My Main Character Should Probably Be Cut
As an update on my new serial, “I’m Writing the Worst Book Ever,” I’m coming to terms with the fact that my main character has very little to do with the actual plot.
I’ve stated how this book was much different for me than the others; the world’s rules weren’t inherent and obvious to me, I wrote it on a whim, and due to it being made for National Novel Writing Month, I didn’t have the time to really consider what I was doing, just trying to find answers as I went.
While not outlining has worked well for me for many manuscripts, the results of this one have been every single ramification for not planning ahead. I’ve outlined novels several times before, usually to good results, and find that for most, a mixture of writing down ideas, plotting ahead of yourself, as well as writing on the fly and going with the flow has been the best policy for me personally. But this manuscript, the worst manuscript in the world, has come up with every single flaw that could possibly happen when you just write by the seat of your pants.
One of these things is the disjointed plot and subplot, and the fact that I’m seriously considering if the protagonist actually belongs in the story.
The fun about writing the worst book ever is the potential and freedom in it. As I write, I examine what I can do to improve it, how I’m going to rewrite it, what parts have any merit to them at all. Luckily, the manuscript has actually started to get better as I go along, finding more answers and understanding the reality better. Yet, in all of this, the main character of Ronny has started to prove strikingly irrelevant, her side story not the most interesting aspect. It is weird to feel like your protagonist functions more as some side character tacked in because of the author’s weird attachment to her, not like it’s her story. Because, really it isn’t.
I mean, that was kind of what I was going for, it should be noted. She was a Watson-like character, a writer, watching the events as they occurred to other people. Her story was about her leading a normal life, getting a family, and then trying to become a writer, bemoaning all of her old choices. She, a literary snob, would be questioning what if she had made more exciting and daring risks to be then thrust into the main plot of a supernatural world evolving around her.
Not only could I not get this subplot of having abandoned her family to fit in with the new plot I was developing, I was also running out of things to say about it. The scenes that flashed back to her husband’s life were stagnant, unchanging, not all that interesting. I knew in the rewrite I would have to come up with a better storyline for him. Her writing has taken a backseat and she never discusses it. I don’t know how to tie it back in, and it’s not as though I want her to decide to write about her experience of this magical world—though it would be an interesting parallel considering that this is the first book I’ve ever written directly about my own experience.
I will say that it’s an odd coincidence if I decide that the one character I identify with becomes completely unimportant to her own story. Something Freudian in that, I suppose.
In trying to tell the comparatively short history of the world’s magical development (the past thirty years), most of it comes in flashbacks, following the supernatural forefather’s and their experiences. My only other choice is for it to be conveyed in dialogue, or to change the storyline so all of it is happening now. However, I feel like having the main character be a pivotal player in the origin of “our” world’s introduction of magic has been played out and is somewhat cliché. I much rather find a more interesting way to tell the story I want than to change it just because it would be easier to convey history in action.
Because of this, it has brought me out of my box into uncharted territory. I rarely write about a lot of characters. In the original manuscript that inspired Stories of the Wyrd, the two protagonists were the only ones who were ever named. Out of all my beta-readers, only one noticed (re: said anything), and it was only about one character. That’s how closely my books usually follow an individual and how little they follow anyone outside of him.
I like the idea of telling their history by how it happened to different individuals. For one thing, it makes it feel more realistic, not having your chosen one do everything. I approach this somewhat tepidly because I’m not the biggest fan of ensemble pieces, and it’s hard to keep getting invested in new characters, especially those who are only talked about once, I fear I might be falling into the area of “You have too many.”
But once they started to tie in with each other, once their histories were more developed for me, I became excited. It was the first time I believed the story was coming together.
While all the others started to make their connections, they were still separate from the protagonist. As I reinvent the story, I knew I have to introduce these new concepts earlier on, a space that is taken up by the ramblings of Ronny’s writerly life.
The story is starting to take a turn, tying her in more, but I’m realizing that most of the first half of the book is becoming moot. I don’t believe that I’m going to cut her from the story, but the fact that I could (and possibly should) is off putting.