Introducing 'Becker'

The Random House course starts with creating a character. The first week’s exercises were all designed to help students give form and substance to a new fictional character that we would flesh out and develop over the entire course. I had nothing in my locker so I was starting from scratch - others on the course already had characters and even novels already in mind. Me, I had nothing.
I’ve always found heroes quite vanilla and dull, so I came up with an unlikeable anti-hero, ‘Becker’, to give me a little more licence to make things interesting. I was probably just trying to do something different, but it seemed to work for me. Becker (the name soon changed) was arrogant, materialistic, self-centred and deeply unpleasant. You may not like him, but any emotional response is better than none, and starting at a low point gave him plenty of opportunity to become a better person. For speed (the course went at quite a pace and deadlines were every few days) I had an actor in mind to help me quickly develop the character’s appearance and speech patterns. Every little helps.
The first sentence I wrote for the course is still the opening of the novel’s latest draft:

Before I found the man who would change my life, I found his bag.
I think it’s a neat opening (an Editor at Random House said it was ‘wonderful’ - it isn’t, but it ain’t bad) and, inadvertently, it actually introduces us to two characters: the man, and the person whose life he transforms. In that first week I didn’t have a clue who that second person was but hopefully I could use each course submission to develop both my anti-hero and the narrator, their relationship and character arcs. And maybe, just maybe, an idea for a story. If I was lucky.
It turns out I was.

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