The day I listened to the protagonist

A funny thing happened

Character 2

The other day I was looking over the topics of today’s post. I always keep a number of items on hand and I know all I have to do is pick one. But something happened the other day that I would like to share.

As some of you may know I have been struggling with my second novel. For the longest time nothing seemed to work.

It wasn’t the storyline. I can only write what I want to read and this particular story was exciting to me.

So what was the problem? Why was this so hard?

 

It was all so easy

When I wrote my first novel I wrote it in first person. The unreliable narrator as we like to call them. Looking back I could have written it in third person and nothing would have been lost. But I purposely keyed on one person.

The weakest in fact and it worked.

But when I decided on novel number two I was determined to do it in third person. This would be a good experience for me, I convinced myself. It would broaden my scope and display a well-rounded writer.

But there was one problem: I made it all about me. Not once did I listen to the story or the characters.

 

My biggest mistake

In these last couple of months my focus was on finding ways to make myself better. By moving from first to third I might impress the agents, the editors or a publisher.

By now you can see where this is going.

 

The author’s greatest gift is listening

characters

Novel number two centers on a guy who loves the spotlight. In a nutshell he’s an egomaniac who will crash and burn and slowly pick himself up.

Last week out of frustration I gave in and wrote a scene in first person. I didn’t plan on keeping it. To be honest I had no idea what I was going to do but by the end of the morning I had over 2000 words all in his voice.

What the hell?

Suddenly it no longer felt like a job. I was actually having fun.

So what does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

On one hand maybe I can only write in first person but on the other maybe I’m following what the story dictates. What he dictates.

What I do know is this: A writer needs to listen to their characters. The stories we write are not about us, they are about people and places and things and for reasons unknown they chose us to tell them.

 

It took me a while.

My egomaniac protagonist pushed away the third person version that I was trying to tell. No matter how many times I tried to gift wrap it he saw through it and stomped it like a bug.

So now I’m knee deep in his voice. He is telling me where this story will travel and surprisingly he has opened up and allowed me to see his world.

Doing it my way was a mistake I hope I never make again. Check that: Will Never Make Again.

Like I’ve always said: Characters come to us so it only makes sense that we listen and write their adventures their way.  

Characters 1

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

The Catcher in the Rye – A look back

JD

Weeks ago I discussed my experience when I first read Catcher in the Rye. I loved Holden when I was 15 and hated the kid when I was 20.

Now, a little older and a tad bit wiser, not to mention a father of two teenagers, I was curious how I would view Holden the third time around.

The results were interesting.

Before I started I had planned on taking a lot of notes and at the beginning I did but I soon discovered it took away my concentration and overall feel of Holden and his journey.

So I decided to read it like any other book, give it some thought and write my conclusion in the most honest way I know how.

Keep in mind this is simply my opinion of this young man and my conclusions can be as right as it is wrong but regardless of right or wrong I saw him through a father’s eyes.

My eyes, that is.

The book was published in 1951. I read somewhere it took JD Salinger about a decade to write it but I pretended the days spent with Holden were from the year it was published.

1951 America was a conservative time. It was post World War 2. We were involved in the Korean War and the threat of communism had dug itself into the heart of most Americans.

I wasn’t around in the 50’s but I have a feeling the way people dealt with emotions, particularly the loss of a loved one is far different than the way we handle it today.

In today’s world we are much more open, our feelings are expressed and encouraged but in 1951 something tells me the opposite took center stage.

The story was told in Holden’s words. He had an older brother, a young brother and the youngest, a sister.

His little brother Allie died in 1946 of leukemia. He was eleven years old. This tragic event made me believe that this was the heart of the story.

JD 2

Most of Holden’s grief was dealt with internally. I kept getting the impression the family swept their emotions under the rug resulting in a volcano ready to erupt.

The older brother lived in California, Holden was sent off to college in New York City while leaving his little sister behind. The story opens with Holden being expelled for bad grades and I feel his bad grades were calculated.

He wants to go home to grieve and to protect his little sister from death. 

I can understand why the book was shocking for its time. He questioned religion, talked about sex and used lots of profanity. All of this taboo in 1951.

JD 3

Most of the topics Holden discussed were whispered behind closed doors in the 50’s. I can’t help but wonder if people saw themselves when they first read it and were ashamed or embarrassed at what they saw.

If this book were written today I doubt it would have received the same attention it did back then. But that’s a good thing. It shows how much we have grown.

As a father I wanted to tell this young man to stop running. Embrace your emotions, Holden. Cry. Take care of your little sister and never be ashamed of anything.

You deserve the right to miss your little brother, to protect those you love and to be mad at death for what it did to you and your family.

In other words get it out. Scream from the roof top and tell the world how angry you are that the grim reaper took away your little brother.

I’m happy I read it again. I now have a new appreciation for JD Salinger and the courage he displayed. I have a feeling it became a trying time for him once the book became popular.

This might explain why he became a recluse.

As for Holden, I’ll come to my conclusion some other time on what I feel happened to him in later years. If there’s ever a fan fiction that needs to be written this is it.

JD 1

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!