Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Bringing up the Protagonist like a Child
The time it takes for the story to unravel in our minds, an umbilical chord like attachment forms via our thoughts which constantly stray to the story, feeding it with nourishing plot structures, making the character strong and likeable, enhancing the scenes with juicy tidbits that hook readers, adding elements that propel the story forward, not only during our waking moments, but, many times during sleep too.
If my characters could talk they would definitely crib about me stalking them. I have done that for my middle grade fiction about a notorious prankster Nina. For the duration of time that it took me to write the first draft, I was obsessed with Nina. I had definitely become the overconcerned, anxious mother, constantly fretting over Nina, stifling her and seldom giving her the breathing space a ten going on eleven year old needed. I wanted my girl to be perfect, the kind of child every mother craved, the kind of child who would become a role model. But as the story progressed Nina developed a strong personality of her own, she baulked at her strict upbringing and loathed my interference.
The head strong spirited girl that I had created sat down with me to discuss her fate. She explained the injustice I had done to her, her personality had wilted instead of flowering. I had superimposed my likes and dislikes on her. “Yes, I am your creation, but not an extension of your personality,” she said, staring deep into my eyes. Her anguish and pain haunted me for days.
The moment I started the second draft, I shed the over protectiveness, dropped the strict attitude I had adopted, and allowed Nina a free rein. She had a right to decide her fate. The much deserved freedom enhanced the pre teenager’s life and she emerged not a shadow of me, but, an individual in her own right.
The process of creating a character works both ways, we learn as much from the characters as they from us. Before they set an example for the rest of the world, these literary children teach us ( their adopted parents) a lot about parenthood. The child \ protoganist does not have to move through the story carrying the enormous burden of our expectations on their shoulder. They are carrying the burden of the book’s success. Isn’t that enough?! We realize that as literary parents we can show them the different paths, but the one they choose, and the journey they undertake is their own. The mistakes and triumphs are solely their own.
How do you help your literary children along their journey? By allowing them freedom or controlling them? Do you become the strict parent, or do you indulge your literary creation? I would love to know how the nurturing process affects you in your literary hemisphere and how you bring up your characters.