Sunday, October 23, 2005

"Self improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction..."

I've been thinking a fair amount about the characters in the Smalltown Pornographer's novel over the course of this month -- and thinking about them even more as I've dabbled in their pre-novel-history -- and I've kind of started to realize something interesting.

Most of the novels I've written in the past -- and, in fact, most of the short stories I've written as well -- have a common thread. Redemption. I write stories about people who end up in terrible places, doing terrible things, feeling terribly about themselves, but at the end of the story, ultimately find themselves redeemed, in some way.

But traditionally, these characters have put themselves into those terrible places. They are, in a nutshell, self-destructive. Filled with self-loathing and self-doubt. And it is their own decisions, their own feelings, their own sense of themselves that needs to be redeemed by the novel's end.

In the case of The Small Town Pornographer's Blues, though, the main character (who, for those who read "This is not a prologue (Part Four)" already know, now has a name) is really just a guy who ends up in a lot of wrong places at the wrong times.

Sure, he's a pornographer, which some might argue is not the most morally solid occupation in the world. But he's a good pornographer. He doesnt' exploit his talent, he doesn't get his actresses strung out on drugs, he pays them as well as he can under the circumstances. In effect, he is exactly what a small town pornographer would be like. Kind, friendly, and just wanting to make some entertaining films.

And I'm quite looking forward to this change of pace, to writing a character that is not so completely self destructive. Last November, when writing what is tentatively titled "Waiting for a Miracle," I had to stop writing the first part of the novel about halfway through the month and switch to the second part, which is written by a different first person narrator, because the narrator of the first part was just too goddamn depressing. I couldn't stand living in his head for another day.

As much as I'm fascinated by characters with self-destructive behaviour -- in part, I think, because I have self-destructive tendencies myself, on occasion -- they can get awfully tiring to write, day in and day out. Particularly when you're feeling terribly self-destructive at the time, and don't feel like being dragged down to those sorts of feelings either.

Sadly some of the momentum I had for the novel has dipped, slightly, in the last few weeks, but I think that's just a result of work stresses, and the fact that the play I'm in is going to open in just a few days. Hopefully by the time November 1 arrives and I write that first sentence, I'll be ready to rock and roll. God knows these non-prologues have gone about as smoothly and comfortably as anything I've written about in quite awhile.

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