I have no idea if any of this is going to work out the way I talk about here because things continue to be in flux, but this is an interesting monologue about the needs of modern storytelling in the context of men developing strong, complex, believable female characters.
Mama always told me I was different. As such, when I think up character names, I struggle, really really struggle to come up with names I feel evoke the emotion I want people to feel when they see their name on the page. I have a lot of very arbitrary rules on the matter and as such for the last year names for the characters in the novel I’m attempting to develop have been one of the most difficult things to figure out.
But today, I may have figured out the name of my heroine. Maybe. I like my current given name for her because it’s unique and yet feels familiar. The instant you read her name, you feel like you know her, like you’ve at least encountered someone like her at some point in your life. And, in a sense, her name is a tip off to her native personality — she’s a manic pixie dream girl at heart. But something happened that simply made that lifestyle impossible for her as the story opens.
And, really, that’s a key difference between my heroine and, say, the gold standard for these types of novels — Lisbeth Salander. Salander is just not a very likable person. Men love her because she’s a bad ass, but they probably wouldn’t want to, like, date her. Women like her because she’s strong, complex and dark, but they, too, probably wouldn’t want to be her friend — even if she was interested in such a friendly relationship.
But my Heroine is far different. She’s constructed such that she’s actually rather affable. She’s very focused, yes, and she can easily kick any man’s ass, but she doesn’t have Asperger’s. She’s just a normal young woman who’s had something very surreal happen to her and the story opens with us seeing how that’s warped an otherwise pleasant personality into something much darker and menacing.
I would like to stress, however, that this is all conceit. My writing generally is looked down upon and many people to date have thought it sucked so bad that I shouldn’t even do it to begin with. That’s why development has been so difficult and yet so important. Add to this situation that it’s happening completely in a vacuum and, well, you can begin to understand why it’s taken a year to get to even this point.
The reason why Radiohead is so important in my development of this novel is how difficult it is to convey music in a novel. Outside of, say, The Beatles, there really aren’t a lot of pop-rock songs that are so widely known that a lot of readers wouldn’t have to stop and actually listen to the song’s referenced.
This is a problem for me given how at its heart, this novel is about music and its importance in the lives of the characters. I have a workaround of sorts — Radiohead. Radiohead both has the type of songs I need to set mood AND has a discovery that’s wide and deep enough that I have a decent chance of referencing a song that enough people know that they WON’T have to actually listen to it.
But one thing I can’t stress enough is how important music is to this novel’s universe. It’s its soul. Its heart. The thing that binds everything together. That I’ve actually managed to pull this off (at least in my own mind) is quite an accomplishment. Or, put another way — this should be a screenplay. But I like the idea I not only have absolute creative control, but I also can give you insight into a character’s internal thoughts in a way that is difficult to do in cinema.
Another thing I struggle with is setting tone. Radiohead forces me to stay focused. People want a dark, exciting thriller not just a fast-paced version of The World According To Garp. But I simply don’t take myself very seriously and so that’s bound to pop out in the novel every once in a while. I simply don’t have THAT much self-control.
We’ll see, I guess. The last time my entire life was wrapped around something of such significance was ROKon Magazine. But that was a pretty brutal creative experience that destroyed me. Hopefully this particular hat trick won’t be as emotionally painful.
Let me say for the record that I have no idea what I’m doing and I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to finish development of this novel, much less an actual first draft. But tonight I had a serious breakthrough on a canonical level which gives me added momentum going forward.
From the very beginning, I’ve wanted my heroine to be ethnically Latina. But as I’ve come to understand who the character is, I realize that she simply doesn’t fit the current media narrative about the Latinx community as advocated by Twitter Liberals. She’s her own person. She’s gorgeous and she can kick your ass. If you think that makes her just another “sexy slutty assassin” then fuck you. I only say that because I’ve spent much of my time the last year working to think up every possible way to flip the script on that particular trope while also giving the Latinx community a folk heroine to root for.
I want my heroine to be something that Lisbeth Salander isn’t — likable. As I’ve said from the beginning of this to-date year-long process, I want my heroine to naively be a “manic pixie dream girl,” but one that was shoved into a vat of Lisbeth Salander. Her personality has been warped because of events out of her control. She doesn’t have Asperger’s and you could actually see yourself hanging out with her but for a pretty big event in her past that totally changed who she is. I am well aware that I risk writing a younger, better looking female version of myself as my heroine. But I’m so super self-conscious about that possibility that hopefully that won’t happen.
Now, why I, a middle aged hayseed rube white guy living in a backwater portion of a purple flyover state, would do such a thing probably seems rather surreal to the average Twitter Liberal. I can’t help who I am. I can be empathetic, however. I have very strong opinions and sometimes I say things that could be perceived as offensive on any number of different levels. But I’m not racist,or a misogynist, or an incel or a bigot. I fucking hate MAGA with a white hot creative rage.
I guess some of it comes from who’s the one type of person MAGA hates the most? A Hispanic. So, if I’m going rant at the top of my lungs (using subtext) as to how much I fucking hate MAGA, the only way to do it properly is to have a Latina heroine. Throw in how much I love The Girl Who Played With Fire as a novel and, well, the rest takes care of itself. The ONLY reason why this novel is a thriller is I have to have an excuse to run around my Trump Era allegory in a way that keeps you turning pages.
I really, really want this novel to be as accessible as possible. I want everyone to have a good time — even MAGA fucktards who may be hate-reading it because Don Jr. told them it sucked. (That I even sell the damn thing is just a dream at this point. I full expect that I will have to self-publish and the best I will be able to do is get a profile in the local weekly.)
Anyway, just like you can’t hold a pregnant woman’s baby until it’s actually born, you’re going to just have to wait while I bounce between thinking, development, writing and talking a lot about what is, in real terms, still a moving object. I have a whole lot of work ahead of me still. AND my writing probably isn’t nearly as good as could be.
But I do know I’m not going embarrass myself. This could be my Sharp Object and my next novel will be my Gone Girl. Who knows.