I don't remember if I told you this or not (I started to write a post about it, fairly sure that I never finished), but I'm taking one of Lani's writing classes, Making Magic. Last week we worked on soundtracks, this week we're doing collages. I'm not visually artistic, so I'm struggling a bit. (Well, except for knitting, but that's more about following a pattern and mastering the mechanics. You're on your own with collage.)
I'm supposed to be picking placeholders-- pictures of people, often actors, who represent the characters. Sometimes it's the look, sometimes it's about the attitude or personality. Whatever you need to help you make that person real in your head, until they take over and become their own person. (People who've done much in the way of fiction writing will know what I mean.)
One of my characters, Ethan, is coming in pretty strong for me right now. This is his story, told from his point of view. He had this great boyfriend who dumped him suddenly right before Christmas, and he can't get over it. He's bitter. He doesn't understand why. And now Christmas is coming around again, and so is the ex. My big problem with Ethan is that I can't settle on what he looks like. He's kind of an amorphous blob at the moment. He shifts every time I look too close. I can feel what he's feeling and know what he's thinking, but he won't let me see his face.
I have an image for the ex. He's a pilot, I think. I don't know what his name is yet. So far he's been Dave, Dan, and Brad. None of them fit. So I'm just going to keep playing the "what name pops into my mind first" game periodically, and see what else comes up. My biggest problem with Dave/Dan/Brad is that I don't know what is motivating him. He basically walked out on Ethan, completely gone, out of his life, a couple days before Christmas. Why? What made him do that? As far as Ethan is concerned, it was a douchey thing to do. I know Dave/Dan/Brad had a reason for behaving that way. It's got to be realistic, understandable, and redeemable. Because I want these two guys together again. But I don't know what the reason is.
What could make someone walk out on a relationship so suddenly? What would make them change their mind a year later? In my mind it feels like commitment phobia. But does anyone want a hero who walks away utterly, no contact at all, and then appears a year later and says he wants you back? How do you justify it? How do you forgive it?
I did have one big revelation today. It has to do with the structure of the story. The first part is unquestionably Ethan's. He's a teacher, so the story starts off at the beginning of the school year. As the school year progresses, he finds himself rehashing the relationship. Remembering the good times, re-examining those moments that might have been warning signs of what was to come. Because he was really hit out of the blue when Dave/Dan/Brad walked away. As we get closer to Christmas and the one year anniversary of the break up, Ethan gets madder. The story ends with Dave/Dan/Brad knocking on the door a year after he left. (You can play with stuff like this in m/m. There's a lot more flexibility. But it would never fly in mainstream romance.)
The second part of the story picks up from there. It's all told from Dave/Dan/Brad's point of view. (I really need to get a name for this guy.) It will also cover two parallel time lines, his build up to walking out a year ago and his present struggle to get Ethan to take him back, with a little dash of how much he missed him after walking out.
So for the immediate future, I'm not too bad. Ethan's story is first, and while I can't see him very well, I can feel him. My biggest concern is that without knowing for sure what's going on with the Other Guy (I just can't type that list of names again-- it's getting depressing), I can't layer it in at all. But then, Ethan is also clueless about what happened, so maybe it's not too bad. More a question of whether or not I want to clue the reader in before Ethan figures everything out. (That balance between letting the reader feel smart for figuring it out without making the character look dumb for not figuring it out.)
So. Thoughts? Why do people just get up and walk out one day, and what changes inside to let them come back?