Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Send in a Stunt Double

Yesterday I went to see my hair stylist. As she usually does sometime in the summer, she said, “Your hair’s too dark. Let’s brighten it up with some blonde highlights.” If this were a movie, I’d probably say, “Cut to two-an-a-half hours later.” I left the salon looking like the double for the albino in The Da Vinci Code. My hair is so blonde it’s practically white. Which got me to thinking, what do I do now? Do I let it grow for a month or so then get it cut really short and have brown highlights put in?

It also got me thinking about the albino in The Da Vinci Code. (If you’re a writer, you know that’s how the mind of a writer works.) For me, that character is more memorable than any other. Why is that?

The key word there is “memorable.” He’s not bland like the protagonist. Despite his appearance, he has color. He has motivation, purpose, perseverance. This is true whether you’re talking about the movie or the book. He doesn’t get the screen or page time as much as the protagonist, yet he comes close to over-shadowing him.

That’s one thing (among many) you have to be aware of when you’re writing. Don’t let your secondary characters or your antagonist take over. The antagonist has to be strong, has to be a worthy adversary, for the main character, but if he takes over the spotlight, then the book becomes his.

When you have your readers read your whole manuscript, it’s a good idea to ask, “Which character was most memorable to you?” and “Why?” If the answer is the antagonist or a secondary character, then you need to work on your protagonist.

And I need to work on my white hair. Anyone have a really good hair stylist they can recommend?

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