Complex and contradictory, human beings are a messy mixture of good and bad, generosity and envy, beauty and ugliness, courage and cowardice. When an author tries to create a protagonist, the author wants him or her to be likable, endearing, worthy of empathy. He wants the reader to care. Some literary genres are populated by heroes and villains, but if an author wants to be realistic, then a difficult balance between positive and negative traits has to be struck. As I wrote and rewrote my novel, No Portrait in the Gilded Frame, I strived to achieve this delicate balance in my central character, Miriam Sommer and her never ending search for meaning and fulfillment.
My earlier drafts depicted a selfish and self-absorbed woman, aware of her beauty and power of seduction. She was demanding and conceited. The world revolved around her, without a challenge to her convictions. The feedback I received at that time was that my character was despicable. Who would want to read about her? Gradually, I understood that even though real life inspired my portrait, the core value of fiction is the arc of internal evolution of people and ideas. I looked for ways to get to know and see my character in a more nuanced light and uncover her positive traits. In my later versions Miriam became mellower and more vulnerable, layered, complicated and therefore more human. Like most artists she was troubled by self-doubt, and, in her gilded world, something remained missing. Courtney Wallace, a blogger (https://incessantbookworm.wordpress.com), reviewed the book and said: “I appreciated the transformation she (Miriam) endured, both in positive and challenging ways — it made her stronger and more realistic. One could argue that the referenced gilded frame is the confinement Miriam finds herself in…”
What does an empty gilded frame evoke in your mind? I’d be interested to hear your answers to this question. Please like and follow my blog — see you next Monday!