Understanding my character without even knowing it

Okay, you can say that I put the cart before the horse or let the tail wag the dog or whatever expression you’d like to use.

I am perhaps half way through the first draft of The Sleep of Reason, so I’ve gone a long way with my protagonist (whose name remains Charles Frere for the moment, despite the discovery that two painters with that name have existed). Thus it was funny/alarming/embarrassing to come to understand an important quality of his character only recently.

In order to lead him into the trouble he eventually faces, I realized that I need to make him smugly self confident so that he overlooks details that he shouldn’t. Yet as I reflected on just how to do this in the character, I realized that this misguided self confidence had already played a role in his back story. It had gotten him into big trouble back then, which indirectly led to the the very different trouble he is in now (but he hasn’t learned his lesson yet and won’t until it’s too late). So I think on a subconscious level, I understood my character better than I was aware.

As I said, this is embarrassing. I should have conceived this about my character before I first set my fingers to the keyboard. If I restricted myself, however, to writing the story based on what I consciously knew way back then, it would be an unsatisfying story with far less psychological insight. (Indeed, the novel began as a short story that went nowhere. It needed more incubation.)

I can see how some writers can take ten years to finish a novel.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Sleep of Reason

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