Since completing my first draft, I’ve had more free time on my hands. Time to think, time to reflect on what I’ve written. And no, I haven’t looked at my manuscript or my outlines. I’ve been good. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. A lot.
A little over a week ago, I was driving home from the good ol’ day job when I started thinking about my story’s villain. We’ll call him Character C for now.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t given him much thought outside of what I had to write of him. Mostly because it’s painful. If Character A’s arc is based on my own story/experiences, however loosely, then you have to know that Character C is based on my fears. Or rather, what I used to be afraid of. I’ve done everything in my power to not think about it. In doing that, I believed that fear to be almost inhuman. And that’s not fair. I’ve put in a lot of work making Characters A and B as real and human as possible. Even if he is technically the villain, this isn’t some fairy tale. This story is based loosely on the truth, set in a reality that looks exactly like our own. And that means that Character C, for all he’s done, is human too.
This may sound weird, but I have these day-dreams about speaking with my characters. Sometimes I like to imagine that I meet with them somewhere and we go over my notes and talk. With Character A, it’s like talking to a close friend, a brother. With Character B, it’s like talking to a slightly more awkward, adorable friend.
On this particular drive home, I finally met Character C. I don’t know why, but the meeting place is always in the woods somewhere (it kind of looks like the woods near where I used to park my car for my morning runs). Usually, Character A and I sit on a set of tree stumps next to each other. Same for Character B.
When I saw Character C come into the clearing, I remained standing. I was cold with anxiety, maybe even a little of that old fear. He approached me slowly. Non-confrontational, hands up. He already knew. Of course he did. He’s a part of me too, as much as I’ve wanted to believe he isn’t. He’s a composite of the things I never want to experience again. And you wouldn’t believe how sad he looked. How forlorn and guilty. I expected a monster with a smart mouth and a few biting comments. He had neither. He stopped a little more than an arms-length away, arms folded across his chest. He would barely meet my eyes. I said his name. He made himself look me in the eye.
“I guess I haven’t been very fair to you, have I?” I asked him. He wouldn’t answer at first. I found that I strangely wanted to apologize to him for how I’ve neglected his side of the story. And then, we argued. We went back and forth about how I handled his character’s part in the story. But somehow, finally, we got to a point where we both sat down – on the ground, I may feel I’ve been unfair, but I will never let him sit where Characters A and B have – and I asked him to explain his past with Character A. I needed to hear it from his perspective more than I ever realized.
And he told me everything. It was exhausting, examining this side of my story, wrought with my anxieties and fears and pain. But it was worth it.
When I finally got home, I wrote the bare bones of everything he told me in my writer’s notebook. It’s so scary, how human he was. How real and honest. I needed to hear it, needed to know how it all came to be, how he felt about it.
This past Sunday, itching to write but still over three weeks away from the rewrite, I decided to sit down and write out what Character C told me in story form. I have no intention of adding these writings to my book. They truly have no place in my story. But I do think it’s a good idea to examine Character A and Character C’s relationship and its demise. Before Character C told me everything, all I had were crude flashbacks from Character A’s memory. Now, I have the back story in startling high-definition.
Don’t worry, I don’t feel sorry for Character C. All things considered, he’s still not a good person. He did some truly awful things that neither I, nor Character A, will ever be able to forgive him for. But maybe now, I have a fuller, more well-rounded idea of what actually happened between them than I did before.
Note: I couldn’t find the source for the quote in the featured pic. If you know it, please let me know.