Saturday, 17 February 2018
Who is the focus of the hole?
Main characters are a tricky thing to get right.
I confess that when it comes to a story, I always start with a stock character who, surprise surprise, mirrors myself: white, heterosexual, and male. Usually 25-35 years old, and in a fluctuating state of relationship. This was my standard until I realised I was doing it, and since I have tried to variate my leading characters with the stories. After all, most of my tales do not require a lead to be of a certain description.
Enter Deep Down There, and Hannah Suggs.
Originally, I envisioned Deep Down There as I did every time. The main character was family man Tim Cooper, who would be on hand to watch the hole's mysteries unfold, and aid in the doomed descent. He was the white bread of main characters: familiar, basic, and full of sugar.
OK, maybe not the last part.
But you catch my drift. He was essentially a placeholder character, and didn't really spark the imagination. You could easily displace him from his role and throw someone else in there, perhaps someone with more of a story, more of a background to themselves. Someone with layers in their personality, rather than clothing.
Hannah was always a single mother with 2 kids. She was always envisioned as resembling Freema Agyeman, and wasn't very different to the person she is in this iteration of the story: smart, independant, and had enough of this crap.
Naturally, she was a more interesting main character.
Hannah went from taking the role of leaving the story halfway through, to being the anchor to the madness of Anton Court. I swapped her with Tim (whose family now went away. A wise decision as really, they didn't offer much except one particular scene), and never looked back, crafting the relationship with her children, her struggle to remain part of the community, and her determination to find out what is down the hole.
There very well could be an arguement for tokenism, and to be fair, I can see why. It is easy for writers - especially of my background & experience - to want to try to be more inclusive in a clumsy way. But in Hannah's case, I hope not. I based her on women I know whose traits were what I wanted from Hannah - strength under pressure, determination to see things through, inner turmoil - and think that at the moment, she's pretty damn good.
Of course, the final result will be in whether you, the readers, think so to. I hope so.
Otherwise you're going down the hole.