A funny thing happened on the way to revising my manuscript in thirteen weeks— Bang the Drum, Toot the Horn— I’ve become spellbound by my protagonist.
I’ve always liked her. How could I not, she was, after all, sort of, well— me. Especially in the beginning when I knew nothing about writing a novel. Her Me-ness weakened as I moved into the Sophomore years of my writing— the place from which I’m only just now emerging; that place where almost all the tools needed to craft a compelling tale were at my disposal, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit them together. Over the years, her behavior became increasingly reprehensible. But abandonment was never possible because I believed in her, and her journey, even though that journey was a shapeshifting glob until three months ago.
But a funny thing happened after I embraced Kaitlyn’s true arc (see, I Might Be Virginia Woolf- Part 1 & Part 2). I’m rooting for her the way a reader is supposed to because she’s no longer Me. What an odd notion— not me. In my theatre days, I spent hours upon hours, in and outside of rehearsal, figuring out the best way to dissolve into the character, so the audience could viscerally connect with the heroine on the stage. I believed this skillset would, surely, put me ahead of the curve when it came to writing characters for my novel. Whoops! Turns out writing a character for a novel is nothing like developing a character for the stage.
Turns out, my job as writer has nothing to do with becoming. My job is to bear witness. And yes, the witnessing must happen from within the character; I must reside inside Kaitlyn in order to experience her every breath, thought, and flicker of emotion, but I must not become her. Whenever I become Kaitlyn, that’s when I lose the ability to convey motivation because the why behind her behavior gets absorbed into her “knowing.” This “knowing” is what flatlines the action and social distances the reader.
But, if I slip inside as a witness, Kaitlyn no longer “phones in” her performance. My role as witness forces her to sort through every moment of her journey as if she doesn’t have a clue about how it’s going to end— because she doesn’t. She is actually discovering how she feels and why as it happens, and only as it happens, and that’s why I’m rooting for her as a reader— because the writer-me no longer knows what’s going to happen either.
Funniest of all happenings during this current revision— the last smoldering embers of desire for the stage have been doused with a wet mop. You might shout, “Liar!” if you’ve seen me on Instagram delivering short monologues from the books I’ve read. But those videos are just fun— an outlet of expression this former actress needs to maintain her sanity while fueling her Muse. So, trust me, I no longer desire to return to life as an actress. And that revelation, my dear friends, readers and voyeurs is—
To let go of the need for fortune and glory and stardom— because to attain them would prove I wasn’t a worthless piece of shit, but a talented person seeking a fulfilling, prosperous life—not only provides freedom, but also removes an ocean liner of pressure I didn’t realize I was carrying.
And so, I asked my editor for an extension.
Because here’s the other thing that blindsided me during the last four weeks— I write the way I write. And I’m not Speedy Gonzales. And the super exciting things that are happening for me on the page can’t be rushed because I’m a writer in the trenches with a protagonist I’ve only just met. Our chemistry is palpable, but she’s had a bad run with previous writers. She’s ready and willing to let the new writer-in-progress me in, but only if I provide the space she needs to feel comfortable in the spotlight— her spotlight. I have no intention of stealing it from her. But for her to believe that I need to let her visceral life bubble in its own time.
Yeppir! Kaitlyn and Me— I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.