmith of +http://www.perfectpunctuation.co.uk/default.html and then read through the first half of the novel with fresh eyes its alarming how much I have done this through direct narration. Rather than in glimpses, hints, actions and character dialog. It does leave me the task of figuring out what to take out , what to put where, how to reuse it all in better ways. None of it is bad exactly , there is just too much of it all piled into the opening quarter of the book simply because i write back story as i get under the skin of a characters, so its written as I go rather than planned extensively in advance .

The second quandary is more complex in some ways, this concerning one of the two (or three depending how you count them) main characters, I was always aware he was the weakest of my characters and that his story develops least within the book. So I knew he needed work, this in itself is however not the issue. Where the issue lays is in the reading of the character by one proof readers who's interpretation of the character, his back story and his actions throughout the book , is wildly different from what i envisaged while writing him. Discussing the character with her lead me to realize that while I may have a firm view of him and his motivations, it does not mean my view is actually correct. Indeed having discussed the character I am convinced in many regards that this proof readers view is the more considered view.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the character himself and what i need to consider while doing the rewrite. The reader has poured a lot of grey on my own view of the character and how he should be written. If anything it has made me want to write the character with a less sympathetic narration and handling. As opposed to trying to fix the character and make him read closer to what i originally envisaged. The flaws that i did not envisage in the character actually make for a more interesting story and I hope a more compelling one if the narration is less sympathetic. Indeed if his back story is explored with a different view it addresses something far darker than i intended and perhaps more important to address.  

The interesting thing about all this from my perspective as the writer is how wildly what I wrote can be interpreted away from what i intended. I say this because i have nothing but respect for the readers view. Her interpretation of the character and her perspective upon his story is far darker than my intent. Yet the readers view is the most interesting view and may well be the most valid view when it comes to any writing. No matter how much a writer may strive to make a character exactly what they intend a reader will always interpret them in other ways. There is after all always more than one side of the coin.

This leaves me with the issue of how i write the character, do i change him and the way he acts to fit my original vision for the character, or do i instead take him further in the direction of the proof readers interpretation. After a lot of consideration I have come to the conclusion the alternative view of the character is more interesting, though certainly darker in edge than i ever intended.

What makes characters intresting are the shades of grey , no one is all light or all dark after all, and seldom see the dark in themselves or indeed the light. Much rewriting ahead but hopefully with something more compleing to come out of the end of it ....