Back to the wagon

Over the past week-ish I’ve gone a little off the rails, proclaiming my love for stealing other people’s ideas, trying to make it sound like I hadn’t abandoned the novel I’d set out to get to the third (and hopefully final) draft of by the end of the year, and generally taking on far too many things to get any of them done. And I won’t lie: I’ve loved every second of it, and don’t regret it at all. It’s been an amazing week, a week for my soul more than anything else. Performing to a live audience while mostly-naked, which I’ve never done before, will do things to you. Though as I’m an actor, those things have pretty much already been done to me; taking my clothes of was just the latest expression of my thespianic psyche finding a way to manifest itself.

Also: first on-stage kiss. I won’t pretend that I did a good job, but given the character I was playing, I wasn’t really supposed to anyway, so I guess it all works out.

But seriously, enough is enough for now.  I have one hell of a climb to get back on the wagon, starting with waking up at 8am at the latest, watching most of a 2-hr movie that I was supposed to have watched today, thinking of a question about it to raise in class for participation marks, then going to a tutorial about comics that I haven’t read and readings that I also haven’t read, then taking 2 hours to print off and electronically submit my comic review (which I spent most of today writing), then go to one final tutorial where I have actually seen the film we’re meant to be talking about, and thenTHEN I can finally stop. I won’t have caught up, but I will have finished.

And then, to do my penance, get up again at 8am the following day and go to a 2-hour lecture. Though to be honest that’s going to be very optional. At least I’ll have time to write my novels.

Speaking of which: a funny thing happened yesterday while I was writing that first chapter of the YA novel. I put in a different main character to the first iteration of that chapter. The first main character was, basically, a walking cliche: a 16-year-old girl who was obsessed with clothes and herself, her only semblance of depth being awkward teenage dynamic stuff with her mother involving an item of clothing that her mother used to own and then gave to her for her 13th birthday. The second character, one I’ve had lurking around for ages without a good story to shack up in, had the same story, but just gave it a lot more self-reflexivity, a bit more ‘maturity’.

And do you know what happened?

I realised that I preferred the first character.

I prefer her because she helps the narrative along better. In any story where a secondary world, even if it isn’t literally a whole world, is one of the main elements that the narrative rests on, the more of a ‘culture-shock’ it is for the main character to step into that world, the better. The first character is your stereotypical ‘girly-girl’ in a lot of ways, if not all, and as such a rude introduction into a world of twisted science and dark paranormal doings seems like the ultimate contrast. The second character is a lot more ostensibly mature, and also a bit ‘alternative’, meaning that the disruption of her reality doesn’t have quite the same impact.

But quite aside from all that – I like both characters. But the first one just felt a bit more fun.

My dilemma, then, is getting trapped in the cycle of the Neverending First Chapter, the one that keeps getting re-written over and over and over again until it’s perfect, which, of course, it never is. The lightness of the first character, compared to the second’s years of emotional baggage and sentimental value to me personally, is such a good strength for the more upbeat tone I wanted to return to, something from the early days of my writing career. It was, in all honesty, probably too light, and I think the tone with the second character is too heavy. A nice middle-ground would be … nice.

Yes.

So it’s a matter of tone. And maybe I just can’t handle writing female main characters. Maybe that’s a thing. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’d felt that way. Or maybe I have to remember that this is just the first draft and the only thing that matters is that it gets done, and I can learn as I go. I would like to find a way to mix the parts of these two characters that I like together in order to forge my ideal main character for this piece, and I think part of it is actually going to have to be letting go of the idea of this character I’ve been trying to find a story for. It brings too much pressure to get it perfect, and that never helps with a new project, forcing it to try and be something specific, rather than finding out what it is on its own terms. It’s happened with new stories I’ve tried to uses as homes for my lost and homeless characters, and it’s never worked out well. Not yet, anyway.

And I want this one to work. And I want Tallulah to work. I’m thinking very hard about Tallulah as I get further and further into this new project, particularly as regards structure – the more narrative-driven feel of this new one compared to what is essentially a character-study at the heart of Tallulah, and how, since Tallulah has taken on a lot of narrative qualities, maybe I’ve got enough of an outlet with this new project to actually let them be reduced in Tallulah – or maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe Tallulah needs those narrative elements really badly.

I dunno. I’m still holding out hope for that bubble-popping theory of mine to prove itself true.

In any event, I have had a fantastic time for the last couple of weeks, and now it’s time to get back to the serious stuff. Which, I have to say, was also really fun while I was in the zone. I miss it. I think this two-week break will be a good opportunity to gently easy myself back into things.

For now, though, I need to sleep. I doubt I actually will. But it never hurts to try.

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