Number Two's

Everybody needs somebody 

I've noticed that my writing seems to blossom when I introduce the ‘other half’ to the story. The Buddy. Best Friend. Foil. Muse. Whatever. The Wise to my MC Morecame, the Dec to my Ant, the Jerry to my Tom. The Pauper to my Prince and soforth.
In a bid to try and be semi-professional about this post, I tried Googling “Great Literary Foils” and it started to confuse me, so the above ‘double acts’ will have to suffice I’m afraid. I will think of more as this blethers on, I’m sure. Oh, here we go…
Elizabeth Bennett had Charlotte (apparently, that’s what Google said. I don’t really remember much about her, but if you showed me a clip of the recent TV dramatisation I’d probably point and nod a lot) and Pip had his Mr Drummble (I think).
*Google has now left the building*

More contemporarily, Rachel had Darcy in “Something Borrowed” by Emily Giffin and then, rather brilliantly, Rachel became Darcy’s foil in the sequel ‘Something Blue’ – I say “brilliantly” because Darcy was such a prize bitch of a character, it was impossible to see how anyone would be able to ‘warm’ to her as an MC. But it worked. And there’s a film being made as we speak.

Anyway… (I’m not Ms Giffin’s publicity agent, honest).

In my first book, “Labrats” (NOT coming to any bookstore than I’m aware of) my MC’s ‘other half’ was her four year old daughter, who got her through the monumental break up with the husband/father quite unintentionally. And it’s only now, looking back on it, that I can see this is what happened. The little girl’s presence perfectly balances the hideousness of the broken marriage and her innocence only serves to highlight the betrayal of her father with his mistress.

In the second, “Life, Lopsided”, the slightly manic, slightly OCD main character’s personality traits are mellowed by her best friend/colleague’s level-headedness and normality. And it’s this relationship that ultimately ‘saves’ the MC and her desperation to find balance in her otherwise…well, lopsided world.

“Double History” is my favourite by far – my first foray into teenage fiction – and the one that is still Out There (with agents, yes, even as we speak!). Main character, Maddie is an angry, bolshie, Gordon Brown-hating teenager who’s been reduced to living in an ex council house after her dad’s been made redundant and she is thoroughly peed off with everything. Enter Amber, the refreshingly funny *almost* airhead who fancies anything with a pulse and believes she can contact the dead – in particular the ghost who’s living in Maddie’s new (old) house. I do *heart* Amber!

In my current teenage WIP, “Grounded”, the misunderstood, chocolate-munching, bullied MC, Becca is at odds with the rest of the world (including her mother and step-father) and it is her best friend, Liberty who is the guiding light and calming influence in what is currently a very miserable situation for Becca (she’s been ‘grounded’ electronically and has to cope with no mobile, internet, iPod, etc). So, Liberty becomes her balance.

And how else to perfectly even out a story but with characters that strike harmonious chords in what would otherwise be such a distorted situation? It’s only by reflecting on how I’ve been inadvertently making this ‘happen’ that I realise I’m still learning the whole craft of how writing really works, and how well it can work when it’s properly produced.
It’s the Yin-Yang principle, isn’t it? Top-heavy cakes and arguments rarely go down well, do they? And I’m beginning to see that it’s the overall equilibrium of things that really makes a reader go ‘aahhhhhh…’ (not in a Long John Silver way, I mean, more like the Bisto kids).

Oh...and where would “Romeo and Juliet” have been (really) without the Maid. I forget her name (did she have one?) but she was Juliet’s real BF, wasn’t she? She kept the sense of what was ‘Right and Proper’ amongst the tumultuousness of the lover’s hot-headed romance. See – I knew I’d come up with another one!


Caroline Green said...

Great post, Debs. I've never really thought about this before so this has really made me look at my current WIP and ask some questions about this balance malarkey..

I think your characters all sound really brill too...

Scars Beneath The Skin said...

Very enjoyable post, agree with you completely.

My novel is entirely based on the collision between characters who are opposites - one withdrawn and traumatised, the other outgoing and life-affirming.

Gillian McDade said...

Thought-provoking post, Debs. It's all about balance.

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Anonymous said...

Very good post..