I’m in the process of debating over the multiple careers of protagonist Wyatt Mason in THE CHICKEN SHACK. Wyatt is the owner of The Chicken Shack, but he is also a part-time English teacher at a local community college, an occasional freelance magazine writer, a member of the Town Council and the local vigilante. I’ve worried that this might seem like too much, and that Wyatt’s life will come across as convoluted and unrealistic.
At the same time, I find myself justifying Wyatt’s multitude of career paths by citing my own.
At the moment, I am a fifth grade school teacher, the owner and operator of a mobile DJ service, a secular minister who performs marriages and baby naming ceremonies, an author who has published one book, sold another and is at work on a third, and a fledgling life coach.
In addition to these careers, I am a blogger, the writer of the occasional Op-Ed piece, and I am attempting to write the libretto of a rock opera. I have also been publicizing my book through speaking appearances at libraries and book stores throughout New England and am an avid golfer and poker player.
I am also pondering the possibility of hosting some writing clinics in the area for writers who are looking to improve their skills and get their work published. I met a photographer at a recent wedding who conducts about three seminars a year on wedding photography and seems to make a solid profit from her efforts.
I figured that I might be able to do the same.
Oh yeah, and I’m married with a daughter who is eight months old.
Does Wyatt’s life really seem so complicated in comparison?
Of course, I must also be careful not to justify the legitimacy of a character or an event based upon my own life or the life of one person somewhere in the world. “But I once knew a guy who did the same thing!” is a familiar refrain in writing workshops as writers attempt to explain away the improbable or fantastic, and even I have been guilty of this kind of justification in the past.
But just because one man once survived a fall from 10,000 feet when his parachute failed to open doesn’t mean that it will be plausible in your book.
So what to do with Wyatt? So far I’ve switched him to an ex-Town Councilman, but his job at the college, his ownership of The Chicken Shack, and his sputtering writing career will probably remain intact.
It’s who he is, like it or not.