Having just embarked on a brand new novel with a fizzy main character who is, hopefully, sympathetic, I was ploughing ahead with my new storyline. Happily skipping down the pages with Clementine and quite enjoying the lightness of it all.
It was short lived. Even as I wrote the words ‘pina colada’ and ‘boyfriend’ in the same sentence I knew that Clem had to have some conflict – I just couldn’t stick with the story of ‘boy meets girl’. It came to me in the middle of the night. At first I thought the milk had been off in my horlicks, but then I realised that the incubation of my plot was coming to a head and the fermentation period had brewed up a storm for Clementine.
And so it is born: novel number four. WIP title is ‘The Waiting List’ and once again I have felt the urge to align the plot with a simmering issue of society. But this time it will be different: Clem isn’t going to grump her way through the darkness, more she shimmers her way through a maze of people who are not who they seem to be.
Speaking of main characters, I had occasion to revisit Jinny today in Life: Immaterial. It has come as a great surprise to me lately how many people have remembered Jinny and been able to tell me what the plot is. One colleague who has read Life: Immaterial told me, ‘When I first read it I thought she was completely objectionable. But when I had finished the book it was bugging me. I had to go back and read it again. Jinny is like the Matrix, every time you see it you notice something different’.
Two main characters, two very different women. More lately whilst writing Clem I have found myself slapping on the false tan a little bit more, maybe wearing heels sometimes, humming a tune. Writing Jinny whilst working in London found me sulking on the Tube and wandering round Victoria Station aimlessly. I still get a chill when I walk past the restrooms! I wrote an earlier post about lots of people asking me if I am the main character and if they are in my novels. The simple answer is ‘no’, the more complex answer is that I may adopt Juliet or Jinny or Clem for a while and slot them into my identity, just to see how it feels. They never fit and always disappear when the book is finished, but for a time I am feeling it!
In psychology this would be called projection or transference and could be remedied by a reflexive stance to the writing project, a kind of Zen outside view of the plot and the character and of myself writing them. In reality, it’s much more difficult to pull oneself away from the subject, almost as if in return for forming the main character one has to surrender part of oneself to the process. Some people call it research but I call it immersing myself in the revenge of the main character!