The Problem with My Character(s)
by Nic Olson
I’ve been writing a story. Supposedly a short story, it has taken me nearly seven months to form, from the first conception of the idea, to the actual act of sitting down and forming a plot, to the position I am in as of late of considering destroying it and starting from scratch, to the hopeful eventual position of fine-tuning and completing the roughest draft of all. There were three or four times when I thought I had it. I thought I had come up with a clever end to a strong plot with a well-rounded character, but after a week-long break from the 4,000 words, I decided it was actually a flop. A flop that I am not willing to abandon because it has taken me seven months to create. I still had faith in the idea, something I thought was unlike anything ever told, but my ability to form this with a style or even an air of storytelling was about as impossible as the plot of the story itself.
So, like the good writer I am, and like the good-cripple-with-hundreds-of-hours-at-my-disposal that I am, instead of working on the story, I am here, working on a very early excuse for why the story didn’t work.
In watching well crafted television or movies, or especially reading books by classic authors such as Vonnegut or Tolstoy or Camus or anyone else reputable, I wonder at how some people can design characters so intelligently that they seem more real than myself. A way of describing a mind, an organized mind or otherwise, so that the reader becomes part of it to the point of it affecting their thoughts throughout the rest of the day is an uncanny attention to detail and contemplation that I can only dream of having. The way to create a character in a script so that you remember that certain characters only say certain things, and that dialogue is important in that there are two or more characters with two or more completely different personalities, is, as I’ve discovered as the ultimate rookie of fiction, impossibly difficult.
In Forewords and Afterwords of the short list Tolstoy books I’ve read, the translator gives insight into Tolstoy’s journals and thoughts during and after his writings. They are decidedly negative in all aspects, and seem to mirror those of my own. An inability for contentedness with a piece, or a very fast turnover rate between satisfaction and disappointment. The fact that he thought the same things brings me hope. The fact that I know I will never write anything anywhere near the level of even B-authors, let alone the classic minds of literature, takes away most of that same hope.
My works always branch out of a single phrase or idea, never of a plot that jumps or a character that erupts. I am an idea man, pretending to write stories. The only thing easier to see through than my one-dimensional stories are my one-dimensional blogs about those stories.
And as a character is simply a reincarnation of the author that created him, I have discovered the reason for my inability to create a character with a soul, a character with a personality, or interesting thoughts, or dialogue that is in any way captivating. It is because I lack these things. That my life isn’t interesting enough to create interesting characters, and because of this, they are all flat, emotionless robots. That even though I can get attacked in foreign countries, and break my legs in skateboarding, and tackle shoplifters while in a cast on my first day back at work, I can’t use the semi-interesting events of my uninteresting life to write a story or create anything of worth. Because I am always lost in bigger ideas that aren’t worth much. I am lost in a pixelized, boxed-up version of the world where I disallow the truly interesting.
The problem with my characters is my character. The problem with my ideas is my brain.