I managed to write a few pages in my manuscript this morning before exhaustion finally came over me and I collapsed on my twin-sized bed at five in the morning. At first, as I was beginning to drift off in the sweet arms of a lush sleep, I was happy with my performance as a writer and felt content that I would reach my next deadline well ahead of schedule. But then, as I awoke with a chill at one in the afternoon, my blanket covered in frost and my nose running like my broken sink faucet, I wondered really whether the night before was a mere dream.
With my hip popping and my knees creaking, I managed to escape the death-trap of a bed I sleep in and crawled into my work room, which is, for all sake and purposes, an awkwardly-shaped closet or storage space. As I booted my computer and opened my document I found that the night before wasn't a dream - I did indeed get five pages in - but I found with some mild alarm that I didn't quite recall writing my characters as I envisioned them.
Writing is hard. I'm not saying that because I'm a writer, but rather I can say it because I am one. The process of trying to take an idea - an incorporeal something made of nothing - and turning it into words on a page takes as much skill and precision as what an artist must do in order to make a painting. In fact, I find the two skills highly similar in their execution. I have a picture in my head, a story, a character, an event, and my job is to somehow bring that picture into the mind of my readers. Artists paint the picture, a writer attempts to describe it. Neither of these forms are perfect, but they more often than not largely accomplish the job. Now my dilemma today is that I have a picture in my head of three distinct characters, the Pessimist, the Realist, and the Optimist. This is a common artifact in literature for characters to possess such qualities, and I'm no stranger to its use. My problem is that this afternoon, after reviewing my work from the early morning, I couldn't quite grasp the signature nature of the three characters. Now, I wonder - is this a failing of my own skill as a writer, or is this sort of foggy blurring of the line an acceptable sort of thing in my line of work?
One should know that these three characters actually have distinct roles in the story itself. The Pessimist is the main heroine of the story, a difficult sort of girl with a negative outlook on her life and her future due to her mental distance from her past. The Realist is more of a moral support to the Pessimist, she's not a main character by any stretch of the word, and she's really only present between major plot points, thus she falls securely within the role of a support character. Now the Optimist - she is the problem child in my work - a two-faced liar, she's a bright a cheerful young lady on one hand, but as an antagonist character, she's got a nasty dark streak and the reasoning of an uncontrolled toddler. I suppose ideally, I am not working with a Pessimist, Realist, and Optimist, but really a neutral-Pessimist, a simple Realist, and an Enigma. But for all intents and purposes, the Enigma is still the Optimist, but with the knowledge of the author, I feel uneasy with the three and their relationship. It's supposed to feel unnatural from the Pessimist's point of view, but it feels unnatural overall. Can people really act like this?
So the question comes, what does one do when the image in their head doesn't match their work on the paper? The answer? Keep going.
I took a quick smoke break using those damned e-cigs and went to work on going through what I had already written with a red pen. I highlighted painful details and strange analogies, pointed out clerical mistakes and a few grammatical errors that I could only have made under such sleep deprivation. After noting my mistakes I had to take another smoke break after what I had seen - I had an entire page's worth of questionable content.
I need a damn break.
I eventually came back to it and left most of it as is. It's weird to write for the sake of writing poorly - the main character's POV isn't wholly reliable, after all, and a few points where the readers might say, "Well this feels strange." is actually what I somewhat desire.
In the end, it's like how small errors in beautiful pieces of art prove its authenticity. In a world of computers and electronic genius, we may need to appreciate human fallibility every now and then,
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