Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter have probably caught at least a glimpse of my ongoing saga with “The Obstinate Character C” (I’ve even mentioned it on this blog a few times). For every breakthrough I have with Callie, it seems like I quickly run into another roadblock.
— Allison (@nerissarain) August 3, 2014
Her opening scenes underwent a COMPLETE rewrite — after I had already been through a round of edits with the original — because I just couldn’t get her voice. I was struggling to find her. I have been struggling to find her for a number of years. And I was struggling to figure out why.
There is a good chance that I haven’t quite gotten her figured out yet, but I feel like I’m getting closer. Lately I’ve found my brain running with supporting information, insight into the why’s and how’s of some pieces that had eluded me before, a hopeful sign.
I think I have finally figured out part of the reason she has been so difficult for me to grasp.
I am a pretty level-headed individual (in most cases… Hey! You! Don’t laugh!). I don’t anger easily (outside of sibling interactions. Because my siblings, like all good siblings, know exactly how to push the right buttons). I’ve worked hard at this, learned to keep my emotions in check and approach life so that I don’t get angry, so I don’t jump to the worst conclusions, so that I don’t turn into a weeping pile of goo (in public). I find other ways to vent my frustration to keep it from building up to an explosion.
Anger has always been a complex issue for me (it is a very complex emotion in general) and I’ve done a lot of work exploring my own relationship to that particular emotion. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a teen-aged character that is not just mildly angst-ridden, or somewhat introverted, but actually flat out angry. Angry and willing to express that anger. Sometimes unable to control it, anger bursting out in an explosion of fury.
But that is what Callie needed to be allowed to do. I was restricting her, limiting her to this box, keeping the anger contained. I was not listening to who she truly is — the person she needs to be when the story starts — and it was making her stubborn and sulky. It was causing this disconnect, and not allowing me to write the character as the character needs to be written.
Callie made her debut over on Disparate Threads the other day, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a character give me so much trouble and still get past the drafting stages. Hopefully, now that we’ve ironed some things out and I’m letting her be her, things will go more smoothly for us.
I find myself wondering how often I have tried to confine a character within certain boundaries, just because I am challenged by who they need to be. I imagine (read: hope) I’m not the only one who deals with this challenge. How do you know that you are actually getting to the character, presenting them in the way that is true to who they are?
Part of trying to confine Callie was due to my own discomfort with her ways of expressing her anger, but just because it makes me uncomfortable doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write it. Just because I have better ways to deal with my anger doesn’t mean she does. How do we tap into those emotions (and ways of dealing with emotions) that are uncomfortable for us? And, importantly, once we have managed to do that how do we keep those emotions from overflowing into our own lives?