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Paintin' in a Cave
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Work is long this week. The magazine is on a revved-up schedule because of Thanksgiving, so we basically have to finish it two or three days early. (We go to press tomorrow, Friday.) I was supposed to have my day off on Wednesday, but that didn't happen, of course; I'll take it next week, and get a five-day weekend. Could be worse.

***

This is a good tune -- "Another Traveling Song" by Bright Eyes. My brother digs this band, but most of their stuff doesn't do it for me. This tune rollicks right fine, though. Makes me think of vacations, good road trips, writing, and love affairs, all at once.

***

I read what I have of the Bridge novel this week, and it's not bad. There's some long-winded expository crap in there, but when I actually wrote scenes, they're pretty good, and it'll shine up right nice in revision, I think. I'm excited about this book again -- it's got some weird dark potent stuff in it, and the characters are really starting to feel alive to me, especially the protagonist. Which is good, because he's been something of a cipher for a while. He was a person things happened to, and those events drove the plot, and he was definitely the one the book was about, but he didn't feel like a character, not the way the secondary and antagonistic and foil characters did.

I have this occasional problem with my protagonists... they're sometimes the most boring people in my stories. I don't know if it's some subconscious attempt to infuse them with an everyman quality, or if it's the influence of reading too many hapless-hero novels when I was a kid, but it's a definite tendency. My protagonists often want to be just-plain-nice, simple good people looking for simple good lives. (Maybe because that's how I am? Or how I wish to be?) Admittedly, since I noticed this tendency in myself some years ago, I've often worked consciously against it, and created some larger-than-life heroes as a result -- Marla Mason, from my stories "Pale Dog" and "Haruspex" and my novel Blood Engines; Mr. Zealand from "Life in Stone"; pretty much the whole cast of "Cup and Table". But too often my first impulse is to think of my main viewpoint protagonists as simple vehicles for the plot, eyes to see out of, people to attract problems, individuals who are acted on, rather than acters themselves. I let the supporting characters and -- especially -- the villains get all the good lines and well-encompassed contradictions.

The hero of the Bridge novel, Darrin, definitely had that problem -- I mean, he begins the novel fairly hopelessly depressed, having lost his car, his job, and his girlfriend recently. (And, yes, he still has plenty left to lose.) He leans toward passivity, and shit just happens to him. Of course, having realized that, I started thinking of ways to work against it, and I came up with several ideas. I'm fond of the heroes of Tim Powers novels, who tend to get into difficult situations, spend a fair amount of time trying to get out of said trouble with as little effort as possible... and then manage to somehow rise to the occasion and help themselves. It's a model that feels very real to me, and one that I think I've been unconsciously emulating for a while. And it's definitely the basic arc the protagonist of the Bridge novel follows. He might start as a hapless everyman... but by the end, he's a hero, or at least, as close as he can possibly come.

Inside our heads, none of us is the hapless everyman. (Well, I hate to make sweeping generalizations, but I suspect that's broadly true.) I finally figured out how to get inside my protagonist's head, and now that I'm seeing the world through his eyes, he's much more interesting, and as a result, much less passive. He'll make some interesting lateral moves, I bet. He might just surprise us all.



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