Post #3 from our Year of the Novel Blogger Caro!
This guy has been stalking me. His name is Nick and he is tall and thin with a creepy hook nose and deep, nice-sad eyes. He’s restless, always tapping his skinny fingers on cereal packets and waiting room armrests and the edge of his pocket; his mind wanders. He ambushed me in the supermarket the other week, and appeared in my car on the way to work. He’s started to show up while I’m in the shower.
But before you call the cops [Mum, if you’re reading this I mean it – put down the phone], it’s ok. He’s not dangerous. He’s imaginary – a character I’ve created for the novel I’m writing – and when he arrives, I’m always glad to see him.
I’ve been thinking about character a lot this week, wondering what it is about us as writers that invites particular characters that show up in our lives. It might be our job to create the scene and the plot and the undercurrents of tension, but why do I get the feeling our characters choose us?
See the annoying thing about Nick is that he’s not exactly perfect character material. For a start, he’s a man. A what? A male protagonist? Everyone says when I tell them I’m writing about a man who cannot forget anything. Then they suck the air through their teeth and shake their heads. That’s going to be very difficult.
It’s seems strange to me that there’s a perception it’s impossible to write protagonists of the opposite gender. To be honest, I’m more concerned about being ill equipped to write the story of a pathological remember. How does someone with a memory like a sieve write a convincing character haunted by every single one of his own, unforgettable experiences? My fellow YONers have been very supportive on the gender front, though – one advised me never to trust people who suck air in through their teeth, and another reminded me how upset Nick would be if I chopped off one if his vital appendages. So Nick is in no danger of becoming Nicola.
But I’m having other problems with the guy. He’s awkward, and he never talks about how he’s feeling. He never sleeps, so he harasses me at all hours of the night. He’s not as funny as I hoped he would be and his dialogue could be snappier. Plus, whenever he gets upset, his instinct is to retreat into a dark corner – hardly the making of dramatic, plot-furthering action.
But he’s mine, and he’s stuck in my head so I guess we’ll have to make the best of it.
And anyway, I’ll get him back. When he sees the terrible things I’ve got in store for him – he’s going to wish he chose some other writer to harass over their tea and bikkies.