Sunday, February 13, 2005

Character Development

This morning I was reading Sol Stein's On Writing*, the chapter on revision. Among the paragraphs I read was one that talked about showing that your protagonist had undergone change in his life over the course of the novel. Thankfully, I had already done some of that: Graham deals with the death of his mother and, to some extent, his rejection of God.

But Stein reminded me of another thought that had been meandering through my noodle the last week or so: a reporter's objectivity. Granted, Graham's a feature writer and not a straight reporter, but he still needs to maintain some objective edge in his work. As I reread the chapters I was working on last week, I noticed that edge was growing dull. Rather than eliminate his laxity altogether, I think I'll just have him be concerned about it, redouble his will to keep himself an observer rather than a participant, and then shoot it all to heck in the zombie attack. If nothing else, it's a thread that can get carried along in the story's narrative.

This idea - neutral objectivity - also popped into my weekend mystery. My protagonist, reporter Henry Seger, doesn't get along with his boss, managing editor Jonathan Prynce. Prynce assigns Seger to a story Seger doesn't have time for.

Seger resists, Prynce insists. (I doubt there will be any rhyming in the actual novel.)

It turns out that the story involves the apparent suicide of his friend and co-worker, Walter Damson. Seger is convinced, as mystery protagonists often are, that Damson's death wasn't as simple as it appears. Prynce tries to stop Seger from wasting time on it, but Seger is eventually proved right. At that point Prynce yanks the story away and gives it to another reporter because Seger is "involved" in the story, which, of course, he is. Prynce is right in taking such action - the fact it torks Seger off is a nice bonus, though.

The fact that Seger keeps working the story after hours surprises no one. This, of course, torks off Prynce - and so the circle of life is made complete.

*I picked up my copy at the Book Warehouse store in Gilroy, California's outlet mall for a whopping $5. Good deal, me.