Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Chance At Redemption

One of the bigger revisions I made before sending my book out on submission was to rework one of the main characters, Kate's boyfriend Jack. Jack ended up being a pretty awful person in my book. He didn't always treat Kate well and in my first versions, he was a pretty big asshole. Lina (my agent!) told me that I didn't need to make every one the villian. We talked about how people can do bad things, but they don't need to be bad.

I thought it would be pretty hard to make my story work without Jack being the way he is. I thought about it for a few days, trying to figure out how characters can fall and then have redemtion. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that's what I wanted to say with my writing. I didn't want unlikable characters. I didn't want to take away my characters second chances. I wanted characters who could change. Characters who realized their mistakes and didn't just make choices without remorse.

I rewrote a large part of the book looking at Jack in a different way. I started to understand why he made this mistake and through the analysis of his character, I realized that he could still be good. He had his second chances and I gave him the opportunity to possibe become a different person. Whether or not he chose those options, you'll have to wait to read the book to find out. However, he's no longer a villian with his back up against the wall and no where to turn. I gave him secret passages and trap doors to get out of the situations he'd created. He surprised me with his choices and it made my book a lot stronger.

My students and I discuss a quote from Romeo and Juliet that I think fits this idea perfectly, "Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied/And vice sometime by action dignified."

Villians don't always need to stay villians, just like good people can sometimes turn bad. It's something to think about and a new way of looking at your writing.

Having said that....here is a scene I deleted in which I had Jack cheating on Kate....

IT WAS just a flash of red next to a flash of blue.

Blue like the middle of a flame sparking in the dark or a grape not yet ripe.

The red flared up like blood.

It was only a flash of red and a flash of blue, but it cut deeper than any knife could.

It punched harder than any prized fighter would.

It bite harder, pinched meaner, slapped with a sting that throbbed longer, ached rawer, pulsed stronger, rubbed me deeper than any other image I’d ever seen in my life.

It sat on the tip of my nose, engraved itself in the back of my brain and clung to both sides of my head, shaking me until my insides rattled.

It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, but that was all I needed to distinguish the last of the flame inside of me, fighting to survive, fighting to live.

It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, Jack and Haley, Jack and Haley, Jack and Haley.

It was just a flash of red next to a flash of blue, but the color was so bright it was able to end all hope I held inside, to destroy my world, destroy my will, destroy me…


Kristan said...

"Villians don't always need to stay villians, just like good people can sometimes turn bad."

So insightful, so true!

This is kind of a nerdy example, but that's what I loved best about Battlestar Galactica (the contemporary remake). The characters absolutely live in shades of grey, as opposed to strict black or white, and the story is SO much richer (and more believable) for it.

So that's something I really wanted to show with my characters and my writing too -- that good people sometimes do bad things, and vice versa.

I'm glad you found that doing so strengthened your story. :)

Mina Carlisle said...

I like to sympathize with villains in some books because I like wondering what made them bad. Was it stupid decisions, like Jack, or did some thread of goodness inside them snap and make them go bad, like Darth Vader.

I'm glad you figured out how to make your characters real, especially for teenagers who do bonehead things a lot. Thanks for sharing the scene! I really liked it and makes me excited for the future when your book is in stores!

Lisa Nowak said...

I love complicated characters, and I also like messing with a reader's head concerning how they should feel about a character. It's so much fun when I'm reading a book or watching a TV show and all my ideas about a person are turned upside-down. This happened recently in the series Flash Forward with the character Simon Campos. In the second part of the episode two weeks ago they revealed an enormous amount about that character and took the viewer on a roller coaster ride regarding how they felt about him.

I was also a big fan of the show Everwood which was on WB several years ago. Lots of fun characterization in that show.

Empress Awesome said...

I love villains! And I love your blog, it's the cutest thing ever!