Monday, August 10, 2015

Having a Likeable Protagonist in Talia [Te Busque]

I'm not sure what got me started on the particular chapter I'd been on for the past couple weeks... but considering I had a couple moments this weekend where I was pouring time into my laptop and/or notebook, this needed to be addressed.

Basically, the chapter I'd been writing is where my protagonist meets her future love interest.
Karaoke night is a popular activity for a couple of my characters. They come to unwind, but also to try out some new dance moves.
For Talia, she likes to perform duets. She'll pick a random guy out of the crowd to sing with her. Usually, it's someone she'd seen at the club she and her friends work at, and it helps keep the homegrown audience engaged in their venue.

This particular night, she picks a complete stranger who she recognizes as an American tourist (again, my setting is somewhere in Central/South America... yet oddly enough, Talia is one of few character I imagine having thick accents)-- the way he looks and is dressed indicates that he isn't from around these parts.
Juan Paulo's background that I have so far is that he's visiting for the summer with an old friend of his- an ex-bandmate/classmate.

It becomes a very steamy number with some dirty dancing involved (probably a combination of moves from "Dirty Dancing" and "Step Up 2 The Streets"... the latter I should probably see just to see if my analogy is correct).
He anticipates that they're going to kiss, so he automatically closes his eyes. Instead, she whispers in his ear a "thank you" and he opens his eyes to find her gone.

Already, a lot of conflict has been going on that I'd written in early chapters. (I still have a couple of previous chapters to brainstorm about/write-- two include performance numbers, which I recently decided I'd write in italics and in present tense).

I introduced her habitual conflicting with Alejandro- who co-owns the club with her.
I hinted that Talia is going through a difficult time... I did get a little explicit in showcasing that, but for the sake of this argument, she's been unhappy for a while and her friends are getting concerned.

Talia is the kind of person who is very proud. She's a bit of a workaholic, but she throws herself into her work (on dance and in the bedroom) to take her focus away from the hurt she'd experienced in her life. She channels her ghosts into her routines, but more often than not, her dances are about letting go and expressing a more powerful version of herself.
Where I'm ultimately going with this is that she works hard to not let the cracks show in her armor- even to the people she's closest with. Vanessa, her best friend, doesn't even know all of her dark secrets, and she usually is the guardian to most of the trials and tribulations she doesn't feel comfortable about repeating.

She also has a method to her madness, but doesn't often explain what that is. And that's what happens in this chapter, that I'd been trying to figure out how to express.

I have the basic outline of this story done, but I've also brainstormed some areas more than others. I wanted to be sure I knew my characters backwards and forwards before the actual writing began... that's still not true :P some things just begged to be written down and I'd done that.

All of the characters have their unique reaction to the scene after it happens.
Scarlet's a tad distracted by the beginnings of her own relationship-- which I just figured out she should have because I didn't have much for her character beyond the backstory.
Emilia is astonished, as she often is, by Talia's dancing. This was the first time she'd seen her at karaoke since she joined the club. She's very optimistic and believes that since the two girls met guys that they'd wind up double-dating.

Earlier in the evening, Talia and Vanessa had butted heads. Talia's been having a difficult time on the off-stage side of the business and needs to take a break from it. Vanessa says she could fix her up with some of her amiable exes, something that Talia refuses to play into.
Her few experiences with love have ended badly and she's skittish about the idea of relationships. Not to mention she has a seething hatred for the opposite sex since the men in her life (except for maybe 2, who happen to be her bosses) have proven to be untrustworthy.

After things cool off and everyone's winding down for the night, Vanessa tries to lean back into things. She understands how Talia is known to put on an act, but she always knows when she feels strongly about something.
So in a sneaky sort of way, she's trying to get Talia to admit that she enjoyed herself with the guy she did the duet with. Because Scarlet meets someone, she draws reference from that and uses the conversation about that to figure out where Talia's head is at.

That wasn't my original plan for the post-karaoke scene. I planned for Vanessa to push Talia for answers, trying to get her to admit that she liked him, but Talia resists.
It was sort of along the lines of "Oops... I did it again"... which I could possibly use for the next time that Talia and Juan Paulo meet...

But originally, I did have Talia laughing it off, saying that she got lost in her own game, and she didn't mean anything by it.
This came off to me as abrasive and almost mean-spirited, so I changed my mind.

The other tricky part is the fact that she acts differently around Emilia. She puts on a brave front for her, but she also keeps her in the dark about a lot of things.
Vanessa's known her the longest and knows better... so they can only get serious about things when it's just two of them.
Things get a little rocky between the two best friends later in the story, which I'd already written about, so I don't want to put their friendship through too much too fast.

I think I read somewhere that protagonists don't necessarily need to be likeable so much as they need to be believable.
With Talia, not all the ends justify the means... I may not have enough in her background to explain the way she is. But I can't explain away all of my personal quirks either.

I do know that she is a flawed protagonist...

I read somewhere else that characters in a novel all believe that they're the protagonist in their own story. And they have no idea that they're sometimes supporting characters in the grand scheme of things.
I'd like for my girls to each have something about them that justifies them being the main characters of their unique story arc. They all need to have motivation or something that pushes them forward.

And I didn't have these kinds of conversations with myself when Amber was simply the antagonist to Talia... before I came up with a backstory, got to know and put a lot of my personal quirks into her.
That's what I get for being in her mind space for so long :P Now that I have Amber 90% figured out, I should put more energy into making these kinds of scenes work.

The trick is just figuring out what I want to be explored in the given scene and how it connects to the story as a whole.

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