I Like My Secondary Character Better Than I Like My Protagonist

Yeah. I’ve been neglecting my story, so I’ve gotten behind, and I’m still working on chapter 10. If you remember from Introducing New Characters Partway Through A Story, chapter 10 switches the perspective from the protagonist to the crown prince, to describe events taking place in a different part of the kingdom. It’s an essential part of the story, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

The problem is, I like writing about Prince Tynan better than I like writing about Callum. It may be that after 9 chapters I’m a little tired of Callum. It may be that Callum is a little whiny and sometimes stupid and I’m thinking about going back and rewriting him a little to make him more likeable. It may that I like Prince Tynan’s storyline better than I like Callum’s storyline. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a bit hard to revert back to writing about Callum.

I never intended to have much to do with the prince. As I’ve refined my plot his role has grown, and I intend for him to be important to the resolution, but I still don’t want him taking up a lot of space in this story. Partly because I don’t want to get into writing about the kingdom as a whole or castle politics. But mostly because this is Callum’s story. He’s the one who needs to learn and grow and ultimately save the day.

I like Prince Tynan because he’s smart, well-educated (they’re not the same thing), and family oriented. He listens to wise counsel and makes good decisions. He’s concerned about the future of his kingdom and is taking seriously the role he’s assigned to play. But as much as I like him, I need him to stay somewhat in the background right now. I’m semi-considering another story in which he can feature. At the end of this one, Prince Tynan lives, and will be needed to help pick up the pieces of the conflict. Maybe I can write a sequel just for him, and give him his own story. I have a half-formed idea of what that could be, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. One story at a time.

As for Callum, I need to work on liking him more. The re-write should help. Moving faster will help. I know from experience that the longer I stall on a story, the less desire I have to finish it. I just want to move on to something fresh and exciting. Getting back into his story and out of chapter 10 should help.

Talk to me in the comments. Have you ever felt more drawn to a secondary character than your protagonist?

Divine By Mistake

This week I’m reading P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (spoilers). I read this book for the first time in college, over the summer while working as a camp counselor. It wasn’t something I would’ve picked out for myself at the time, but one of the other counselors had a copy and I had nothing else to read, so I asked to borrow it.

Reading this book the first time made me blush. It’s officially a fantasy, but carries some definite romance themes. The actual sex scenes are muted, but the lead-ups are graphic and intense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading that kind of trash. My opinion on this has changed. I’m significantly wider read these days, and some of my favorite authors (looking at you, Kelley Armstrong) frequently write sex scenes so much more detailed than Divine By Mistake has. I’m desensitized, so they really don’t bother me anymore.

What struck me this time around was the complete unbelievability of the main character, Shannon Parker. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, here’s a basic overview: Shannon Parker is a run-of-the-mill English teacher from Oklahoma. One day she finds herself sucked through a portal into a fantasy world. The people there mirror people from her own world, and she herself is a mirror image of High Priestess and Goddess Incarnate, Rhiannon. Rhiannon, having discovered the mirrored world, traded places with Shannon to escape her own responsibilities.

Shannon awakes to find herself in this new world and everyone believes she is the real Rhiannon. This is where I find her reactions hard to believe. She has a few hours of “holy crap, this is all really weird”, then just kind of decides to go with it. For the next several days as the story unfolds she has fleeting thoughts of “I wonder what’s happening back in my own world” and “Rhiannon is probably destroying my life” but she seems perfectly content to just throw away everything she’s ever known without any notice. There’s no grieving for the relationships she left behind (she just replaces them with the mirrored people in the new world), there’s no crying over the life she lost, and there’s no freaking out over the strange new things she’s thrown into. On her first day, she’s told she’s been exchanged and then marries a centaur. Seriously? I think I would barricade myself in my room, convince myself I’d gone crazy and was locked away in an institution somewhere, or maybe just faint when the troop of centaurs walked into the room. Something more than “well this is my life now, it’s a little weird but I guess I’ll get used to it”.

