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BLOG: Writers of the Lost Arc

My Main Character Was Too Gorgeous

My agent strongly suggested I scrap one of the main three characters in the novel I'd been working one for years, "In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist." She just didn't feel connected to her story, her plight.

I resisted her. Who wouldn't? I'd invested years in this Jewish female character, a transplant to Israel. How could I let her go just like that?

Then one day I thought: Anna’s right. I hadn't captured Tamar with the same urgency and intimacy as I had captured my other characters -- Mustafa, a misshapen and gaunt janitor on the Temple Mount, and Isaac, an uptight assistant to a kabbalist. Somehow, I had failed her as a writer. She hadn't come to 3 D life, and probably never would. Why? It struck me then. Tamar was too beautiful. Pity has always been the portal through which I enter my characters. In the back of my prejudiced mind, I couldn't take her pain too seriously, because gorgeous women didn't suffer, not really.

Of course beautiful woman do suffer. I just have my own issues with empathizing.
Well, I'd built my novel around a gorgeous woman and now I'd have to throw a good chunk of it out. But from the moment I accepted my personal limitations, my novel took off. I let go of nearly a hundred and fifty crafted and revised pages. Years of work. I didn't feel bad. To me the process felt like pruning a tree, doing what it took to make the tree thrive. Thank you, brilliant Anna! Tamar did remain, as a minor character, seen from the viewpoint of Mustafa and Isaac. In that format, I felt I could do her justice.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to her, though, all the discarded parts. What happens to that cut off branch? What happens to all that material that doesn't make it into the novel?

I believe in the Law of Creative Conservation. The material will get recycled in some form or another. Those discarded characters and paragraphs never die. Either they crop up in other stories, or they enter you in some way, even if only to teach you how not to write. Tamar, for instance, the original version, still keeps me company in my thoughts, makes me realize my limitations.
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