05 March 2012

The Beast takes on Beauty.

Unlock the Meaning of the Name
(c) 2013 by Micah Solusod  and Ayu Sakata
On February 12th I turned in 20+ pages of the novel, brand-new, to my mentor Scott and got feedback the next day, which was very awesome. I want to keep the momentum going and continue pumping out lots of pages in smalls amounts of time, because as of today, the novel is only 145 pages and 43,413 words. This means I'm still very far behind. I should be talking to Jesus right now, I'm so far down the wrong path with this book!

The novel, called The Name and the Key, must be completed, revised, and in perfect form by September 2012 in order for me to graduate. And because I'm writing fantasy (per Scott my genre has been updated to dark fantasy, and this is an eye-opener!) the MINIMUM requirement for my novel is 320-500 pages, and 80,000-125,000 words. Based on the page and word count requirements, I could look on the bright side and tell myself, "You're halfway through the novel. Congratulations!" But in truth, it feels like I'm still stuck in the beginning of the story. Not a good sign.

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."
Yep. Andresh is smooth.
Lily and Andresh (c) 2013 by Angel

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...

Photo (cc) by Nivedita Patil. 
But I felt like Anne got it. She said Lily possessed a "quiet strength" and I was so happy she said that, that I seriously felt like crying for a second. I'm trying to go for quiet strength with her, but I can see how the quiet, steadfast types can be overshadowed by the loud, glitzy ones.

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.


  1. Beauty...er...Lily is your main character, and though you don't want your beast to upstage her do no be afraid of how interesting he is! The Beast has always been extremely interesting in this tale because of his power. Traditional tellings showed this power in the way of brute strength and savage majesty. Andresh's power is much more subtle, his brute strength is his charm and his savage majesty is his unrivaled knowledge of just how dark the world (and a man's heart) can get...he is extremely powerful, remember that that power is not only the beasts largest responsibility, but also his most dire fear!

  2. The darkness of a man's heart... hmm...

    Couldn't help but think of Stephen King there. Can you guess this quote?

    "The soil of a man's heart is stonier..."

  3. I think that last paragraph offers a great insight into your characters. Both undergo transformation, but Andresh's will be more visible because of the Beast's nature.

    I look forward to your next submission! And your drawings are hilarious. :D

  4. ".. a man grows what he can, and he tends it, because what you buy is what you own, and what you own always comes home with you"
    AAAAWWWWWW PET SEMATARY! and wow does that ever apply to both Lily and Andresh, they've definatly got issues that they've kind of exaserbated themselves. Good quote....

    ..."The barrier was not meant to be crossed. THE GROUND IS SOUR!."

  5. I haven't read it, but from the way you've described it, I'd say that the trick would be getting her to know something about him that he doesn't know about himself, so that she has a reason to believe in him and support him while he figures himself out. And to get her to be aware of everything he is, not, like, a lovestruck teenager sort of a thing. Then, the trick will be getting him to realize that there's something worthy behind all the charm and flash in himself, and that she's vitally important in holding up and preserving that worthy thing. She has to make him want to be a better person just by being there, if she's going to just be there.

    My two cents.


  6. I have the greatest friends in the world. Thank you for all of your writing advice and support! All of it is good and helpful.

    JENN--My submission is coming along slowly. Today is the first day I don't feel sick anymore...so, two days, twenty pages. Here I go!

    I'm so glad you like the drawings. I was going for goofy :) and it means a lot coming from you because I know you're a talented artist, so thanks!

    DREW--Pet Sematary was my first horror movie. We watched it at a summer camp sleepover and it scarred me for life at the tender age of eight years old. Every time I watch it I get a big nostalgia trip and creep-out. With the exception of Gage (obviously a doll in some scenes) at the end of the movie, I think the movie's held up quite well over the years...and a lot of it still bothers me. Especially Zelda. EEEP!

    SAMI--This is really, really great advice. Thank you. I want to avoid lovestruck teenager at all costs, and this is a very practical approach.

    Danke fur deine freundlichen Worte (Mein Deutsch nicht so gut)!


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