One of the fun parts of creating a fictional character is considering what he’ll look like and who could play them in the movie version.
I have always thought that John Cusack looks like Simon, the protagonist of Weather Vane. He’s handsome, but not perfect, and is wonderful both as a victim, a romantic lead and in humorous roles.
At the Algonkian pitch conference, Michael Neff suggested Philip Seymour Hoffman as Simon. I thought he was a bit old and heavy, but Michael assured me we could get him to lose some weight. Michael felt that Philip could portray the victim aspect particularly well.
As I consider various actors I’m considering the depths of the character I’ve created, and it suddenly occurred to me that the actor, Stuart Hughes, not widely known in film circles, but a very gifted theatrical artist, would make an ideal Simon. Stuart has the capacity to portray dark brooding characters with such tenderness, and that’s an aspect of Simon I’d love to see fleshed out by Stuart.
Even though it may seem a bit of frivolous fantasizing to cast my characters, it has helped shape my protagonist with much more definition. (Take note, Hollywood – I want Stuart Hughes!)
In the process of developing this character in the current rewrite, I had to chop off his finger. Sorry, it had to be done. Well, not all of it, just the tip. I think you’ll like Simon much better now. The story begins about three weeks later than it originally did, and I’ve suggested many of the events and developments that occurred before the opening, and cut many of those scenes altogether. But, as I told one friend, I’m not cutting the hurricane sex scene. It’s one of my favorites, and… I think it is the only scene that remains from the original manuscript. Talk about slaying your darlings. It’s been a massacre, with barely a phrase left intact. Not even Simon’s digits were spared.
I understand now many of the reasons it takes so long to complete a novel. First, it just takes a long time to get all the words down, then it takes a long time to put them in an order that makes sense, then you have to take away all the unnecessary words and add a whole bunch more. Then take away several thousand more words and add better ones. Now you’ve begun to have lunch with your characters, lie down beside them when they’re staring at the ceiling, open your mouth when they pick up their fork… Then it’s time to get out of the story and go stand on a hill somewhere and look down at the whole thing, come back down from the hill, pick up a pair of scissors and go to work. After that, you have to take a few weeks vacation from the whole package, have lots of naps and look at it again.
That’s the point where I’m starting again. But the story is now known, these people are in my blood; what they’ve done, where they’ve been, what they know… it’s part of me now. Like slipping on a pair of old soft leather gloves, I re-enter the story. There are likely thousands of writers whose process is nothing like that. And maybe the next novels won’t be like that either. Already Roadkill is far more fleshed out than Weather Vane was, even in its second or third incarnation.
I’ve heard it said that there are no great writers, only great re-writers… I hope that’s true.