So I'm creeping through chapter 16 of the Symphonians novel, which is the first chapter of part 2. So obviously I haven't gotten very far very fast. But! I am getting somewhere, emotionally.
I've been once again going over the background between Kay and Carter, which is based on a relationship between me and this other guy a long time ago. (It ended ... poorly.) My sour view of this relationship is part of the reason my novel bounced back to me; it doesn't fit in with Kay's generous, friends-above-all worldview I'd so carefully built up in the first half. Mainly because Miss Hindsight-Is-20/20 is going, "The man is evil! EEEEEEvilllll!"
Basing a book on a previous relationship that ended ... badly ... is tricky. Of course, everything about the man must be changed to avoid libel suits. (Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird recommends giving the male character a tiny penis so he will never come forward.) But what really trips you up is the Voice of Experience crying "EEEEEEvillll!" This, obviously, doesn't do a lot for character development, or plot development, and then your MC becomes unsympathetic because she hates the guy's guts, whereas it's actually the author busting through the page, declaiming, "Oh how I hate this guy's guts!"
If the character was actually a decent guy, you're not going to want to look at that. If he and the MC had good times, and they went smoochy smoocy and it was nice, there ain't no way you're going to want to take a look at that. Because the man was EEEEEEVillllll and that's all there is to it.
Grandpa Simpson: It's evil! EEEEEEEvil!
Bart: Grandpa, you always say that.
Grandpa Simpson (sadly): I just want attention.
So last week, when I started digging through the old journal and letters, I started wishing I had a journal that I'd given to the man. Instead of writing in my regular journal, I wrote in a special journal and I gave it to him.
I GAVE MY PRECIOUS WORDS AWAY! AND NOW I WANT THEM BACK!!!
But too bad so sad, like I'm going to waltz into this guy's life and say, "Hi, I'm the evil one who broke your heart, now give me that journal I gave you about 16 years ago."
Even though I want to.
But that would be dumb.
Funny, "I Wish It Would Rain Down" by Phil Collins came on. That was on the radio toward the end of our relationship, spring of '90, and I felt sorry that I'd been trying to leave him, so obviously I didn't hate him all the time as my story insists, and obviously I felt a lot of kindness toward him because he was a friend and he did help me, at least there at the beginning. So I need to focus on these things more. Those kinds of feelings and attitudes are closer to the feelings and attitudes of Kay in the book's first half, so I really need to stay true to them.
But damn, that journal would have helped a lot with that. Since the journal I kept doesn't have a whole lot in it until it starts all going to hell.
Still, there is hope. This afternoon I was reviewing a memory of a day, early in the relationship, when we were having fun together, and I actually remembered what it felt like when I was happy with him. Even though now, when I write "happy with him," I am not comfortable with feeling happy with him. It goes against all the defenses I've been piling up over the years.
It's a start, though. Let's see if I can do this poor guy some justice. It's only fair, since I bash the heck out of him later in the book!
But seriously, it is important to make the Carter character lovable. If Kay loves him (as a friend), and the reader loves him, then it's going to be that much harder for them to break away from him. It's got to tear her up and it's got to tear the reader up. She can't love him, but her code of honor says, Never abandon a friend.
So that's what I'm doing with chapter 16. I've been adding in a lot of scenes to further establish their relationship and also to give the reader some sense of why she's wanting to leave him later on -- I have him stalking her at a dance, which actually happened to me but with some different guy.
On the i-Pod: "Same Old River" -- Sam Bush