Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Oblivious Hero

[In my last blog, I rambled on about my experience doing a virtual book tour. I'd like to briefly visit that topic again. For one of my tour stops, Alpha Male Books, I was asked to write a guest blog regarding the alpha-maleness of my novel's main character. The two challenges here were: Who is the book's main character? and Could they be considered an alpha-male?

I decided the narrator, Aaron Garrett, is the main character; he is the book's one constant presence. But is he truly an alpha-male? Well...I came up with what I thought was an effective connection to that idea. However, my blog was not posted in its entirety (perhaps due to space constraints?) and that connection was not included.

Happy with how the blog came out, and disappointed it was abridged, I'm re-posting it here. Those of you who've read my earlier posts will find parts of this familiar, but perhaps you'll enjoy the new spin, as well.]   

The Oblivious Hero

It’s safe to say that without Aaron Garrett I may have never finished my first novel. He rescued my literary career, such that it is.

Let me explain.

When I first started writing Gospel for the Damned, my first book, more than two decades ago, I had no idea how to approach so daunting a task as a novel. Where do I begin? What do I do with all the characters, situations and themes floating around in my little brain?

I can’t remember exactly how many drafts I wrote, but there were many. I had a pretty good idea of each character’s role and individual experience within the story overall but I couldn’t fit them together into a cohesive, meaningful whole. At first, I tried the omniscient or detached viewpoint, but it became exactly that – detached. I wanted a more intimate tone.

I then tried to write multiple first person versions, one for each of the main characters as the narrator. The problem there was that no single character interacted with all the others. For instance, Ben or Zac never would have accompanied Dane on one of her euthanasia calls, and she had no reason to be with them during their adventure in “the most dangerous part of the city.”

At one point I thought of making the book a collection of interrelated short stories (one for each character’s different perspective), like Hemingway’s Nick Adam stories, or Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. But that proved to be more laborious than a single narrative.   

Then, in the summer of 2004, while taking a course in writing research papers, I met Aaron Garrett. He came in the form of the voice – my own voice – I used in writing my papers. It was the voice of a conscientious, curious observer; a “journalistic” voice. The voice my novel desperately needed.

When I interjected Aaron Garrett – the na├»ve journalist who was “lucky” to be in the 2 percent of the nation immune to a disease that had wiped out a third of the West Coast’s population – into my fledgling story, all the pieces, like a kind of alchemy, miraculously fell into place. He became the novel’s hub, that critical cohesive element that brought it all together.

[This is where the post ends on the Alpha Male Books site. But it's within the remaining text where I attempted to tie my book to the site's theme.]

For the other characters, Aaron is a link to the world beyond their horrible situation, their glimmer of hope. Unbeknownst to him, he has come to their rescue; by exposing lies and finding truths with his words and ethically questionable actions, Aaron becomes a soldier for their future. He enters the quarantined city inexperienced and unsure of himself, but leaves with clarity and perspective that will forever after define him.

Like me, in the course of writing my first novel.

Once clueless and unsure of my own literary abilities, I now relish the prospect of creating a lasting body of work. To all those ideas I have for novels that loom over me with challenging stares I say: bring it on!   

Aaron Garrett gave me that all important individual “voice” for which every writer strives. And I thank him for that. 

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