May 19th, 2009

nanowrimo2004, Home Movies from the Cutting-Room Floor

Tokenism, cardboard, accidentally writing the other, and the pursuit of happiness.

(Or, How Harriet Is My Poster Child for Unintentional Diversity.)

I keep coming back to Harriet when these things come up, because she's transgendered and I wrote her, and she's simultaneously a fully realized character, and a background character; the story is not about her, but she's there and she's real and she's not just a one-note part. When I put her in, she was a he and he was an antagonist, and I expected that he would provide some real annoyance, some cheap laughs, and ultimately suffer a crushing set-down at the hands of my callous little protagonists.

I should have known better.

The book is halfway through a second draft, so things are still evolving and changing; I don't imagine that Harriet's character is going to be set in stone for those drafts; I'm still getting to know her and all the other characters. She's still not the protagonist of this story. She has her own story. This narrative that I'm telling is not hers, although she's a part of it.

I meant Harry to be the most irritating little son of a bitch you've ever met, but entirely innocently so. I drew on a number of fine, time-honored tropes: the social misfit, the funny-looking kid, the kid who smells of wet bed, the kid with the annoying voice, the kid with the imaginary friends, the kid who Completely Does Not Get social norms, and I packed them all into this one character who was designed to drive both of my protagonists up the wall, and then completely out of their tree.

And he did! He took on a life of his own. He was very effective at it, and the more I reached into his character to pull out new and more refined depths of obnoxiousness, the better I got to know him, and the more I got to like him, and the more I knew I could throw him at my protagonists, because they were developing a slow and simmering loathing for the little creep. It wasn't enough that he was a little wacky, no; he had to have developed a disconnect from actual reality, one that nothing and nobody could get through. It wasn't enough that one of my protagonists was unavoidably faced with him on a daily basis; no, I had to involve him in the life of the other, too, and interfere with both of them at the dance. Collapse )

28 tweets for 2009-5-19

In the last 24 hours, I posted the following to Twitter:

Follow me on Twitter.