Monday, March 11, 2013

Be True to Your Characters & Their Story

There are times when we are writing and the story seems to go nowhere & everywhere all at the same time. I recently ran into this problem while writing the third book in the trilogy, Rough Hewn. I was struggling with the direction the characters had taken. I felt as though I was flapping in the wind every time I sat down to type out a paragraph. I ultimately realized the problem I was having was not with the story itself but with my interpretation of it. I was holding back. Trying to save the characters from the pain I saw coming, as it were.

You see, I was trying to guide my characters rather than allow them to guide my writing of their story. In that, I was telling their story from the point of a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing for protection. What I should've been doing was being honest in the telling of their story. After all, it seldom happens in real life that we can protect those we love from all the bad in the world around us. Therefore, Carolyn and her friends will have to endure more of the bad while recognizing and celebrating the good - just like in real life.

As writers, we cannot be a buffer between our characters and the bad things that come their way any more than we can prevent our own loved ones from experiencing sadness in real life. We are not here to protect our characters; we are here to tell their story.

My advice to you would be to try not to absorb the hit for your characters. Write honestly and expose the entire story. The bad comes whether we want it to or not. If we are lucky, the good will outweigh the bad. Being that we are the ones writing the story, we can choose the ending - good or bad - and like in life, we strive for a good ending.

Last night I did one of the hardest things I've had to do as a writer. I went back and deleted approximately 20,000 words from Carolyn's story. That left me with 20,092 words in the third book of the trilogy and a feeling of defeat. I felt as though I was starting over, even though a third of the story remained intact. In the end, I realized that it was better to remove what was not working than to tell only part of the story. Besides, your readers want the whole story - not butterflies and blooms on every page.

How many of you have had to rewrite a large portion of your story or stories?


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