|Unlock the Meaning of the Name|
(c) 2013 by Micah Solusod and Ayu Sakata
As a recap, I've been writing the book at a snail's pace since June 2010. This includes several rewrites and a ton of plot and character changes before I realized that I managed my time horribly. I'm still having problem with time management, and this includes managing page time for my characters.
The lead character in the novel is Lily Rose Camlo. This is her story, her POV (the book's first person through her eyes), her voice. If we want to use fairy tale terms, since technically my book is based on Beauty and the Beast, she's the Belle of the story.
But...along came Andresh Camomescro. I originally designed him to function as the Avenant/Gaston character in the fairytale, but I started running out of time forever ago and couldn't figure out how to introduce tons of characters who hadn't made it into the book yet. I was 100 pages into the book and hadn't set up a way to begin the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, either. So I had to decide, "No new characters. Work with what you've got." (And I have to thank Tim Waggoner for telling me this ages ago. I finally listened to you!) So Andresh became the Beast. And deep down, I think my subconcious wanted him to be anyway, because there's evidence in the early pages of the work where it seems to set it up pretty well.
And based on feedback, Andresh seems to be the character everyone is rooting for (whereas my lead's kind of...overlooked). Andresh has a great character history that I created, but if I include too much of it, the novel is no longer Lily's story. The chosen few who know Andresh's full background really like it and find that it makes him a very compelling character. Andresh even has his own fanfiction of mythic proportions inspired by his adventures on the Long Walk (a magical, coming-of age quest) and some of its related, secret backstory.
Crit partners like Andresh because he is mysterious and weighed down by some hard choices he's had to make in his life. Friends and fellow writers like him because "he's too cool for school; he's charming, and that makes him likeable and roguish." Students in the writing workshops at SHU love his character name, and romance writers love him because he is the "dark, wounded hero" that so many women tend to fall for and are sympathetic to. Even my mentor wrote of Andresh, "Oh damn. He's smooth."
Yes. He's far too interesting and far too likable of a character. It's easy to see how he could overshadow my lead, which he's in danger of doing almost every time I sit down at the computer to write.
But, in the end, you know, my lead is the only person who can help him and enable him to save himself. When things are really, really horrible for Andresh, I want Lily to be his golden thread, like Lucy Manette in A Tale of Two Cities:
"[She] [...] united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery: and the sound of her voice, the light of her face, the touch of her hand, had a strong beneficial influence with him almost always." (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859)
One of the loveliest compliments I received about my character Lily came from author Anne Harris, who led one of the workshops at this past January residency. I had some conflicting feedback from my peers when it came to their opinions of Lily's character...some felt she was too passive, others felt that she had too much clarity in a potentially dangerous situation...the point is, no one got a clear picture of who she was (which I need to go back and fix so I don't leave any doubts).
Behold the Lotus. As Andresh says,
"It's kind of like a lily." Hmmmm...
I think it requires tremendous effort to be restrained. To do the right thing, calmly and quietly, without shouting, "Look at me and how awesome I am!" And to do good things without asking for reward.
That's the type of character I want Lily to be, so maybe I need to calm down a little about my worries for her as the lead of the novel. Maybe the fact that a lot of readers are drawn to Andresh over Lily is because he's flash and she's smoke. He's so exciting and she's, well...there. But that isn't actually a bad thing. She's his support, his foundation..and that's not something that can easily be seen by anyone.
One of the guiding principles I'm trying to hold to in my novel, as I write about the romance between Andresh and Lily, is taken from Zen Buddhism. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, "True love is being there." And I guess we take for granted the people who support us behind-the-scenes.
After thinking through all of this, maybe I am actually doing the right thing with my characters. Andresh steals the spotlight like the rockstar that he is, and Lily in the meantime is quietly rock-solid.
I like it. I'll run with it.