Some characters are too easy to write. Carl is a conversational battle tank who threatens to roll over every scene he participates in. It’s my own fault, I suppose. Carl comes equipped with a saint’s conscience and the uncanny ability to convince people to act against their own best interests. That made for a tangled mess of angsty drama even before I handed him the high-powered plot weapon of of a Tragic Secret Past.
When I work a story from Carl’s viewpoint, he sheds plot ideas the way a cat sheds hair. The temptation to develop those tangents can get overwhelming. He’s personally responsible for all the Restoration stories except Controlled Descent & Flight Plan–and those books would be a hell of a lot longer but less coherent if I’d surrendered to the temptation of writing more from Carl’s POV.
It isn’t all fun & games. His personality works against building action. He will talk any problem to death from every possible angle rather than move forward. When other characters aim a plot somewhere, he’ll automatically take the opposing position and poke holes in their ideas. People sitting around talking things to death does not make for riveting prose.
Things move best when he’s sulking in a corner, biting his tongue to keep from saying anything to influence others to act in some way he wants. His confidence that he knows best is surpassed only by his fear that he’ll force someone into agreement with him.
According to the Writing Gurus, self-doubt makes a character more appealing and sympathetic to readers (and heaven knows best-selling series thrive on protagonists who agonize through every page) I find it gets tedious from a writing standpoint, especially when doubt slides into depression. Which it often does. Oh, boy, does it.
Writing a depressed POV can be an emotionally crushing chore. The only redeeming aspect is the entertainment value of pitting Carl against sympathetic people who have no tolerance for moping. Setting him in opposition to Alison and Felicity’s brisk practicality leads to humor every time, and his relationships with his brother and Justin can be just as fun.
Those connections are all that keep Carl going sometimes. I still don’t know if his story ends in laughter or tears. Guess I’ll have to keep writing, huh?
The funny side of Carl: Turning the Work
Joining In the Round shows a little of the price Carl pays for power. It also has the easiest fight scene I’ve ever written.
art attribution: Andrew Kwan