once a prick, always a prick

CHERRY is a good story. I know it’s good. I think so, anyway. And I think David Brandt is an interesting character. He reminds me of myself, which perhaps I shouldn’t admit, but. . .

This post reflects a temporary lapse in one writer’s confidence. Perhaps my next post will be upbeat, perhaps sickeningly so.

Doubtful, but. . .

———————————————-

Anyway, right now, somebody in South Africa is reading CHERRY. Which is totally and completing amazing to a certain lady living in the shadows of Detroit, Michigan–I mean, SOUTH AFRICA??? I should write a blog about how nifty it is to be able to converse with people from all over the world.

Anyway, this person, this very cool and smart person is reading my novel and right now she’s royally pissed at my mc, David Brandt, to wit:

  • Can’t read anymore tonight. Hate Brandt too much.

Which brings me to last night.

Last night, Mr. kk and I went on a little ride and somehow our conversation drifted to the topic of CHERRY. Coincidentally, we were on Roberts Road at the time, which is the road upon which I base SR-6 in the novel.

We were talking about how cool it was that this very cool person from S. Africa is reading CHERRY. He asked me what she thought of the novel so far. I told him I thought she was liking it, but now I’m not so sure because she hates David Brandt right now.

I don’t doubt it, Mr. kk told me. He’s an asshole. I never felt any sympathy for the guy.  He was a shit at the beginning, and he’s a shit at the end.

Uh oh.

WAIT, I said–thinking of character arcs–What? I mean, I know he didn’t change significantly from the beginning of the book to the end, it was a matter of degree but . . . seriously, you didn’t feel any sympathy for the guy?

Fuck no. Why would I? Start to finish, he’s a selfish, self-centered prick.

I responded by explaining about the importance of character arcs. . .

(Sidebar: I found an interesting blog about the importance of character arcs: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/02/why-character-arcs-and-growth-make.html .

  • Flawed characters with something to learn are more sympathetic and have more room for growth
  • The struggle to change helps endear a character to the reader
  • A change of heart or viewpoint must come from a real change made from a struggle and an experience, not just because plot says so
  • A character arc that forces a character to face their faults and come out stronger for it is a character readers can root for )

. . .to which Mr. kk responded: All I know is, at the beginning of CHERRY, Brandt’s an introverted prick. At the end,  he’s more aware of other people, more self-aware but he’s still a prick, only now he’s an exo-prick.

Exo-prick?

I started to laugh.

Then I stopped laughing.

If Mr. kk sees no significant change in my mc from the beginning of the novel to the end, if he considers my mc to be totally unsympathetic. . .

Character arc? What character arc? Regardless of intent, if my readers don’t see David Brandt’s transformation, such that it is–if it doesn’t register, doesn’t translate; if they believe there’s no change in Brandt, no growth; if they hate him at the beginning of my novel and still hate him at the end, then where’s the story?

Where the hell’s the story, kk?

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21 thoughts on “once a prick, always a prick

  1. Aw KK. Stop beating yourself up. Brandt is a bastard from start to finish, and that, perhaps is one of the best things about your book. How many MC’s do you see that are all smooth and flawless. BOOOORRRRRRIIIIINNNGGG! And along comes Brandt, a prick through and through, and yes, I hate him, but he’s original, unique, aware of his flaws and he doesn’t really try to make excuses for himself. And while he may not change in the novel – who does? The adage ‘the leopard doesn’t change his spots’ applies to Brandt as it does to all. He’s a good character. A bastard. The baddie. And even better, the novel is written from the baddie’s POV. And that, my lovely, is unique. Now enough sunshine already!

    • Well. Huh. I hear you, missy. I’m still hopeful though. Tell you what, finish the thing. Then tell me. . ..

      I know, I’m horrible. I never said I wasn’t.

  2. Stop this right now! You can have doubts about your writing, doubts about marketability–we all do. But you can not allow yourself to doubt whether or not this is/has a story.

    The most powerful characters and transformations can be found within the subtle. Not every MC is meant to be likable, not every ending is meant to be happy. So? These are still books/stories/character arcs, they still have a market, they’re still powerful, and in this one Fringey opinion, still beautiful.

    • Oh mrs fringe. I value your opinion, you know it? And I want to believe you and I do, I just . . . sometimes I find myself slipping, wondering what I’m doing, what I think I’m doing. . .

      Temporary situation only, mrs fringe.

      I hope.

  3. I think that if David Brandt is shitty in the beginning and still hated in the end then he makes a real impression in his own way. 😉 He’s a strong character. Honestly, I don’t know anything about character arc – and I’ll follow that link – but I like strong characters.

    You must be quite a writer. I need to read your book!

    • I don’t hate the guy. He’s not all bad. Screwed up, yeah. Selfish? No doubt. But in some ways he’s a good egg.

      I’m trying to convince you, you know that, right? 🙂

      Brandt’s a strong character. That’s one of the things I love about him. Thank you very much, little lamb.

      -kk

  4. Some changes are internal and not visible to other characters, thus the subtlety. Some characters change inside, but their personalities do not. It’s very likely that a prick remains a prick by way of the things he does and how he treats people. However, the obstacles with which he’s challenged will create the change in the minds of your readers.

    In The Plot Clock, Jamie Morris discusses the fact that a character might in the end, taken all he’s been given and been through, decide not to change. Example, a memoir of an alcoholic. They drink, go through divorce, car accident, jail time, sober up for 3 years. Then in the end, they go off the wagon and into deep despair. They are still an alcoholic. What a tragedy, right? But the story was amazing!

