Except instead of hairy, slope-browed knuckle-draggers transforming image-by-image into a Hip, Modern Nudist...
Now it's more like a two-dimensional archetype with poorly-executed slapstick sensibilities changing slowly into a competent lead character who surprises me occasionally and annoys me little.
As far as writing goes, I'd call it a minor success.
What I'm talking about is the evolution of the lead character in the novel I've been working on. I've almost completely drafted this thing three times since college. And as I slide into the home stretch of Draft Three, I have to wonder:
What will become of all the characters I changed, zapped from the plotline, and offed with, y'know killing and future non-life?
I can just see bringing my lead character, in his many iterations, into my office and sitting them down.
"Look, guys, I've called you all here because we need to talk.
"We've shared a lot over the years. Spent long hours working things out. We had our rough patches. But we've had some good times, too.
"As time has gone on, however, the plot has changed, and we have had to change with it.
"As you probably know, the book is almost finished. And I think this draft, with some minor tweaking is, well, this is 'It.' The Keeper. And our friend Lead Character Three, here, he's really getting the job done. He's got layers. He's put up with all the crap I've thrown at him. And he's holding his own. I'm proud of him.
"So, Two... One... I do appreciate all the time and effort you've put into this project. I couldn't have done it without you. We never would have gotten where we are today...
"...But I'm afraid I no longer have need for your services. I might eventually re-purpose parts of you for other, more minor characters in future works. But for now, it really looks like Three and I will be moving forward into any sequels."
Here One probably shrieks in melodramatic grief, while Two has a panic attack, gets on his knees, seizes my hand and begs me to reconsider. "But-- but-- Where do we go now? We have nothing! This storyline was our lives!"
"Er, Two, it's this sort of one-note, high-strung behavior that encouraged me to take another direction in the first place," I tell him.
"It's all so futile! So disappointing! So--"
Eventually, I'd have to write them into a nice spa in the country. One of those Victorian-style high-end hospitals, where the nervous and afflicted can go to recuperate. Given the way I rewrite, I imagine the place would soon be packed.
"Hi, remember me? I was the female lead from Draft One," a woman with over-sized spectacles and a fluffy white bathrobe would say, extending her hand in greeting. "The author decided I was too circa late 80s early 90s, and my analytical personality lacked potential reader connection. While at times my stoicism was whimsical, overall it left very little opportunity for growth."
"Sure, I remember you!" Lead Character One tells her, his face breaking into a smile. "I never could understand why she didn't include you in Draft Two."
"Oh, she drafted some fiesty, more down-to-earth female she felt she and today's readers could better identify with."
"How horrible!" One gasps.
"Could be worse," she tells him, waving it away. "I could have been Minor Support Characters One to 22. They're here, too."
"I haven't noticed them," says One, looking around dramatically, as if they might show up at any moment.
"And you won't. They fade into the background unless they're needed. We'll only see them if anyone needs integral comments that further the daily plot. Otherwise, they're completely invisible."
"Oh my gosh, no! Really?" asks One, eyes wide with shock.
Draft One Female Lead shrugs. "If one of them does a good enough, stand-out job, they might get a cameo later on. You never know."
One still looks horrified. He'd spent most of the first draft in the same way. It had to have been exhausting.
"Well, off for my mud mask. No reason not to keep trying to look my best. You never know when you might be needed again." The former Female Lead turns on a heel. "Oh, but One?... I don't know if you've taken a walk around the whole grounds yet, but... I don't advise it."
"Well, there's just the graveyard... the character reshaping wing... The plot chopper... Trust me. You're not up for it."
"NOOOOOOOOO!" shrieks One, extending his gaze to the heavens.
Unfortunately, not all characters can be rehabilitated.
Have you ever written something, thought it was okay, and then later wondered-- what the heck were you thinking?