I have previously talked about the questions I sometimes have about how much I ought to share of my protagonist's personal life.
It should come as no surprise that I am deeply invested in Winston Patrick. He is, of course, for the uninitiated, the protagonist in both Deadly Lessons, Last Dance and the soon to be completed W3.doc (see how confident I'm sounding? More about that later). And like I'm sure any writer feels, I want the reader to become more deeply invested in Winston Patrick as well.
I have discussed in a previous column the challenge of finding the right balance between deeping the readers' appreciation for and understanding of the character (hopefully) in addition to following the plot of the crime drama unfolding. Of course it is intended to develop interest in wishing to follow the protagonist on future exploits but also just because we want the reader to be as intrigued in our hero as we are. In theory, to carry this yen to his natural conclusion, we could publish a book just about the trials and tribulations of the character's life even without the crime plot.
Don't worry - I'm not going to do it.
In Deadly Lessons and Last Dance there were significant events going on in Winston's life that, while providing at least part of the foundation for the plot and certainly contributing to the story unfolding, were also about deepening our getting to know him and (again, hopefully) like him. Or at least not want him to die. Obviously, Deadly Lessons essentially served as the pilot for the series, so everything about the character is new and about getting to know him, give him layers and complexities and develop empathy for him. When we meet him he is undergoing a life change in that he is transitioning from the legal profession to the teaching, which puts him in the initial position to participate in the plot. But I also spend time getting to know his ex-wife, Sandi, how their relationship continues to transpire past their divorce and how she continues to complicate his life by, well, not leaving. Similarly in Last Dance some of the story focuses on continuing to develop our knowledge of Winston; his never-ceasing insomnia, for example, does little to specifically drive the plot, though in the first book, it sets up events that help to further the crime saga.
In W3.doc, as I've mentioned, I have set up a significant life event for Winston (no ladies, don't worry: he's not getting married) that, so far at least, has little to no bearing on the crime drama that is the central tenet of the plot, though I suppose that may change as I continue. I believe it deepens him somewhat, providing some substance and history that may be surprising or may make the reader question their initial understanding or impressions of him. It's not that readers won't like him, more that they may have more nuanced opinion of him at the end of this book than with the others.
I'm finding adding the personal storylines is doubly challenging in W3.doc: while I'm enjoying the added dimensions it's adding to the character, I have, as I've mentioned, experienced with this book more doubt about the story. I need to make sure that I don't overdo my 'B' story, so to speak, in order to compensate for any crisis of confidence in the 'A' story.
On the plus side, I've been sticking to my writing resolution: 20 minutes per day without fail - with the exception of Tuesday, the 14th - and you really don't want to know why that exception occurred.
And as I've continued to push the writing, the story continues to develop in my mind. Indeed, it has become increasingly, well, complicated.
Next week: In the beginning…Winston Patrick