This is part of a series of loose and informal musings / lists about my work on “Zimmer voller Freunde”, my first novel. To see a list of all “Zimmer voller Freunde”-related posts [most of them in German], go… here [Link]!
“Zimmer voller Freunde” is a coming-of-age novel set in 1999. It features three small-town kids – two boys, one girl – who ride the same school bus…
…and the friends, parents, teachers and romantic partners they clash with over the course of 11th grade.
There are three diaries. Multiple perspectives. An ensemble of teenaged characters, dealing with small-town crises. And there’s TV, identity, nostalgia, belonging and remembrance.
A corny / ironic pitch? Marcel Proust meets “Beverly Hills, 90210”.
A more serious (if equally preposterous) pitch? John Updike meets “Dawson’s Creek”.
Today, I want to take a closer look at the defining tropes / character traits of my main character…
…a guy named Stefan:
…but I think that – both in fiction and in real life – a person’s flaws (and their ways to deal with / rise above them) are what makes people interesting, unique and strong.
- he’s 16 years old (Link)
- he’s a nerd (Link) and a movie buff (Link)
- he’s energetic and eccentric (Link)
- he wants to make friends (Link) – by all means (Link)
- …and write about the huge and unique (?) drama (Link) that is small-town and high school life (Link).
- …while all the while, stressing his emotional strength and maturity (Link).
- find friends (Link)
- build an elite group of lifelong best buddies (Link)
- stay fiercely loyal (Link) to a very select (Link) group of people.
- escape his day-to-day life (Link)…
- …and win back a girl who started to outgrow him (Link).
What is unique / memorable / problematic about him?
… his work ethic:
- Hikikomori: Locks themselves away from the outside world like a recluse.
- Schedule Fanatic: Has to do everything according to precise schedule, every day of their lives.
- Martyr Without a Cause: Will insist on making a Heroic Sacrifice even if it’s stupid and unnecessary.
… his elitism / brashness:
- The Fundamentalist: Their beliefs are right, and anyone who does not believe as they do is stupid, crazy, evil or all three.
- Aggressive Categorism: Judges people too easily and too bizarrely.
- It’s All About Me: Extremely self-centered.
… his ideas about friendship:
- Muse Abuse: Exploits their real life and the people around them for the sake of their art, with harmful results.
- Lack of Empathy: Does not have the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Implicitly trusts people who should really not be trusted.
… his ideas about romance:
- You Need to Get Laid: Too high-strung, uptight, or ill-tempered for their own good.
- Cannot Talk To Women.
- Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: Believes that Sex Is Evil, but can’t escape their own sexuality.
… his competitive, all-or-nothing approach to cliques and popularity:
- Nobody Calls Me Chicken: Can’t turn a challenge down.
- Oblivious To His Own Description: Unable to recognize a perfect definition of themselves.
- Revenge Before Reason: Putting Revenge over sensible actions.
Are there strengths / good things about him, too?
- his verbosity (Link)
- his routine / calmness in bigger crises (Link)
- his stubborn determination (Link)
- his will to get better / learn / advance… at everything. Now! (Link)
- his idealism / romantic ideals (Link)
- he is crass and judgemental – but often, he’s not too wrong (Link)
Stefan is an Author Avatar (Link).
…but at the same time, he’s:
- …Wrong Genre Savvy (Link), thinking he’s living in a Teen Drama (Link).
- …an unreliable (Link) and overly dramatic narrator (Link).
- …overeager to play the hero’s part (Link) when most other characters don’t care too much about him (Link).
- …dangerously incompetent (Link) in most high school situations.
Some general similarities he shares with the other two main characters?
- all three are brutally honest (Link)
- very aware of what is going on (and: going wrong) (Link)
- unafraid to alienate romantic interests, scorn teachers and burn bridges (Link)
- frequently find themselves at odds with their circles (Link)
- … but cut through the crap (Link)
- … and react swiftly and with competence (Link)
- my literary work: Links / Publications, 2011 and 2012
- “Zimmer voller Freunde”: The Setting (Link, German)