The Silver Lining | How to turn an unlikable character into a sympathetic character part 2

Okay, first, I know I live 10 minutes from NYC and work there, but I can never think of things to do in the city besides food-related stuff. Monday is my birthday and my mom is going to take me out for a day of fun. Any suggestions of what we can do that doesn’t involve food? I have an extra special birthday dinner already planned for the evening with my bf, and I don’t want to fill up too much before it. But I probably have some room for a Magnolia cupcake. Museums are the only thing I can think of. Something birthday-related. Any suggestions appreciated! Thanks in advance.

Last week I discussed how to turn an unlikable character into a sympathetic one based on my revisions for THE ART OF SELLING MY SISTER. I promised to post BEFORE and AFTER examples. The character in question is Lara, who started out as snarky and angry, but I toned her down, made her a little more depressed, but hopefully still kept some of her flavor.


A little set up: on a cruise vacation revealed in flashback chapters, Kasey somehow causes a hip injury that robs Lara of her ability to dance. The girls have mutually decided to keep Kasey’s involvement in the injury a secret, but she’s been feeling guilty. In chapter 1, she signed up for the newspaper staff to basically reveal the cruise story and admit her roll, but there’s a master plan that will benefit Lara as well. Chapter 1 is available on my website and it explains it better than that previous sentence. In the old version, Kasey had a fear of fish that Lara used against her in this conversation. That fear of fish has since been cut from the novel.

These are from chapter 3. I apologize that I had to do some minor editing to cut out some spoiler-y stuff and also condense it to just the changed part of the conversation for purposes of this demonstration.

BEFORE.
In this scene the girls are at a fishing pier

“Lara, that newspaper I gave you… I think it can help.”

“Thanks, but I’m good.” Her fingers slipped off the gear. “The only way to help me is to keep your mouth shut. Though it might be nice if you screwed up a few things to shift the focus off me.”

Good thing for her, I was already in the process of doing that.

“Lara, I get that you’re depressed and you need some kind of confidence boost. But if it’s out in the open, then what you want will happen. Mom and Dad will be disappointed in me, not you.”

The sun caught a sparkle in her eye, and she paused. Her voice softened to what I thought was a sigh, until she came back strong and determined. “It’s not just your secret to keep.”

“Do you want me to stop running the newspaper story? Because I will. I’ll do anything. I don’t care if I fail my marketing assignment.”

She scoffed. “You’re not giving me a choice. Even if I wanted you to stop, I can’t, can I? I don’t want to be responsible for you losing your chance at college too.”

That one hurt.

“You can still go to college. Apply someplace besides Tysh."

After a few minutes of silence, boats sailing past our view, she sighed. “If I wait around long enough, my hip will heal and they’ll just give me back my scholarship. Done and done. No one ever has to know I lost it to begin with. Tysh would laugh at my grades if I reapplied as a regular submission.” She pulled the tackle box toward her, scraping it across the ground. “I’ve been embarrassed enough already.”

"But you’re just wasting time here."

“No, this conversation is a waste of time." She stood up. "God, I’m not ready yet. Can’t you understand that?” She eased herself off the ground, picked up her book bag, and slung it over her shoulder. “This is why I don’t want you to tell Mom and Dad. I don’t need the lectures or the nagging. So thank you very much for ruining the one and only place I didn’t feel ashamed of myself.” She turned and limped down the pier.

I let her have a head start before I ran after her. “I won’t follow you again. I promise. I only want to make things right between us.”

She stopped and turned to me, her freckles peeking out beneath her tears. “Seems like you just made them worse.”

AFTER.
In this scene, Kasey joins Lara in a dance class where Lara has just injured herself by pushing too hard. They are now leaving.

“So why did you follow me?” She rubbed her hip.

“I just…” I pulled out a bottle of water from my backpack. It wasn’t anywhere near as cold as ice, but I hoped it would do something. “Want things between us to go back the way they were.”

She stayed quiet, so I added, “Look. You know I’m sorry. All I’m saying is I want to fix things. And I think lying will only make everything worse.”

She rolled the water bottle along her leg, avoiding my gaze.

“Lara, that newspaper I gave you… I think it can help. I get that you’re depressed and you need some kind of confidence boost. But if it’s out in the open, then what you want will happen. Mom and Dad will be disappointed in me, not you.”

The sun filtering in through the window caught the wetness around her eyes, and she paused. Her voice softened to what I thought was a sigh. “It’s not just your secret to keep.”

“Do you want me to stop running the newspaper story? Because I will. I’ll do anything. I don’t care if I fail my marketing assignment.”

She sucked in a large breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t want to be responsible for you losing your chance at college too.”

That made me feel more awful than I already did. “You can still go to college. Apply someplace besides Tysh.”

The cab pulled up in front of our house, and I paid the driver.

“Kasey, I’m not ready yet. This is my dream. The thing I worked my whole life for. I can’t just give it up.” She eased herself out of the car. I slung both our backpacks over my shoulder. “And it doesn’t just affect me. Think about Mom. She’s so much happier right now, thinking I’m on my way to some academic stardom just like I was in dance. I don’t want to break her heart. Not unless I have some good news to soften the blow with.”

“Mom and Dad love you. They just want you to be happy.”

“Dance makes me happy.” She leaned her weight against me as I led her toward our brownstone. “And coming to that class, watching those girls, it makes me think about what I lost. And what I might get back again. It gives me hope.”

She let go of me, and clutched the railing. Though she didn’t look at me, her sniffles were so loud they drowned out the engines of the passing cars. I watched her for a moment, so determined to keep this secret from the family, going to such extremes, giving up everything she loved in exchange for something she would never normally want. I understood what she meant about not being ready. It took me three months to work up the nerve to out my own portion of everything.

So as you see, it’s essentially the same conversation–the same outcome, but one uses a very bitchy tone and harsh actions and the other softens the words and actions, makes Lara more depressed. There are probably better examples of this in the novel, but this one was the easiest to post without too much explanation.

Hope that helps!

Post to Twitter

3 Responses

  1. Museums are good. So is the Central Park Zoo. So is shopping along Canal Street or browsing in SoHo or the Village. So is taking the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, or going up one of the tall buildings (Empire State or Rockefeller Center).

Leave a comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Powered by Netfirms