Why I Rewrote My Main Character’s Father, Who Now Reminds Me of My Own

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He was a terrible father.

No, not my dad. I couldn’t have asked for a better paternal parent, which is one reason the first few drafts of my book just didn’t sit right with me.

I mean my main character’s father. The original version.

As writers we’re supposed to be able to imagine realities beyond our own experiences, while somehow still relying on our pasts to maintain just an ounce of realism. So I should be able to, in the unpredictable abyss that is my brain, sculpt and form a father figure who is nothing like the one I know.

I suppose I could have kept trying. But I couldn’t bear to keep him once I decided, for the first or fourth or ten millionth time (I’ve lost count), to start the story over again.

Ollia’s father used to be bitter and betrayed and controlling, but instead he’s now hard-working and loving. The issue is, of course, that love is trivial in this story, and to love someone means giving up your freedom and giving way to misery.

It’s complicated. But he’s still something like my dad.

The first memories I have of my dad involve books. He used to read to me all the time, and that’s how I fell in love with them and became the literary maniac I am today (I’m not ashamed). Ollia and her father also connect through reading, their main source of communication and understanding once the character named Kathyrine disappears.

Fortunately I love talking to my dad. I can’t imagine only having one virtually speechless thing in common. As I’ve grown up, and now that I’ve become more accustomed to this whole young adult thing and spend a ridiculous amount of time at home (groan), I’ve realized how much the two of us are alike. I know what kinds of things he would like as gifts. I know what will make him laugh. I know to leave the room if I’m about to cry, because it makes him sad, too.

Ollia’s father started out as an awful, mean-spirited, no-nonsense fragment of a human being who blamed everyone but himself for the absence of Kathyrine. He has become one of my favorite characters to write about. At a point when she is forced to grow up, they understand each other in a way only the love between a father and a daughter can birth.

No. I couldn’t bear to reverse that once the idea came to me. The original character, he doesn’t belong in this story. Another one, someday. Maybe.

There will be literary father figures that disappoint, that hate, that harm, that fail. But not this one.

I think first I have to pay tribute to the real-life dad who has been anything but awful toward me since day one, who taught me how to ride a bike and paint a picture and believe in myself. Who told me I could be a writer even though most writers don’t make a living and I’m not that good at it and I’m still living in his house.

I still forget to turn the lights off when I leave a room, and I hog the coffee and I know we don’t spend enough time together and it’s my fault. But he still loves me.

How do I know?

Because there are memories I’m holding onto now, memories that inspire me to write posts like this even when I’d rather be writing a book.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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