It’s hard to write a coming-of-age story from the point of view of a character who is going to deny it. A character, I’ve realized, who for most of the book is flat, unwilling to change. So what if, after three years of breathing down her neck, I gave my main character a break? What if I let a boy tell her story?
I knew that Jillian and her boyfriend Gil were meant to be together the first time I invented them. I don’t know why their names were so similar, though there was something pressing about maintaining that. Something annoying about Gil’s name made him endearing in a way that would so bother Jillian that she would keep him around. And the keeping-each-other-around nature of the relationship would make for a meaningful, lifelong one. I don’t know that I knew much about relationships, but I did feel I knew a lot about Jillian and Gil.
However, since inventing them, I have been trying and failing to explain their relationship. I think the explanation always falls short because I come at it from Jillian’s point of view, Jillian who through most of the novel would never admit to anyone that she thinks she’s found a person, let alone the right person. It was difficult because I had a difficult narrator, but also because who besides an author and Juan Pablo have to explain their relationship to other people?
Gil is happy to. Gil is happy to tell you anything about anyone. Gil is introspective, and sensitive, and curious, and he’s extremely self-conscious, which I believe is the perfect tone for the story I am writing, and a tone Jillian or her 3rd person narrator construction could never provide me with. I created the perfect narrator in Gil, the Irishman who can never stop telling stories, I had just never noticed it before.
In only a few days and one opening page he’s shown me things I’ve never seen before: her house and her inside it. An overgrown lawn, a crowbar, and a bay window. I’ll follow him wherever he takes me because I’m starting to see why I’ve invented him.