Sunday, October 13, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: You Know Who You Are

You have a character in your head. At least one. You know you do. Somebody you enjoy contemplating, putting into different situations, pairing him up with your favorites of fiction; picturing her in various situations. A daydream protagonist who is recognizably not you.

You haven't written about her - or you have, but they were awful Mary Sue stories - or you don't feel ownership of him because he's too closely based on (and may even still have the face and name of) somebody else's character or a real person - or she resembles you too much (see "Mary Sue" above) - or you're embarrassed to do anything formal with him because he started as your fantasy lover way back in seventh grade - or you keep recycling her in your avatars and RPG characters and what not, so she doesn't feel like a fictional character to you - or bits of him keep cropping up in the stuff you do write but he's never a suitable protagonist and anyway as a character he's a total failure, too idealized or too sketchy or too - something.

But this character is part of you and it behooves you to understand him.

So take her out and play with her in the privacy of your own head. What is it that makes this character live in your head so much? This character is mercurial by nature, but certain things are constant and defining. And you may think this is a pure fantasy too-good-to-be-true person, but I promise you, he has a few flaws that are as essential to him as his virtues. Maybe more so.

It may be that while you think of this character as an ideal, when you examine her honestly, you'll find that she is built around a core of dearly-treasured faults.

So. What is the worst thing you could do to this character?

How does that change him?

And how does she learn and change and grow and become as real to an audience as to you - and remain the essential character of which you are so fond?

Play with that.

You don't have to show what you get to anybody. You don't have to finish it. You don't have to ever put this character into a work you plan to publish. Just let them do their jobs and lead you to That Story you've been walking around without noticing. They're trying to tell you something important. You should listen.

I thought one of mine had died off. He's a charmer, and I dislike and distrust charming people, so it embarrassed me to have him around in my head at all. I more or less banished him. But he sneaked back in recently, with a small name change, and now he's laughing at me for taking so long to recognize him. But he's a lot older now, as am I; we've both learned a lot.

I knew the other was still around - I've been using her for RPG characters for the longest time, and she has quite a lot of flexibility for a woman who's all about repression and control of an interior life that would scorch the earth around her. It's tempting to get them together, but that would be a Romance novel and I don't do those; don't even like them, though I like love stories just fine.

And anyway, they're the same at the core; it's just that they guard the world from themselves with different exterior coping mechanisms. I don't know where we're going. I don't have to. Neither do you.

Take some time off and just chase after this person down the corridors of your mind. He'll take you where you want to go.

Yeah, the garage sale's a bit disorganized today. Some days are like that.

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