Sunday, May 02, 2010

Exposing Yourself (on the Page)

When I first sat down to write One Man’s Paradise, it was for an audience of one. Of course, I had dreams of publication, but I’ve never been one to look very far down the road. Even knowing my goals - and believing I could accomplish them - I never once considered censoring myself. Never once did I hesitate at the keyboard, thinking Are you sure you want others reading this? And so the character of hotshot criminal defense lawyer Kevin Corvelli was born.

A few years later, friends and family members are meeting Kevin Corvelli for the first time. And they all seem to recognize him. It does no good to remind them that Kevin is a fictional character, a mere figment of my imagination - they want to believe Kevin is me. I didn’t help my cause any by writing One Man’s Paradise in first person, present tense. The text has an air of immediacy that conveys to readers: this is how the author thinks; there is no question as to who Kevin Corvelli really is.

And to some extent the readers are right. Kevin Corvelli is an exaggerated version of me, with all my flaws and shortcomings, blown out of proportion so that the character is larger than life. Kevin drinks and curses and lusts after every attractive woman he meets. He’s willing to cross ethical boundaries both in and out of the courtroom. At one time, he admits, he was even driven professionally by fame and greed. But Kevin is evolving, maturing, adapting to an idyllic lifestyle, and trying to put his past to sleep. To some extent, don’t we all share similar goals?

So why do I cringe whenever someone inadvertently calls me Kevin to my face? Well, I suppose it’s because Kevin Corvelli is unapologetic about who he is. He’s much more comfortable exposing himself on the page. And the funny thing is, readers (even some tough critics) seem to love him for it. For all his flaws, Kevin is brutally honest - he hides nothing from the reader. To use a fitting analogy, Kevin leaves the door open when he pees. And, perhaps ironically, that’s why readers are rooting for him.

Honest fiction may sound like an oxymoron, but personally, I’d love to read more of it. And I certainly intend to write more of it. It was writers like Charles Bukowski who exposed their tired, indecent souls on the page who first inspired me to pick up the pen. Bukowski’s alter ego Henry Chinaski wasn’t, of course, a neurotic lawyer from New York, but he wasn’t any less afraid to share some of the less virtuous thoughts to pass through his alcohol-soaked brain.

The one thing I can promise my readers is that Kevin Corvelli will never turn into some cookie-cutter hero who always does the right thing. He will continue to face moral dilemmas, and he will continue to make mistakes. Kevin Corvelli’s life will have its ups and downs, but Kevin will always remain just as human as me. In other words, kids, close your eyes. Because even as I mature as a writer, I will never stop exposing myself on the page.


Evelyn said...

First of all, I had not idea that we had another one! Thank you for that, Deborah!

Thank you very much for sharing more about you, Doug! This is really fun and I still think it is oh so exciting!

dscorleone said...

Thanks again, Evelyn! Hope to see you at Borders Waikele on Saturday!


Evelyn said...

Trust me, I'm working on it! :)

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