    Hope that helps. I’m sharing The Plot Clock on my blog if you care to read it.

    • I will check it out and I surely do appreciate your comments relative to my mc. I think today is one of those days when I feel really vulnerable, channeling my current mc, a kid in a dire situation. Yeah, plus I read a synopsis yesterday that really affected me, made me sad. Or maybe it’s hormones, hell I don’t know.

      Regardless, as I said, I shall read about The Plot Clock. Educate myself. Put on my big girl panties, as they say and get on with the business of writing.

      Thank you, Diane.

      -kk

  5. The good thing is that you like him and like the story. And if you do, someone else is bound to. We definitely shouldn’t be putting so much pressure on ourselves to write stories that have this huge characters arcs filled with drastic life changes. People just want to read good stories that entertain them. There’s room for all characters in the arcs, the big ones, the small ones, and the unrealistic.

    • Of course you’re right, krystal jane. I think putting pressure on oneself comes part and parcel when one is a writer. Ugh. But what’s the alternative, to writing, I mean? There isn’t one. I do believe CHERRY’s a good story. More than good. I shall endeavor to thunk myself upside the head when I doubt that.

      Thank you for your kind comments, krystal. Much appreciated.

      -kk

  6. I was thinking on this a bit lately with the main character in my current WIP: he’s not really a “good” guy. I’m not sure if this makes him unsympathetic or not, or even if “sympathetic characters” even mean what we necessarily think.

    An out of left field example: in the Song of Ice and Fire series (also known as “Game of Thrones”, obviously, due to HBO), there are characters you HATE. You’re supposed to hate them. They do Bad Things™, in the name of one cause or another. Some of them are bastards (and I don’t mean of the literal sort). Do you want to still read about them? I know I do. Sometimes it’s only to see if they really “get theirs”; other times, it’s to see if they actually change and learn.

    When I read Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, the Bad Guy was a Bad Guy the whole way through. He learned nothing, he thought on things only rarely, he was a dullard. He was a box of rocks. He changed in no way, not inwardly or outwardly, and it drove me nuts. The way you’ve described Brandt, I can dig. I can understand a person like that.

    Second guessing is what we do, I daresay. And yes, it is AWESOME that somebody in South Africa is reading your book!

    • You know what makes me doubt myself? When people say, Give me a likeable character. Somebody I can sympathize with. Root for. Maybe it’s semantics but that throws me because when I think about some of the characters I’ve created, uncovered, whatever. . .

      Lord have mercy. I find myself thinking, WAIT. Likeable? Nooo. . . Sympathetic? Ummm. . . Somebody you can root for?

      Yikes.

      I think a character has to be interesting. Bottom line. And that interesting character might be an angel, a little sweetie-pie like my Cherry. And he might be a shithead, like David Brandt. But one thing is certain, I will not write a character who is a dullard, a box of rocks err, if I do (and sidebar, Jen, my amazing writer friend from South Africa kind of suggested as much to me today. YIKES.), to repeat, if I do, I hope somebody gives me a sign. Like a thunk upside the head which I sometimes need. Because sometimes we’re so close to our characters, so enamoured with them, that we don’t SEE.

      Or, we’re just tired and need a break. Just for a little while.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Jen. Good luck on your WIP.

      -kk

      • I guess it’s good to want the main character to succeed, if that’s what “somebody I can root for” means (I’d guess it is). Or to want what’s good for the main character, versus what they necessarily want. Which is interesting, when an author makes, say, a romantic choice that I as the reader disagree with.

        You’re welcome for the comments! I’m trying to get more involved with following fellow writers who I can, say, “converse” with. Thanks for the well wishes!

  7. Good deal, Jen. I don’t have a problem with the scenarios you’re describing. They mean the reader is engaged, and that’s good. You’re welcome, btw.

    -kk

  8. Awww Come OOOON! You gotta let me read this. Sniff it even?

    I guess in this case, what you have here with David is a static character. I don’t know about Cherry but if he comes out better then he’s the dynamic one. I know in my WIP my two MC’s are just this and I think it’s a nice contrast to have.
    It’s not always interesting (in my opinion) to read about someone going through a change. This arc becomes predictable. And evolution doesn’t always work out well for everyone. But hey, what do I know?

    I’ll leave you this link though: http://avajae.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/characters-static-or-dynamic.html

  9. Hi Shay Dee. You can have a sniff or two over at AbsoluteWrite, I’ve posted this and that on various threads, I do believe. . .

    As for your take on the story, I’m seeing it as reversed: Cherry doesn’t change. He knows where he is and where he’s going. He’s comfortable in his own skin. Brandt is the screwed up one, struggling to come to terms with just about every aspect of his messed-up life, and it’s through his burgeoning relationship with the kid that he begins to make sense of things, to accept certain possibilities. . .

    I agree with you that a smooth arc could get predictable. Happy to report David Brandt’s arc is fraught with glitches and set-backs. Nothing is easy. You’re right, too: evolution doesn’t always work out but sometimes, we cause our own destruction. . .

    Always nice hearing from you, Shay Dee!

    -kk

    • Oh, Shay Dee,

      I thought I tortured you enough with TWINK. I was trying to be merciful. So you are serious? I shall communicate with you via email.

      -kk

  10. Pingback: Today’s Favorite Fives | kkellie: write me

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