by Shelt Garner
I am not perfect. In fact, I’ve alienated a huge swath of people over the course of my lifetime for a wide-array of reasons, ranging from my politics, to being drunk all the time (Seoul) to turning into a raging asshole after the failure of my version of ROKon Magazine.
So I have a lot of different character flaws to choose from for my protagonist. I think I have come up with a few pretty big flaws that are reasonably easy to overcome. I like the idea that he self-medicates via booze and we see him gradually overcome that problem with the help of a good woman.
Something like that.
The thing about booze as his character flaw is how loaded that is. In The Girl On The Train, a woman’s alcoholism is pretty much what makes the story a dark thriller. Meanwhile, my drunk hero is comical, larger-than-life and erratic. It’s that last bit that I can focus on. If I really play up how erratic his drinking makes him, then that would be a reason why he stopped drinking at the behest of a woman he’s beginning a relationship with.
What’s interesting about all of this is the conventions of storytelling dictate what I can do on this matter. While for me, my hero being a good-natured drunk is interesting and fun, for a lot of readers they would want there to be some consequences for such behavior.
I got burned with a novel I tried to write that was pretty much just an angry rant on my part about how aggrieved I felt about what happened to me in Seoul. Everyone hated the characters, even though they were based directly on people and events that happened in Seoul while I was there. So, I am very self-conscious about making my characters likable.
I am reading a lot about the best practices of novel writing, so there’s that. In a sense, however, I have to get over myself and just do the best I can. I want to make my first draft as good as possible. But I have to accept that it will still be a first draft, no matter how hard I try. Add to that there’s a fair share of people who know me directly who actively want me to fail so they can laugh at me and, well, lulz.