I've been experiencing a strange thing with my latest revision of Rooster. But, to really explain it, I need to step back a bit.
I started this novel because I wanted to understand a man that was very important in my life. This man had always confused me as I was growing up. I didn't understand why he was so angry and reclusive. I didn't get why he had such a tough shell. So, I wrote about him, starting with the facts, and generously filling in the cracks with details that I made up. I liked the story because it allowed me to explain this man whom I had never been able to explain before.
But, while the protagonist of my book, Bao Phamduong, was sympathetic, he was far from being likable. Just because people understood WHY he was the way he was didn't make readers want to invite him over for brunch. I heard many readers tell me this, but I didn't change Bao. I figured he was who he was, and I was content with the idea that he at least evoked sympathy. And, readers seemed to be impressed by the book, even if they weren't necessarily excited about it.
Then, a couple weeks ago, I decided to make Bao less of a grump. It was an experiment to see what would happen to my book. I started revising, taking away many of the places where Bao was being a jerk. That was when the strange thing happened. In the process of making Bao nicer, I noticed that I was physically feeling much less tense. Particular in my shoulders, I was noticing myself relaxing. I felt like I was in my yoga class even though I was actually in front of my computer.
Was this what my readers were experiencing? Is this why they could say that the book was well-written even if they didn't enjoy reading it? I really don't know. I'm letting this play out. I'm going through the entire book, making Bao more likable. I'm not sure if the book will still work for me when all is said and done. After all, my original source of inspiration, the man I set out to explain will be mostly gone from this latest draft. But, I feel like it's important for me to try and understand this new connection I have with my story.
What do you all think? Should one trust these physical reactions as much as anything emotional or intellectual? Have you had this sort of experience yourself? And...is it worth going through the revision if I lose the character I had originally wanted to write about?