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Journal of a novel: Aug. 29, 2016. Villains

August 29, 2016

In a series of posts, I’ll share both Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel and what I learn from it, and I’ll show you what the writing life is like for me.

In my last post, I blogged about John Steinbeck’s page-count discipline, how he wrote at least every weekday and sometimes on the weekend. Except on March 28. According to his Journal of a Novel entry, he planned to take the day off. No reason, just because. Actually, he planned to go really wild and get a haircut, a “real genuine” haircut.

I get it. Going to get my haircut is a big deal for me too. For some reason it seems like a major undertaking and I tend to put it off. Then when I finally go and the stylist whacks off inches, I’m astounded at how long it got since the last salon visit.

 

Just because he didn’t write doesn’t mean Steinbeck wasn’t thinking about his book. In his journal, he muses about the character of Cathy Ames whom he described as “a monster.”

 … don’t think they do not exist. If one can be born with a twisted and deformed face or body, one can surely also come into the world with a malformed soul.

Thanks, Mr. Steinbeck. That solves what’s been a problem for me, i.e. crafting villains. It seemed to me somewhat one dimensional to have a purely-evil character, with no redeeming virtues or even the hint of an explanation for the turpitude. Steinbeck’s reasoning makes sense, though. So the next time I find myself writing about a villain, I’ll leave off the psychoanalysis, pull out all the stops, and create a character that is unquestionably evil. Like, you know, a troll who leaves a one-star review on an author’s amazon page with no further explanation.

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