Monday, 15 January 2007

Love Me

Work on my novel has stopped for a short time. I'm letting it settle for a few weeks (and the short-story contest has provided me with a lovely stopgap and the opportunity to experiment with some of those random thoughts that plague me and seek release).
One of my beta readers explained that she didn't much like my protag.
This is death. It's also an isolated observation, but one that I take seriously. Indeed, her agent made her remove everything in her ms that might tarnish the bonding process.
I spent a while looking for protags that are similar to mine so that I could investigate the bonding process. My good friend ricardo suggested that I study Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye) and I have the book on order.
I also thought of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. I watched the opening few minutes at the week end. Here are some of the bonding techniques used. (Spoiler alert!)
Travis was a marine and had an honourable discharge. Even association with the word 'honourable' is a plus.
Travis writes to his mother. Gotta love him.
Travis is lonely ('I ride around most nights - subways, buses - but you know, if I'm gonna do that I might as well get paid for it.'). Now this is curious: I'm unconvinced that this trait creates an automatic bond in the same way that, say, the dutiful son writing to his mother does. At least, I introduce my protag, Corus, eating breakfast alone in a cottage. His mother and sister are dead, and I develop Corus' thoughts on their deaths over the next few chapters, along with some drip-fed reveals. Corus' friends are spiders (and I subliminally create a menage a trois between Corus and the male and female cardinal spiders); they are reliable and are stable parts of his life. And he has a cat who seems to have deserted him (which is largely how he regards his mother and sister - he is abandoned). Corus' companions - people in his life by accident or design - are all oddballs - people who have been dealt a bum hand. With these characters, I hope to create bond-by-association, and I also use the interaction to show the tolerant side of Corus' nature.
I've pulled out many stops to cement a reader-protag bond (thereby creating, what I unbrilliantly refer to as the protagoreader).
So I wonder how easy it is to damage this bond. Travis is accepted by audience (sympathy) and the motivations for his murderous actions are understood (empathy). How does the viewer relate to his actions and his subsequent hero status?
Thoughts on this are ongoing.

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