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 clichés. 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 Noble. I'm really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.