This was going to be a comment in answer to the comments on yesterday’s post, but it got long, so . . .
I have to go back through and reply to everybody (I’m just checking dashboard this AM), but there are two things I’m finding interesting about people requesting that Lavender be spared because they like her:
One is the reinforcement for the idea that action is character. Lavender does everything right, that’s why Liz likes her, and her actions are what everybody here is citing.
But the other is the complete failure of another method of characterization, what other characters say about the character.
Generally speaking if somebody we like doesn’t like a character, we don’t like that character or at least hold her in suspicion. But except for one person yesterday, nobody is giving any credence to the fact that Molly says emphatically that Liz is not like Lavender and in the diner scene compares her to Ann Coulter (apologies if you like Ann Coulter) obviously someone she finds lacking. And then there’s the weight of numbers: Patsy Porter is nuts, but Kitty isn’t, and she does not like Lavender; Cash’s brothers don’t like Lavender although they wisely stay out of it;l Lavender’s sister, Skye, drops out of her wedding; and I forget what Liz’s mother says, but she’s not a fan although she’s mild about it.
Unless all of those people are nuts (and some are), there’s something wrong with Lavender. And I think there are subtle examples of this on the page. For instance, Lavender’s the kind of person who would ask her groom’s ex-girlfriend to be her maid of honor the day before her wedding so that she can show the town that she’s won and her groom doesn’t love Liz any more. She’s the kind of person who knows that Peri is in danger (she took the keys from Margot) and uses that as a bargaining chip instead of getting Margot help. She’s the kind of person who will say, “All these people hate me,” without acknowledging why; that is, she’s a smart woman, she knows why each of those people dislike her, but she plays it as . . . actually, she doesn’t play it. She just says, “They hate me, you can see it,” and uses it on Liz, who also feels everybody dislikes her. She really plays Liz all the way through the first act.
Clearly I have to get more clues on the page before Lavender hits her Big Moment and kicks all that seething resentment into overdrive so that at least six people have motive to murder her, but it’s educational knowing that Action is Character is going to trump everything else (which makes sense, it’s more powerful that everything else).
Here’s the placeholder pic for Lavender. A placeholder, for those of you new to my fractured process, is a picture that doesn’t look like the character–it’s not an illustration–but it captures for me the personality of the character. It’s why I usually have more than one person as a placeholder in the collages; it’s layering different aspects of character to make a more complex whole.
But one of the reasons I chose these two is that there’s a vague resemblance between Liz and Lavender, not enough that people would remark on it, but enough that Cash’s taste in women becomes clear and another reason why Lavender would want Liz up there with her; they look alike, but Lavender is the classic beauty. And then, of course, that becomes a plot point, and Lavender becomes a foil for Liz for the rest of the book: Liz is like her in many ways, very different in others, and having the murder victim as a foil is helpful in plotting the rest of the book (assuming I ever write it). (And I have to admit, I like it that the first picture leans toward warm tones and the second picture leans toward cool.)
All of which is to say, yesterday’s comments were hugely helpful. I clearly need to do some rewriting because I failed utterly to make most readers uneasy about Lavender, so once again, thank you very much, Argh Beta Readers.