If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I’m neck-deep in the final draft of my debut novel. This is my third rewrite (fourth draft) and I’ve learned a lot during the whole process. Perhaps paradoxically, my key takeaway from the three-year journey is this: being a good writer is more about knowing what to take out rather than what to put in. First drafts, for me, are like painting a wall by throwing bucket after bucket of paint on it. The wall gets covered. Great. Rewriting, in this flimsy metaphor, is scraping off the excess paint, edging, and making the wall beautiful. Making it sing. Crafting the wall so it can tell a reader a compelling story. You know. Painter stuff.
All of this is really just a labored way to introduce a new series on the blog: Faux Memoriam. Over the course of editing this manuscript from 117,000 words to a tight 85,000, I’ve cut a whole bunch of characters. Nobody was safe. In fact, cutting one of my four leads was the first change I made to my second draft. She's in a better place now. Meaning, I stole her best traits and beats and gave them to the character who would eventually become my female lead.
She, however, is not the subject of Faux Memoriam's inaugural post. That honor belongs to perhaps my favorite character who ended up in the trash: Benjamin Rossedale.
Benjamin was a fighter. He survived three drafts as my novel’s comic relief and as my own subtle dig at snooty artists. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1986, he was internationally renowned for pointing cameras at people and things and pressing a button. He did this in Bangkok. He did this in Kosovo. He did this in Big Sur. Benjamin was the first person to tell you about it and the last person to let you forget.
When Benjamin wasn’t snapping award-winning pictures, he could be found playing ukulele, wearing cat ears, and watching French New Wave cinema. Usually, these didn’t happen at the same time. Usually. Benjamin will be missed. I enjoyed writing his hilarious and sometimes comically violent interactions with my protagonist. Let’s just say one of them didn’t like getting his picture taken. Or art in general.
Cutting Benjamin was one of the hardest changes I had to make for the final draft, mostly because I thought there would always be room for him. I was wrong. Photography and pictures became significant plot points as I edited my manuscript. Without spoiling anything, one character takes another character’s picture and that kicks off the frenzied finale. The character taking the picture is NOT Benjamin. Yeah. Confusing, right? If a specific photograph serves as the lynch pin of your plot, your photographer character CAN'T NOT be the one who snaps it. Sorry, dude. You had to go. Parting is such sweet sorrow, you pretentious asshole.
Last time I heard from Benjamin Rossedale, he was holed up in the Chateau Marmont. He told me how he ruined a perfectly good hotel room by converting it into a studio. If I know one anything about Benjamin (and I do, I literally created him), it’s that his lust for life, z-axis composition, and soft focus will never expire.
And now it's time for the dearly departed LIGHTNING ROUND!
Favorite food: raw tofu
Favorite clothing accessory: a scarf when it's not even cold out
Favorite movie: The 400 Blows
Favorite photographer: Benjamin Rossedale
City of birth: Flasher, North Dakota
Alma mater: New York University
Actor who would've played him in the film adaptation of my book: Bradley Whitford
Actor he would've wanted to play him in the film adaptation of my book: Ryan Gosling post-The Notebook, pre-La La Land
Deepest fear: walking on sewer grates in the street and falling into the all-consuming, inexorable darkness that's coming for us all
Favorite animal: turtles