Friday, June 17, 2016

YOU'RE FIRED! by Betsy Ashton

This is not a political statement, even though it sounds like one. For those of us who spent many, many years in corporate America working for great bosses and less than great bosses, having sometimes weird people working for us, we harbored dreams of walking into an employee’s office, pointing a finger at him and exclaiming, “You’re fired.” Alas, laws prevented us from indulging these fantasies. What we had to do was go “through the process” to get rid of a non-performer or a true problem child who would not the job.

Now, as a writer, I wield much more power. I can hire and fire characters at my whim. I can mess with their heads, turn them into pretzels and do with them what I want. Or that’s what I thought when I began writing. It didn’t take long for me to knuckle down and realize my characters control me, not the other way around. So when I found I’ve written myself into a corner on a novella I’ve been playing with, I couldn’t decide what to do. Here’s the problem.

My main character fell in love with an inappropriate but very sexy man. I liked him, because he was multi-dimensional. He could be kind or mean, sweet or nasty, smart or incredibly stupid. I was having fun playing with the disparate facets of his personality. Not being able to put him in a box or make him color between the lines was what drew my female protagonist to him. She liked his bad boy persona. So did I.

When the relationship progressed beyond employer/employee (he worked for her) and closed in on a romantic moment, the story went into the dumpster big time. He wanted to go for the deep, wet kiss. She wanted the first kiss to be sweet and gentle, promising that more would be delivered later. He wanted to play tonsil-hockey. She wanted caresses. He wanted sex.

I took the boy out behind the barn and whupped the crap out of him. I read him the riot act on how he should behave with a real woman. I told him he had to romance her, not attack her. He said he understood.

I put the two back in the story. Once again he pounced, grabbed her in an almost painful embrace. She pulled back; he pulled harder. He went for the close. She went for his lips. And bit him. At that point, I didn’t see a way to pull back from the abyss without a total rewrite. What was I to do? Could I write him in such a way she’d give in to his pursuit without compromising her stature in the firm? Could he learn to treat a woman like something to cherish instead of a notch on his headboard?

I gave him one last chance before I ran out of clich├ęs. If anything, he was worse the final time. So, I booted him up this morning before I booted him off the island. I pulled his chapter up and wrote in screaming capital letters, YOU’RE FIRED! OMG, that felt good.

Have you ever fired a character? You might try it. It just felt right to me.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and NobleI'm really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.


Margo Hoornstra said...

OMG, Betsy. My enjoyable shot for the day. Thank you. I've never really fired a character per se, but then I've never had quite as unmanageable as yours. Congratulations on having the gumption to get rid of him. Too many negative vibes there. Don't do him in completely though, you know he'll fit into some future story of yours, somewhere. I did have tons and tons of fun with an anti-hero character of mine who was just about as crass and clueless. Even put him in two companion novellas instead of one when I needed a tried and true trouble-maker.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I'm glad he was your character and not mine, Betsy. I haven't had to fire anyone yet. But then back in the day, I fired a few at the day job so maybe I got it out of my system. LOL

Diane Burton said...

What a character! You did right to fire him, Betsy. I'm surprised the whipping didn't set him on the straight-and-narrow. Did your heroine fire him?

Jannine Gallant said...

I don't think I've ever had a character get that out of control before. Surprise me, yes, but always in a workable way. I like the idea of firing a character, though. Or at least threatening them to keep them in line! Great post.

Andrea Downing said...

Hmmmm. Interesting concept, Betsy. The bottom line is your character has to act, well...within character. Good thing you fired him.

Betsy Ashton said...

Alas, Diane, I didn't think about having the heroine fire him. I need to write him back in and have her kick him out. Good catch.

Thanks for the many comments.

Leah St. James said...

I love the idea of firing a character! I'll bet that did feel good. I'm going to keep it in mind.

Alicia Dean said...

LOL, love this! I've never fired a character. I like Diane's solution though. :)