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Bridges Falling Down
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I've always believed in being honest about my writing process here. For one thing, recording the difficult stuff is helpful for my mental health. I can look back on old entries, and think "Hey, I felt like a total fraud last winter, too!" And that helps reassure me that such sinking feelings will pass. By and large, I am a positive person, blessed with pretty decent brain chemistry that keeps me on an even keel.

But last night, whoo. I was working out at the gym, which is always a good time for me to think about writing stuff (repetitive physical activity has an oddly freeing effect on my mind, as does taking a shower and washing dishes and doing long drives). And I realized, with a sort of resigned horror, that the Bridge novel is a great big pile of crap. Just the day before, I'd been excited about the novel, closing in on the last quarter of the book, figuring out how to resolve various threads. But it just struck me that my protagonist is utter crap, and that all the novel has going for it is a few good scenes that don't really amount to much.

It was a bad feeling. I don't vouch for its objective reality, of course. I don't truly believe I've been wasting the last several months of my writing life, but it sure felt like that for fifteen minutes last night.

But, though the overall feeling was irrational, I think it was the manifestation of some valid subconscious misgivings on my part. My protagonist is mostly a character who is acted upon, rather than a character who acts. That changes a fair bit in the last quarter of the book, but that's too late. The guy needs to at least strive for something, to have a goal beyond finding a quiet place to sit and weep. His grief is real and necessary, but at some point it needs to change to anger, or to some other driving force. I sat down after the workout and made a list of my major characters (Darrin, Bridget, Orville, Ismael, Echo, Nicolas, Arturo) and what their goals and ultimate fates are. They all had clear goals that required action, and they all have appropriate/interesting resolutions to their arcs... except Darrin, the main protagonist, whose only goal for most of the book is to get everyone else to leave him alone. Which, while maybe plausible, isn't very interesting and doesn't satisfy me. So I thought about the character some more, and figured out some more concrete goals for him, and an ultimate fate that is interesting and in keeping with his character. I mean, the whole driving force of the book is that his life is utterly upended, so it's not like I can have him return to his "normal" life at the end. I also realized that I have a lot of ideas about his character that just aren't there on the page, which means I need to do some backfill in earlier chapters (that's okay, I have a growing list of things I need to backfill, that's expected).

So, my realization that my book is a heap of crap, while irrational and probably due mostly to low blood sugar, had a positive effect, in that it made me take a long hard look at some of the underlying character issues in the book. So now I'm happier, and excited again, and even looking forward to writing the backfill scenes, because they should be really cool.

I just have to stop treating Darrin like a plot device and start treating him like a character. I can do that.



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