Sunday, July 28, 2013

Difficult character? Try all of them!

For the last few weeks Jayne, Hannah, and Leesa have posted on difficult characters and/or how to deal with them. I'll admit, I've thought of what to post since I learned what the theme o' the month was, but nothing has really struck me as "the post."

In my blog post last month, one of my suggestions was to write about the character that is motivating you the most at the time. But what if there are different characters from different books screaming at you inside your head? Well, then you'll be where I have been for the last few years. My most difficult is all of my characters.

That might sound like a joke, but I'm not kidding. It's hard to weed through the chaos going on inside my head and distinguish one voice from the others, to learn that person/demon/whatever inside and out, while keeping the other alpha's at bay.

The last few days I've been off-grid, enjoying some time surrounded by pine trees and quakies, deer, bears, and mountain lions (thank God I didn't see the latter two), and that's why I'm getting this post in so late. If my characters could speak to you without my knowing it, well for one, I'd be schizophrenic. For another, some of them would tell you that I was a big old meanie-head (not in those words of course. My big, burly demons probably wouldn't say it quite like that...). I opened two WIPs (works in progress) this weekend. The two that were the loudest. And I'm so glad I did. At first, I figured I'd be bouncing back and forth between the two books, adding in paragraphs or entire scenes as my men demanded, but what happened was that once I started typing in one book, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So this month, my advice is nothing more simple than: Just write. You'll get farther than if you don't.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Character Sketches

The theme of the month (if it isn't apparent) is characters.  This is an interesting topic because of my story.  For the first five revisions, the sidekick to my main character, was much more likable than the main character herself.  The more I re-read my book, the less I cared about the main character.  Does that somehow seem wrong?  YES!  My main character should be the driving force of my novel.  I should want her success and safety more than I want any other character.

So what was the problem?  Inconsistency.  The main character didn't have a real personality.  Instead of being able to understand her, she was all over the place.  She was volatile and unreliable and inconsistent.  She would react one way in a certain situation and if that same situation were to arise again, she would react completely different: not because she learned from her mistakes or past reaction, but because she didn't know who she was or what drove her.

Now, I wasn't looking for a character that was so predictable to the point of boredom because, let's be honest, no real human being is like that.  What I wanted was a real character.  For example, in a given situation, I can guess more or less how my husband is going to react because I understand his personality.  It won't be a mystery to me every time that same situation arises what his reaction is going to be.  Because he is who he is, his actions will be fairly consistent.  Once we understand a person's personality or we see, through their actions, what drives them, that will either draw us to that person or repel us.  That's what I needed for my protagonist.

I did some soul searching for the both of us and what I concluded was that I needed a character sketch.  I needed to know who my main character was, what drove her, what her faults were, what her personality was like.  From this character sketch, I was able to understand what it was that led her to act the way she did.

With my character sketch in hand, I had to make the story reflect that drive, that motive.  That meant I had to rewrite the entire book.  You think I'm joking, but I'm not.  The story was just as erratic as the main character had been.  But with the personality of the main character being definite and consistent, plot elements came out that I had never seen before because now I understood her.  Heck, even the entire climax and plan of the story, when she realizes what her flaw is and just how much trouble it's gotten her into and her plan to resolve her issues, have changed completely.  The best part is that I love the changes.  The plot now is character driven rather than just action driven.  The twists and deception and manipulation that occurs are more intense because now I'm rooting for the main character.  I love her more than any other character now.  I'm invested in her because I understand her personality to a certain degree and I am drawn to it.

The character sketch has been the most useful tool I've found in my writing.  I didn't only use it with my protagonist.  When I sketched the antagonist of the story, revelations of new scenes came to me.  Now the antagonist is more complex.  It makes everything that much more gut-wrenching because of the understanding I now have of the characters.

So if you're ever in a slump or you don't know where to take a scene, ask yourself how your character would react.  If you don't know the answer, try a character sketch.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Difficult Characters

It is interesting that some characters come so easily while others take some effort to get to know. The majority of the time I think the reason I have issues with my characters is because they react to situations differently than I, so I find I get caught up in thinking about how I would respond, or what I would say, versus giving my character the opportunity to tell me. So basically, I get in the way of my characters. As I have become more self aware of that, I am trying to let go of what I want, and let the story flow. 
As for the most difficult character... It is my heroine. I don't know if I would say that she's difficult, but more so that I am still trying to figure out her emotions.  I feel as though I know who she is and what she wants, but then she responds differently when I am in the flow of the story. I am throwing a lot of trials in her path and figuring out how she will react. Again, it comes back to, I want her to react a certain way, but she wants to do something else entirely. For people who aren't writers, I sound like a crazy person. I am throwing a lot of emotional turmoil at her and its hard to gauge just how much she can take. As writers, not only do we have to be concerned about the communication between our characters, but we also need to be aware of the communication going on between us and them. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Most Difficult Character

My most difficult character right now started as a supporting character, with a very small role to play, and turned himself into another main character. I wasn't expecting him, nor did I want him, but it turns out I needed him. And now that I need him I have to spend time figuring out what it is that he wants, which he isn't willing to give me freely. He ends up helping my protagonist in a way that makes the story more believable, she wouldn't be able to do some things without inside help from him, but I just can't figure out why he helps her. He is supposed to be one of the bad guys, one of the people she is trying to defeat, for lack of a better word. Does he suddenly have a conscience or change of heart, did something happen in his past that made him flash back and realize he was on the wrong side? All the other characters he is associated with believe so strongly they are doing something good that they are blind to how wrong it is. So why not him? That's what I'm trying to figure out and this particular character is making me work much harder than I anticipated. Perhaps it's because I doubted his need in the first place, who knows. Maybe that is what motivates him now; vindication.