One of my favorite parts of writing is the communication I have with my readers while or after they’ve gone through one of my books. For the most part, when I write I try to touch on topics that are important – and sometimes uncomfortable to talk about. For the most part I don’t write likable characters, and that’s purposeful. But along with that I don’t try to write unlikable characters either. I just try to write characters that I think could really exist.
As my reader said in our conversation last night:
I will say this, you delved into a lot of big themes, religion, politics, etc, and despite the fact that your narrator is not someone is want to hang out with, you never wrote about those topics like a hack
If you read ‘The Trouble With Being God’ you probably already have an idea of what I’m talking about (although I do admit, my writing now is considerably better than it was then.) The main character in ‘A Confession’ is similar in many ways to Steven Carvelle, the protagonist of TTWBG – and the similarities between the two don’t necessarily end at the character.
One of the biggest complaints I received about TTWBG was that there wasn’t a satisfying ending – and that’s definitely a complaint I expected. Since the story was based around a serial killer and the murder spree, people expected to get the normal kind of conclusion you get in those books. Who did it? Why? etc. That wasn’t the point of that book though – the point was to show what happens to a man who gets sucked into extraordinary circumstances and how, when mixed with an unbalanced personality and no clear understanding of himself, things can spiral dangerously out of control. The point of TTWBG was the journey, not the destination … and that’s very much what ‘A Confession’ is as well, albeit in a pretty different story.
The other day, talking with this reader, we were discussing the underlying motivations, story and genre of where ‘A Confession’ lies. It’s not quite a psychological thriller, and it’s not really literary fiction. There’s no real underlying plot to the story, so much as the drawing of a character through anecdotes of his life’s history. It’s the story of a man who’s having an existential mid-life crisis, as he comes to realization of who he is.
As we continued our chat, we came to a mutual conclusion. ‘A Confession’ is gritty existentialist fiction, and with its style and lack of a simple overall story, “kind of like Catcher in the Rye for middle-aged men.” I think I’ll take that description. Much like Holden Caulfield, the narrator is just living his life, and being who he is – and some people can relate and some people can’t. For those who can relate, I hope it’s a meaningful story. For those who can’t … well, you can probably just consider yourself lucky.
Now if I can write as well as J.D. Salinger? My ego won’t let me go there. But still … sounds like a pretty good goal to me.