Monday, April 23, 2012

Collapsed Soufflé

I got good advice from Scott and Michelle over the last few days to let The Pagani Project rest for about a month before I looked at it again. But...well...yesterday, after I finished reading The Great Gatsby, I just had to open the oven and take a peek. I ended up scanning through the entire manuscript to see if the story was working as a whole, and it ended up helping me develop a better ending than I previously had. The new ending feels more emotional to me now--and more in line with what the rest of the story was promising, I think. I also saw some holes that I intend to fill over the next few days. I think I'll definitely need to give the book a long break at some point, but I just can't do it yet.

This weekend I also saw the play Waiting for Godot for the first time. The acting was phenomenal, including James Cromwell as Pozzo. He is particular tall, that guy. The man who played Lucky--Hugo Armstrong--was haunting. He was slouched over for the majority of the play, which seems dreadfully painful.

Reading The Great Gatsby and watching Waiting for Godot reminded me of how big a canvas one can paint with very few characters. In both, the story revolves around just a handful of people, yet Gatsby makes me reflect on larger class differences and Godot made me think about my very existence. In The Pagani Project I felt the need to include over a dozen characters because of how much time passes in that book. Showing flashes of people instead of going in depth with just a few was my way of talking about the world. I'm not sure how many major characters will be in Everybody! yet. I had originally planned to just focus on four people, but the potential cast is quickly growing.

What's Peanut eating? I think it was a little chunk of bell pepper, a casualty of me trying to get him away from a stack of pizza boxes.

12 comments:

  1. Adam has done a scene in Waiting for Godot for a class he was in. I would like to see the whole play! And yay for an ending you like better! It's so great to follow your instincts with writing, and I'm happy you are!

    Mmm, PIZZA!

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    1. That's cool! Do you have any idea which character he played? I'd be curious to know. Thanks for being happy for me, Michelle! :)

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  2. I used to think that support characters had to have full and interesting lives, but then I realized that they only have to be fully alive in the scenes in which they appear, and that can be as little as one scene. This lets me focus on the main characters, and I try to keep that number pretty small. The book I'm writing now has a lot of speaking parts (to borrow a theater term) but really the action follows just two people around. Cocke & Bull is the same way. The Last Guest is maybe more of an ensemble piece, but I really think it's just Patience and the 12 other people sort of blink in and out of the book; as long as they shine brightly for their one moment, that's good enough, but then off they go into the background again.

    There are a lot of people in Gatsby (especially considering how short it is), but the focus is really only on three people, right? Two, maybe, if you figure that Nick Carroway is just the narrator and doesn't actually do anything.

    I'm happy you're happy with Pagani! An ending that really fits is a good thing!

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    1. My lesson on how complete characters can feel with only a few scenes comes from Shakespeare's plays. He does that so well. I'm thinking of Bottom from Midsummer Night's Dream, for example.

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    2. Yeah, or the gravedigger in Hamlet, or Banquo in Macbeth (he really only has two scenes, and one of them's his murder).

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    3. Dickens is brilliant at this, too. The most colorful characters wander briefly on and then off the stage forever. Though sometimes he's maybe trying too hard and often Dicken's minor characters are more real than his heroes/heroines, who can be pretty dull and empty folks. Dickens is a mixed bag. But who isn't?

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    4. I almost always feel like the minor characters are easier to write. I think I try to keep my major characters too real and too versatile, and that ends up being very boring. When I wrote Rooster, everyone liked my character King, who I wrote about easily because I wasn't trying to give him capacity to serve any role. Well a role came through it was unpredicted.

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    5. That's an interesting observation, how minor characters are easier to write. Probably that's because they are less realistic even while we writers make them more memorable and vibrant. Real people are mostly undefined. It's only abstractions who are easily crafted, and solid. "That's a nice tie!" Minor characters are just props, after all. Major characters are complex and porous. Unknowable and therefore less memorable?

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    6. Exactly, and I don't think the major characters have to be less memorable. Of course they don't. But I'm saying in my hands it has been easier to create a memorable minor character than a memorable major one. It's a matter of skill.

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    7. Patience is the most memorable character in The Last Guest. And Bull is the most memorable character in Cocke & Bull. For me, anyway.

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  3. Scott's comment makes me think about what several readers said about Cinders once - that even my minor characters like the little girl with sores on her hands and braids on her head was as real as the other characters. I've often wondered why that is, and I'm still not sure, but I'm flattered all the same that somehow I managed to do that. I think it has to do with caring a lot about the minor characters and including details that say a lot and really matter to me, the writer, and to the reader as well. I've never had a huge cast of characters in my books, but one day I'd like to do something more like an ensemble piece. Anyway, I'm just rambling. :)

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    1. I feel like if the writer can see the entire character, that depth will come through, even in a scene or two. I can't say I always manage to do that, but I try.

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