In my seemingly never-ending quest to settle on a proper plot I have today have a measure of success. I have figured out how the book opens. It starts with Robin buying a new suit – one he can ill-afford even though it’s relatively cheap – because he believes he’s going to accompany Heather to the launch of her TV show. As her husband, he wants to be there for her when it’s her time to shine, however Heather believes this will take away from her stardom.
I was thinking I’d start it off with Heather, as she’s the number one protagonist in my mind, but she’s also not very nice. I’m not at all against having horrible and unlikeable characters in my novels, though horrible sometimes winds up being eccentric or weird in the end but I digress… horrible people should be in novels, it’s the best place for them really. But I don’t think the reader will want to continue reading a novel that starts off with a horrible woman being horrible to nice people. It sets the wrong tone.
The book isn’t going to be an angry rant – I don’t think – but more of a disheartened comment. More pfft than argh, if you follow.
The common received thinking about horrible vs not quite so horrible characters in novels generally follows the line that your reader won’t want to read about a protagonist they don’t like. And so we often think that a likeable character is the same as a likeable person. They’re not, I don’t think.
Characters are able to be supremely horrible, thank you Bret Easton Ellis, and we still find them interesting. I think it’s more about that – interesting vs dull. Nobody wants to read a book about dull people doing nice things, it’s not dramatic, it’s not exciting, but I do believe people are quite happy to read books where awful people do really nasty things. Fight Club and many of Palahniuk’s books have people who are nasty, and they’re quite popular. Dickens also had a bunch of really nasty people and they made his books all the better.
But I’m starting this novel with Robin who is lovely if slightly pathetic because I want Heather’s narcissism and terribleness to stand out more in contrast. We shall see if it works!