Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Characters Mock

I was raised to be a respectful person. You know, respect your elders... yada, yada, yada. Clearly, I’m not doing such a hot job of teaching said respect to my characters because they are lining up to mock me. Often.

Case in point: the leading man in one of my current YA projects.

During the first draft of this project, a second potential love interest created himself in response to the less-than-alluring way the leading man was behaving. Or so I thought. Said Leading Man blames ME for my less-than-stellar writing. The nerve! He says that I willfully misunderstood him, what he was really about, and I basically am a complete hack. Consequently, he’s taking charge in the rewrite and I’m wondering if I need to enlist the services of a de-possession expert of some sort. Seriously, characters running amok is messing with my chakras.

The trouble is... he might be right. In the rewrite, I like him. Okay, maybe a little more than like him. He’s a good guy, and, sure, he’s going to do some devious, human things along the way, but that doesn’t change his worth in the grand scheme. The secondary love interest is certainly running scared about now though. I might have a real fight on my hands. May the best man win... or the one who best complements my main character. For her part, she’s a little swoony for Mr. Rewritten (and seriously, who wouldn’t be?)

It is for this exact reason that I love rewrites. In almost every project, I write that gushing first draft as quickly as possible, let simmer, and then start the book over at page one (copying almost nothing from the original) to see where the story goes now that the initial discovery is over. I know many people (writers and non-writers) have questioned this strategy as being labor intensive, but this is how the story gets fleshed out for me. One of my books didn’t need it, but the rest really do. And the added bonus is that it gives the characters another chance to show themselves (or pummel me with a stick and take over).

First drafts, for me, are main character centric, as though the main character is the sun that blinds me to the finer points of the other characters. The rewrite allows me to wear better shades and see the other characters for all their different layers.

That said, I don’t particularly enjoy being called a hack by my characters. It’s rude. And I think he better learn to show some respect for the less corporeally challenged, otherwise Mr. Know It All is going off a cliff in a freak gnat accident. So there.

Do characters ever get all feisty with you? Do you misunderstand them and have to make amends? Or, and frightening for me personally, am I the only one who might need a therapy cocktail of some meds and shock treatments because I’m losing control of fictional characters?

Quote for the Day from Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”


Jemi Fraser said...

Don't worry - you're not alone! My characters are constantly taking over. If they don't like the way it's going, they just dig in their heels and refuse to go anywhere. Stand there, tapping their toes, waiting for me to clue in! The nerve! It would be awful - except they're usually right :)

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

I love this post. It gives such insight into the writing process and how characters are alive and have a mind of their own.

On other news, I checked your twitter profile (after I did my shoutout regarding the thank you blog post), and you appear to not have been eaten by crocodiles thus far, so I am hoping my advice was ok. :)

Kasie West said...

LOL That was a funny post. I'm glad I got caught up. My characters always yell at me or tell me what's going to happen. I wish I were the boss every once and a while, but I'm slowly accepting my roll as the typewriter.