The Generic Heroine

Posted on | September 6, 2007

I’m trying to do a Seinfeld Chain around writing the Caprice Starr first draft, and I’m finding that it’s working, for the most part. The rule is simple: I get to maintain my chain if I give Caprice 1000 words. I have a simple script for word count that tells me where I am in the word count process, and I’m not allowed to cheat. If I do 2,000 words one day, that doesn’t mean I get to take the next day off. I still have to write 1,000 words the next day. I’ve blocked out a three-month calendar for September through November in my work journal and I’m X’ing out each day as it goes along to keep track of my progress. My hope is to not break the Sienfeld Chain for at least 91 days. If I do that, I’ll have a rough draft.

I’m still using the reward mechanism: if I finish the 1,000 words of Caprice Starr, I’m allowed to write something else. Yesterday I went on a tear and did 2,000 words in less than 20 minutes while Caprice watched her contact in the warrens, Dr. Ted Amaljsingh, rescue yet another suicide attempt and then go on a rant (probably due to be cut) about why attempted suicide is so common, but actual suicide is so rare. The poison the victim attempted to commit suicide with will eventually become an early plot element. Unfortunately, the tear took all the brain juice out of me and I didn’t have anything left with which to write something else.

My concern, though, is that Caprice is boring. I’m reading in parallel to this both Basilisk Station and The Vor Game, to get a feel for the two bestsellers out there and the approaches Bujold and Weber use to establish their characters.

Caprice has so much go for her: her undying loyalty to Humanity– a nebulous term that will get her into trouble again and again throughout the series– her tragic past, her secret (even from her) origins, her current troubling assignment. And yet so far she’s not very deep. I need to get deeper into her head. And it’s funny; I have no trouble synching up with competent characters, but I don’t have enough of Caprice yet.

I could joke and say that she’s an Asimov character tried and true– all surface, no depth, a puzzlebox mechanism playing out her role. But that wouldn’t be fair. I want the reader to empathize with her even as we disagree with her initial motives and attitudes. I just don’t want her to be generic, y’know?

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