Character re-imaginings are a funny thing. You’d think I’d have gotten used to the concept by now, as I’ve done so many of them. Hell, Room 3 turned out to be a never-ending exercise in re-inventing those characters and while it turned out great, the characters had become radically different people by the end of the writing process, often of “their own” volition.
That’s the thing about character re-inventions: nine times out of ten, they seem to happen on their own. Take my most recent one, for example. In the original draft, I had crafted Stephen as a stick-in-the-mud sexual addiction sponsor, a bit of a narcissist with a difficulty in relating. He happened to be gay, but it wasn’t a main function of his character outside of a few lines with Dean. His sexual addiction centered around writing erotic stories and sleeping with his groupies, but that didn’t come up in anything other than a passing fashion.
In creating the new version of the novel, I decided that Stephen would need to be the one who got Dean into treatment in the first place. Biggest problem? The original Stephen would never have associated with Dean were it not for the group. It required a rethink on the character. I decided he would be arrested at the same time as Dean on an unrelated charge, leading them to meet in jail (which later became a bench waiting to see the court clerk). The original Stephen would not have ended up in jail, so…time to re-mold the character.
I had envisioned this new version as a redneck in the closet who got picked up on soliciting a male prostitute and had figured out a dodge to get out of jail time – he would propose counseling for sex addiction, a strategy that he would share with Dean.
At some point in writing this, however, the character took a left turn. By the time I finished, he remained an in-the-closet redneck, but one who would moonlight as a gay prostitute. But that’s not all. I needed him to be the kind of guy who talked to strangers as a matter of course, who would always be looking for some advantage in a situation.
Thus Stephen became the guy who wears the “witty” T-shirts, can’t sit still, and sees life as a continuing long con. When we first meet him, he is the kind of guy who wears this shirt:
I loved the visual and I loved this quirk, so I put together a collection of shirts that he wears throughout the course of the novel. Now, his character changes during the course of the story and he is born again, becoming a more fitting choice as a sponsor, but some of those parts of his personality don’t change, they just get directed toward “good”. He will continue to wear this style of shirt, just the Christian versions of them. Something like this:
Annnnyway, he’s a fun character who I look forward to writing. If only all re-imaginings could be such fun. I’ll keep you posted on the character as he progresses.