What also strikes me as strange (and is definitely related), is she never tries to go home. There’s one or two places where she mentions that it’s impossible, but she never even tries to research how the switch happened in the first place. Her maid, Alanna, tells her about the experimentation and ritual Rhiannon performed, but she never seeks to understand it further. She never tries to determine if it can be replicated. She never even expresses a desire to go home. All of which is very unbelievable to me. In time, yes, maybe she could adjust to her new circumstances and come to accept that she can’t go home, but not immediately and not without fighting against it first.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. I’m looking forward to reading the next two, Divine By Choice and Divine By Blood. Once you get past the believability issue, it’s a beautiful story and a lot of fun to read. Shannon’s secret is shared among her close friends, she falls deeply in love with her centaur husband, and she saves her people from both disease and a deadly invasion. Rhiannon’s actions were steeped in selfishness and arrogance, but Shannon is able to turn the situation into something good and wholesome and find her true purpose in life.

Heirloom Poetry

“Through this toilsome world, alas!

Once and only once I pass;

If a kindness I may show,

If a good deed I may do

To a suffering fellow man,

Let me do it while I can.

No delay, for it is plain

I shall not pass this way again.”

“I Shall Not Pass This Way Again”-Author Unknown

After nearly two weeks at my parents’ house, I’m finally home. I know my posting has been erratic, but it should stabilize now. Before I left, my mom wanted to go through the bookcase with me and send me away with their classics. I’m talking Huckleberry FinnGulliver’s TravelsArabian Nights, etc. It’s pretty cool. Although now I have a box of books that don’t fit on my already too-small bookshelves. She also gave me a book of poetry.

This isn’t just any book of poetry. It’s a family keepsake, handed-down book of poetry. It’s called The Best Loved Poems of the American People, and was compiled by an editor of the The New York Times Book Review. My mom got it from her grandmother, Daisy, and now she’s handing it down to me. There’s a handwritten inscription inside the cover: This book was presented to Mrs. Daisy Wilkins by her sister Mrs. Mina McAnally on May 24th, 1952 while in Mary Sherman Hospital.

1952! It smells musty, and there’s a little water damage on the cover, but I think it’s beautiful. My family doesn’t have much in the way of heirlooms, but I couldn’t have asked for a better one than a book.

 

Writing Amidst Distractions

I used to require absolute silence to write. No music, no TV, no people, absolutely nothing. And then, if my concentration was broken, the day was lost. I could never get back into my story. Once that distraction came, my productivity was shot.

I still prefer to write in silence. There’s something about shutting out the entire world and getting completely wrapped up in my project that just helps my story to flow. But I don’t require it anymore. More importantly, I don’t find it much anymore.

At the moment, I’m sitting at my parents’ dining room table while my nieces and nephew (ages 7, 4, & 2) run around and play with my dog and scream at each other and wait for Grandma to make them grilled cheese sandwiches. Granted, I was balancing my checkbook and now I’m writing a post, I’m not involved in my novel, but the concept still applies. While the kids are here, I don’t get perfect silence. But I’m learning to keep them in the periphery. I can’t shut them out completely, because I need to intervene if someone cries or gets knocked over by the dog or whatever else comes up that needs my attention. But I can think over the noise.

I don’t get perfect silence at home, either. I prefer to write in the morning, when I can, but it doesn’t always happen that way. The problem with that is, my husband is home in the mornings. He works second shift, so he’s always available to interrupt and invade the living room and ask me questions and bang stuff around in the kitchen. He also plays a lot of video games in one of our bedrooms, and the music typically drifts down the hallway and into my brain. Sometimes, when we haven’t seen each other much, I’ve even taken my laptop into the bedroom and sat on the floor while he played. That’s a bit harder to do, because I have a tendency to watch him play instead of focusing on my own work, but at least a little gets done.

The whole point being, if I were to wait for complete silence to write then I would rarely get things done. At least, I wouldn’t get them done when I wanted to get them done. My house is pretty quiet late at night, but I don’t think well that late and would much rather get my work done earlier in the day. Keeping my focus is a mindset, one I’ve struggled to cultivate so that I can work through the noise, buckle down, and get the work done.

Talk to me in the comments. How do you fare working in distracting environments? How do you keep your focus?