Wrestling with Character

My current work-in-progress is a superhero story about a guy who hates superheroes and therefore becomes a villain. And I just today wrote the start of a scene that kind of shocked me.

Without spoilerating my own story, this guy has a hostage problem to solve with no easy way out. (Which is exactly the sort of problem a good novel needs, right?) And in flinging myself against this problem, a solution occurred to my protagonist and myself simultaneously. Usually solutions for writers are good things, but this one is a little bit mixed.

It fits the character perfectly. It fits the narrative perfectly. But it makes me uncomfortable, because it’s a little rape-y. Not in the sexual assault way (it’s not that kind of book), but in the willful taking-by-force of a thing from a more or less helpless victim. A victim who was once something like a friend. And this taking … well, it’s pretty much going to color the relationship between these two forever, assuming I leave it in (and I don’t see how I can leave it out, at this point). It’s forceful. It’s traumatic. It has left me feeling a little bit icky after the words came out.

So, it makes me seriously uneasy, but it also really gets me fired up about the story, because it fits so well. And it hit me — this is the sort of thing that’s been missing from this story all along. My protagonist, much as I have been thinking of him as a villain, hasn’t done much that’s outright villainous; so for him to finally break bad like this feels a little shocking. Then again, at the same time, it feels long overdue, coming in the final third of the book.

But now I’m all conflicted. This isn’t the sort of thing I envisioned my protagonist doing, but now that the moment has presented itself, it’s hard for me to imagine him acting any differently. It’s not the act itself that has me vexed, though. The real quandary that’s sticking in my craw is that I don’t know if this guy (or this girl, for that matter) can come back from this. I don’t know if a choice like this can be redeemed, and that could be a problem in future installments of this story.

So many questions. Is this scene right? Is it happening at the right moment in the story, or should it happen sooner (establishing him as a real rotten dude right from the go would clear up some of the waffling he’s done thus far … then again, if this moment comes late, it feels more like a final step on a terrible path)? Can a character come back from something like this? And, for that matter, should he?

On the plus side, the last couple days’ writing has poured out of me like from a ruptured water main, so that, at least, makes me feel like I’m on the right track.

2 thoughts on “Wrestling with Character

  1. 2016 and All That Was

    You knew this day would come Matt Pavowski. And now you have little choice but to sit back and allow one of your faithful readers to pay tribute to the Year that was on Accidentally Inspired.

    You’ve been generous enough to give us all front row seats for the magical carpet ride that was your writing life in 2016 and so it is fitting, in this season of reflection, that we look back at some of your very best, most witty, most insightful, most heart-touching, and definitely most hilarious posts of the year.

    Culled from literally hundreds of the best writing posts anywhere to be found on the internet throughout 2016, this list reads in descending order, counting down from # 20 to the ‘And the winner is..’ moment of #1.

    Matt Pavowski – we, your readers, salute you. Thankyou for giving us so much entertainment, so many words of inspiration and for putting colourful metaphor royalty on the map throughout this year. May the Paviverse expand to even further reaches of the publishing galaxy in 2017.

    Because of you we have been changed.
    And now the envelope please..

    #20. The Menagerie of Bad Ideas – April 20th
    (On letting ideas out of their cages)

    #19. On My First Rejection Letter – June 20th
    (Response to first query for novel)

    #18. Accidentally Inspired is Two Years Old – March 4th
    (Site Birthday)

    #17. I Hate Everything, Even My Own Birthday – July 18th
    (36th birthday thoughts)

    #16. Sometimes I Write Good – August 9th
    (New novel at the 1/3 mark)

    #15. An Accumulation of Oddities – Sept 3rd
    (On hording and purging)

    #14. To Business – Sept 24th
    (Finding the muse)

    #13. Your Kids Are Not My Kids – July 6th
    (On other people’s kids)

    #12. On Losing (or, Why Art Competitions Suck) – Nov 1st
    (The School Play Competition)

    #11. On Parenting: Lesser Dignities – Sep 7th
    (Screaming kids)

    #10. On Not Belonging – July 2nd
    (Just what is a real author?)

    #9. Bookwise – June 4th
    (On ditching reading bad books)

    #8. Awkwardity – Oct 1st
    (On being awkward)

    #7. Fly Away – Sept 14th
    (On fly-killing techniques)

    #6. Expiration Date – Aug 20th
    (Use by date for ideas)

    #5. Lightning Struck – May 27th
    (On losing the muse)

    #4. Becoming the Curmudgeon – Oct 27th
    (The madness of a day-care carpark)

    #3. No Such Thing As Coincidence – Oct 8th
    (Follow up to losing the USB flash drive)

    #2. Lost – Oct 5th
    (On losing the USB flashdrive)

    And the number one, Pushcart-prize worthy, more hipster than desert-coloured rendering, more pyschedelic than a parabolic microphone and more touching than a note-perfect lullaby post for 2016 (unfortunately unfairly excluding any that may come in the next 14 days) ..

    #1. The Fruity-Smelling Guy – June 20th

    (The seminal adult male discussion outlining the moral dilemas inherent in the decision of whether or not to use his wife’s shower body wash – ‘fragrant orangey gunk’ – while on vacation after realising he’d forgotten to pack his own soap).

    Can’t wait to see what worddazzle you deliver in 2017.
    Many happy returns for Xmas and the New Year from all of your followers.

    Liked by 1 person

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