Hearts and Sleeves, Round Two

[Originally posted at SF Novelists.]


Back in August of last year, I turned my attention to characterization, and the issue of writing introverts. Short form was that I am a moderately reserved person, and so tend to write moderately reserved characters, with the result that my idea of deep floods of emotion may not come across to all readers as such. And I closed by saying that, since writers are always looking to improve their craft, I would probably try to write a real extrovert some day.

Meet Galen.

It wasn’t so much that I decided, okay, we need to write an extrovert, who can we turn into one — more that the instant I thought about doing it, Galen started jumping up and down in the back of my head saying “ME ME OOH THAT’S ME.” Conveniently enough, he’s one of the protagonists of the novel I just started writing, so the experiment is already underway.

And it’s already giving me hives.

I wrote a sample for my agent to include with the proposal for this and the next book (a continuation of my Onyx Court series), and mostly it went well — except for the bit where I had to rip out fully half of a scene and rewrite it, because I realized Galen was swallowing down everything he wanted to say. This, of course, is what many of my characters do when confronted with an argument they know they can’t win. But Galen is supposed to be impulsive, mercurial, and utterly transparent in his emotions. So I had to go back and redo most of the conversation, so that now it features him planting his foot firmly in his mouth, charging headlong into disaster because he’s passionate about his cause and doesn’t really stop to think before he defends it.

My lurking fear is that I’ll be doing this all book long. I’m eighteen thousand words into the draft, and there’s already two other scenes where I suspect Galen’s being too restrained. To write him, I’m having to buck all my instincts. Don’t hide anything, don’t let anything pass unremarked. I didn’t realize how many of my characters attempt to actively lie about their emotions to those around them, and abet the lying of others, until I started working with a character who doesn’t. And if I can’t get the difference into my head Real Soon Now, I’m going to end up writing 40% more book than I need to, as I keep rewriting half of every scene that has Galen in it.

Which actually isn’t a complaint. This is called “trying something new,” and it’s one of the joys of being a writer. But it’s territory very nearly as alien as eighteenth-century London, where the book’s set: I’ve read about that period/people like that, but I can never experience it first-hand, and so I’m having to feel my way one careful step at a time down a path I can only kind of see.

One thing’s certain, though, as I said on my own journal at the beginning of the month: Galen’s not in much danger of being boring.