I just read my last post about creating quirky characters and groaned. Out loud. And made that hideous pig-snorting face reserved for people who have just done something stupid.
What kind of an idiot makes herself into a cutsie fake character on a blog? To make matters worse, I read this passage by Charles Baxter about two seconds after I hit the publish button.
“Isn’t there something deeply interesting and moving and sometimes even beautiful when a character acknowledges an error? And isn’t this narrative mode becoming something of a rarity?
Most young writers have this experience: They create characters who are imaginative projections of themselves, minus the flaws. They put this character into a fictional world, wanting that character to be successful and—to use that word from high school—popular. They don’t want these imaginative projections of themselves to make any mistakes, wittingly or, even better, unwittingly, or to demonstrate what Aristotle thought was the core of stories, flaws of character that produce intelligent misjudgments for which someone must take the responsibility.” — Charles Baxter, from Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
Thank you, Mr. Baxter, for that yummy dose of humility. I guess I thought giving my character hairy legs was a big enough flaw. I mean, it’s kept me from being “popular” in the past. My brother used to call me Fur Leg.
But I know that’s not what Baxter means and now I’m worrying, Do I just craft characters who are imaginative projections of myself? And if so, are they the kind of people who are really boring and never make mistakes?
I think back to the story I tried to draft “live” on this blog.
SIDE NOTE: The story is a flaming pile of shit and I’m going to take it down and it just proves that I’m the kind of writer who absolutely has to revise before anything good happens.
The characters in that shitty story probably were both projections of myself. They DID have flaws, which is good, right?
It was the story’s fault. It sucked. And the writing, which kept switching haphazardly between past and present tense, also sucked. *my face is puckering into a big pig-snort again*
Now I’m wondering, Is every good character a hot mess?
I can’t even answer that question today because I’m a hot mess.
My fiction is stalled. This blog post is sounding more like a drunk dial than thoughtful prose. And the only public representation of my work (until that tiny piece in Narrative–which is probably a fluke–comes out) is the horrible story that I need to pull down from my blog and re-write or just trash.
I go to Amazon or Goodreads and look up my favorite books. Then I read all the one- and two-star reviews for those books.
It always cheers me up.