Monday, January 17, 2011

Evolution of Ham... I mean, Man... I mean, Characters

It is absolutely astonishing to me, considering the fact that my current manuscript was borne out of a need to do Sbux one better when they laid me off and kept the slacker, already-insured HS employees, that it took me until this month to realize that my main character's key personality trait is her contrariness.

My approach to writing has always been more on a wing than a plan, my plotting derived more from intuition than organization.  I found my characters through their names, and just plowed them through several scenarios until I found the one that put them in the middle of an actual story.  That sounds terrible.  That sounds like I have no plot.

Well, I kind of didn't.  I had people (characters) I really cared about, and situations in which they could have oh! such clever conversations.  The ham, people, the ham is in there.  And heart, and real wit and force of personality.  But my plot didn't come until my dad recommended I send in a man with a gun (I gave him a knife), and make the characters do something.  And I did, and they had to, and all of a sudden, there were world-hopping outlaw assassins chasing an obstinate teenage time-traveler.

And still I was lacking the choice – you know, the choice, the thing any good, relatable MC needs to have to keep a reader engaged.  To keep a writer engaged.  Let me reiterate:  I was surviving on the fumes of pretty decent dialogue, and happily self-constructing characters.  I had fights and serious injuries and plenty of tension, and even a conclusion.  But no choice.

I already knew that my MC was suffering neglect, that I had fallen in love with her entourage and left her a little stiff, a little cardboard, all the while justifying to myself that she was an avatar for the reader.

That's crap.  She's an avatar for herself, and it's mostly her brain the narration picks through to roll forward.  So I had to step back and find her, and try to capture her and make the story hers.

And she bit me.

Turns out, she's pretty damn contrary.

So am I.

That's something I can work with;  that's something that can afford her a choice.

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