Uncooperative Characters—What’s an Author to Do?
There’s a certain romantic notion that characters can—and ideally should—take on a life of their own and propel an author’s story on a kind of rollercoaster ride. A different perspective is that story has a defined framework and characters need to do the work of acting out the arcs the author creates for them in service to that story. In this perspective, there’s nothing mystical about writing a book. I can’t say that mysticism plays any kind of part in the creative process. By the same token, I can’t say that it doesn’t. What I can say is that both my protagonists in Jesus Kid—Jack and Ori—flat out refused to cooperate with me. Ori wasn’t having anything to do with the ending of the story. Now, I couldn’t blame him; it did require a fairly frightening sacrifice, but the story wasn’t going to complete itself. Ori had to help. My problem with Jack was of a different kind. Jack just wouldn’t share anything with me. I knew why he did the things he did. I even knew what he thought about those things, but I didn’t know how he felt, and where those feelings were coming from.
Having Jack and Ori call a metaphorical strike was a problem because they were the center of the story. Nothing was going to happen without them. My solution with Ori was play off his natural decency. Though he put on a big show of being somebody who didn’t care about others, that was all it was—a show. He cared a lot. So I decided to write the last part of the book in snippets. And none of those snippets were about him; I didn’t add his part in until later when he was willing to do what he needed to do. I wrote short bits about the parts the other characters played in the story and the dangers they were confronting that only Ori could save them from. I knew he wouldn’t let them come to any harm. I have a scene in the book of him sitting on a porch by himself contemplating what’s to come and uncertain how he can fix things. That’s Ori resisting me, but as I wrote the other parts in the story and put the people he loved in danger, he realized what he had to do and agreed to make the sacrifice that brought the story to its end.
Jack, on the other hand, was emotionally stubborn. I was two drafts into the story, and he still didn’t want to share his feelings or motivations. And I knew I had to go under the surface with him because as much as he might have wanted to be a cardboard character, I couldn’t allow that. I knew there was passion in him. Conviction and honor and courage. And it was going to come out. With Jack, I tried a different tack. Maybe some of you know about free association—someone throws a word at you and you have to respond with another word right away. Supposedly, if you don’t have time to think about it, it’s your unconscious that’s answering. In other words, the response is more likely to be from a place of truth. So I did that with Jack. Obviously, we weren’t being verbal. I said a word and wrote down Jack’s response. Over and over. I had pages by the time I was done. And Jack went from cold and controlled to passionate and fiery. He’s still very controlled on the page, but underneath he simmers. I needed that from him. I needed a different kind of fire from Ori’s, and Jack gave it to me finally.
These are two things that never happened to me before. Writing a book is never the same and a writer’s characters are hopefully not the same either. Sometimes they manifest in stories in a way that does seem mystical, and maybe it is. They have energy and drive and fears and resistance. Ori and Jack made me work for their cooperation, and I’m glad they did. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Length: 114,000 words
Ori Scott is a young junkie running from his mother's prophecy that he'd one day save the world from the killer plants. Her preaching made him a laughingstock and now he hides in his drugs. But he can't hide the change in his veins. They are turning green, and the prophecy is dragging him into a dark struggle between invisible forces. Set up on bogus drug charges, Ori is taken to a secret facility where he becomes a test subject in experiments to discover an antidote to the alien plant's sting.
Jack Doll is a cop with a vendetta against the plants that killed his best friend. All he has in the world now is his old friend's lover, Rive. Together they form an unbreakable bond-or so he thought. Jack has never liked Rive's friend, Ori, but he believes in Ori's innocence and doesn't understand Rive's strange indifference to Ori's conviction. Struggling with his suspicions, Jack can't help digging into a mystery that draws him closer to Ori than ever before-and closer to somebody who has secrets to hide.
Alone and scared, Ori is grateful for Jack Doll's friendship, and his longtime crush soon blossoms into love. But Ori has no plans to accept his fate. He wants to escape, and he doesn't care if he takes the cure with him.
Kayleigh's stories are tales of struggle and pain, loss and despair. Love is won in the battle to rise out of the depths of darkness. Victory is in the sweet bliss of happily ever after.
Once upon a time Kayleigh hid out in a cold dark garage reading a book her parents forbid her to read. She was nine years old. The book? Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, a story of love between two men-well, actually the story was a little more complicated than that, but hey, she was nine.
In the dark of the garage, a light, a passion, a sheer joy for love in all its manifestations awoke.
And love between two men-Hot!
Kayleigh's men are often broken, always brave, and always memorable.
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