Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Characters' True Nature

So I was talking to a good friend/crit buddy of mine last night. We are both reworking old novels that have been sitting for several years and we are both just jumping out of skins excited at how our revisions are turning out. Apparently, even if you love a book like it was your own child, letting it sit for a year or three gives you a bit of prospective. I have been slashing away like you wouldn't believe....about 30,000 words so far. In fact, other than the characters and the basic story line, most of the story is brand new.

But we started talking about how I miss some of the scenes between my MC and her love interest but that I just couldn't keep them because the scenes no longer fit the dynamics of their relationship (they were very tender, them, but their relationship has more of an edge to it now - there's more mistrust and other stuff going on instead of just straight 'OOOO I LOVE YOU SO MUCH' stuff).

And then we talked about how much I love the new scenes between them. And she pointed something out.

I still know about those scenes that are no longer in the book. Those scenes show how my characters really feel about each other - they show the emotions my characters can no longer afford to show. And all of that comes through in the new scenes.

It made me realize that THIS is probably the reason people do character sketches and fake interviews and bios or character bibles. I've never done one...never wanted to. I get to know my characters through writing them. BUT I have a tendency to let inconsistencies in their makeup slip through. I'm getting much better at catching that (and this is something that I've learned over the last year so it wasn't present when I wrote the first 100 drafts of this novel) :D (p.s. thanks Elana and Christine) :D I'm hoping that I'm just getting better at staying true to my characters...not that it will take several years to really get to know them every time. Because that could be a problem LOL

However, now, when I'm going through reworking these scenes, I am staying true to my characters and who they really are. I'm not forcing them to react the way I want them to react. When I first wrote the book, I wanted a story where they guy got the girl and they stayed together totally in love, totally trusting, through the whole book. But that's not only boring, it just doesn't fit the way real people are....and certainly doesn't fit who my characters are.

Rewriting these scenes and letting my characters' true natures shine out is just unbelievably exciting. *happy sigh* It's moments like this that really drive home to me why I do what I do :)

How about you? Have you ever tried to force a character to do something he/she/it just wouldn't do? Do you have trouble staying consistent? And do you do character sketches, etc before writing? I'm still not sure I have the desire to do one, but I can definitely see it's merits.

And how are my fellow NaNoers doing? I got my goal in last night so I am now up to.....


Christine Fonseca said...

um...yea, My characters eriously rebel when I try to force them in a direction AGAINST their character. Great job figuring this out.

Scott said...

Forcing a character to do something he/she/it just wouldn't normally do . . . never works. Normally, when I try to force something, the writing slogs down. I normally stop writing, put everything away, and then, the next day, I'm likely to rewrite the scene that just wasn't working.

I don't necessarily do character sketches, but I do an Excel worksheet with the basics: eyes, hair, height, weight, siblings, married, divorced, single, favorite food, drink, book, movie, song, car, job, and a few other necessary tidbits. Now, most often, I fill in this sheet as I write and discover things about the characters. Then, it's a handy-dandy reference guide as I go throughout the rest of the writing process.

I don't do interviews. I may at some point. I may not at some point. You just never know with me.


Elana Johnson said...

Absolutely. And this is so hard, because people are complex. We don't always act the way we should. You know? So sometimes it's okay to let your characters do something "out of character" especially in a high-stakes, highly emotional scene.

Good job on the word count!

N. R. Williams said...

My absolute challenge is; to be certain the characters are not identical to one another. They must have different mannerisms, fears, motivation, etc. I have a lot, most are just passing through, because we all know the main characters need people to interact with. One of the most fun things in my high fantasy is the interaction between my modern American heroine and her medieval prince would be if only she'd let him, husband. The dialogue is fun.N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Jen Chandler said...

Every character I've ever had surprises me. I have some semblance of an idea of who they are, where their story is going and as soon as I start the tale, off they go, chasing down a rabbit train I never even saw. And I've learned that if you let them (especially in that first draft) they will surprise you and the story will be better than you could have constructed had you tried to reel them in.

Congrats on the NaNo stats! So far, I'm at my goal. I'm over 5,000 words! Talk about frantic typing before midnight!!


Emsky said...

For years, (YEARS!!) I tried to make my mc kiss the girl. Why, oh why, can't they just get along!?!

I think I've given up on that plan and my mc is immensely relieved.

Kristal Shaff said...

Character interviews are REALLY helpful for this. Though, on my current book, I haven't done this for some reason..

Humm.... maybe I should.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

After I come up with the basic idea for my book, I do character sketches, interviews, backstories, etc. They help me shape my story.

You have to be careful about making your characters do something that's out of character. It's called playing puppet master. And that is NOT a good thing. There has to be a good reason why they're doing it . . . and not because the writer thinks it will make the story more exciting. :)

Eric said...

I haven't done anything like that, and to be honest the level of work involved in that process almost scares me. But I do admit that if I were to do something like that, my characterization would most assuredly be better for it.

Meredith said...

I have to do character bios before i start writing or my characters start acting crazy. Really. I know writing the book will change the characters, but I always update my bios so I know where they stand.

lbdiamond said...

Sometimes it's tough--even characters act in unexpected ways, LOL! Hart to rein them in sometimes, ain't it?

Nice post!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Aww, I totally feel where you're coming from with this! I've been rewriting and rewriting this one WIP, and after all the several incarnations of the two main characters, I've got a better feel for who they are--but there's also pieces of the old them in this, too. I miss some of the scenes I've already written, but they definitely wouldn't work in the new version. Still, I can reuse a few choice adjectives here or there that I'm particularly proud of. ;) Who feels proud of an adjective?! I'm a weirdo.

So no on the character sheets, but yes on the having to flesh them out like crazy. Great post, Michelle!