The main characters in my story join a special forces program to combat an alien conquest. At some point, I realized the story would be more realistic if people were cut from the program, so I created a few extra characters. One of them was Diana. She wore too much make-up (even during basic training), curled her hair, and was obnoxiously snooty. I already disliked her. Then, my MC started crushing on her, so I REALLY disliked her (he was supposed to like someone else).
Through the iterations of the story, Diana changed. She managed to stay in the special forces program, even though her character was created to fail out. She started out as a history major, but somewhere along the way, she became a fashion design major. She became less snooty, though she was still a little obnoxious (a rule-follower with no sense of fun . . .). I didn’t care much for her, but I was warming up. She might have been a little annoying–the MC might still have a crush on her–but she was also kind and generous.
Then I wrote about her in Book 2. I suddenly realized what a cool person she was. She was a rule follower, but she did have a sense of fun. Being a fashion design major actually gave her unique skills for the resistance. She was able to design clothing that worked like armor but was affordable. She could mend precious uniforms to keep them from being wasted.
She was also incredibly strong emotionally. Her entire family had been killed by the aliens, but she somehow managed to hold it together and join a special forces unit. Then her unit was decimated. Instead of giving up, she joined the resistance.
There’s an image of her in Book 2 that I absolutely love. At this point, she’s married and is in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. She’s standing–with her curled hair pulled away from her face (no make-up 😉 )–holding a rifle to her shoulder to cover the female lead who is performing field medics on wounded soldiers. I love this image of Diana: strong and fierce and feminine and maternal.
Yet, as I write Book 1, I’m coming to a horrible realization.
I may have to cut her character.
😦 😦 😦
I’ve had an idea percolating for awhile. I typed up the first 20 pages for a workshop. The response I got surprised me.
To be vague, the story followed a teenage girl who had some crazy stuff happen and some special abilities manifested (it’s sci-fi). She met a man with abilities like hers who had a mysterious data disk that had information regarding people like them.
The comments from the workshop group were generally very positive. They liked the characters and the world. However, they wanted more of what happened to the girl when life went crazy. What were the events leading up to that? How did she cope? Did the society at large know about people like her? Did they reject people like her? Was that a fear she had?
All their questions were spot on–if the teenage girl was the main character. I realized with a bit of shock that she wasn’t. The man with the disk was. You see, once they met up, they joined an underground resistance movement and a whole lot of epic stuff happened. It wasn’t a coming-of-age story. It was a save-the-world story.
So apparently this wrong MC thing is a recurring issue of mine. 🙂
Sometimes, I realize I need to cut some characters or even combine characters or just change things. This results in scenes where I take out one character and use a different character instead. I did that once without needing to change the dialogue at all–and I realized I had a big problem. Dialogue should be distinctive to each character. Ideally, the reader should be able to tell who’s speaking without needing dialogue tags/attributions (but you should still include them). If you can substitute a different character without changing dialogue, there’s a problem.
Interchanging characters into the same scene can actually be a good way to get to know your characters. How would each character respond in this situation? How would they interact? I’ve been having fun putting the characters I’m keeping into the scenes formerly populated by the characters I’m cutting. It changes the dynamic. I like seeing how they interact.
I’ve been avoiding writing for awhile. I have really changed the events of Book One since switching primary POV characters. The thought of starting in on Draft–wait, let me count–32 was a bit overwhelming. Then I realized that I’ve already written all of this. I just need to do some rearranging and revising. I will have to write some new scenes, of course, but I don’t have to rewrite the entire thing. YAY!!
I spent two hours this evening snatching scenes from previous drafts and putting them into an outline. I’m feeling really good about this. I even made some headway into confusing motivational type things. And the most exciting part? My Parts One and Two, which I have been planning and hoping to combine, were formerly between 70,000 and 90,000 words EACH. My new pieced together draft is down to 112,000!! This gives me great hope that I might actually be able to write a decently lengthed novel! I tend to be long-winded.
Well, the coffee shop is closing, so I’d better head out! I hope to update again soon with some of the cool insights I’ve been having.
I have decided that grading is my nemesis. The friend who recommended me for the position gave me some grading rubrics to use. They were really helpful, but when I went to assign the actual letter grade, I NEARLY DIED. The rubrics weren’t mathematical! They were . . . narrative. Literary. I tried about five different mathematical equations to make them work, but no go. Once again, proof that I am a non-creative brained, logic-brained, creative fiction writer. Who knew? Finally, I just came up with my own system, and it appears to be working. Yay!! I’m only half-way through grading these papers, and I have a new round of papers due in a week. I hope I get faster at this . . .
Aside from grading being my nemesis, I am still enjoying teaching. 🙂
I hope you all enjoyed my series on visualization.
This year is starting a bit crazy for me. I took a job as an adjunct English professor! I have often dreamed of teaching college English, but it was more of a “sometime, down the line” idea. I feel in some ways like I’m learning to swim by being thrown in the ocean.
Something really surprised me, though. I enjoy teaching! This is fun. When I was growing up, the one thing I always said I didn’t want to do was teach. Teaching runs in the family, and I think I wanted to do something different. Teaching is also a certain amount terrifying.
But I really enjoy it! I love sharing what I know and the things I’ve learned to make me the writer I am today. I’ve never enjoyed a job quite like this. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it even more once I’ve got the wrinkles ironed out.
The challenge now will be finding time to write! Even just a couple of classes take a lot of prep work and grading. I hope to still keep up with this blog.
Happy Writing everyone!
I love imagining movie trailers. I’m a visual person, and I always see my stories acted out like a movie in my head. For me, making a movie trailer comes more easily than writing a synopsis, but it serves a similar purpose. It helps me focus on the meat of the story. What is the story really about?
If I’m really trying to focus and hash things out, I’ll write a kind of transcript for the movie trailer. For me, they usually consist of mysterious, simple music and quotes from the story rather than a voice over.
Sometimes, I get ambitious and actually make a video using my sketches and my own music. They’re generally disappointing since they aren’t nearly as good as what’s in my head, but they can be a whole lot of fun. I’m impatient and low-tech, so I just take poor quality photos of my sketches with a digital camera and download them on the computer. The only person I’m doing this for is me, so it doesn’t have to be spectacular. 🙂
Over Christmas break my freshman year of college, I was just being introduced to Window’s Movie Maker. I dug out my old fashion dolls (all characters from movies like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Disney princesses) and took stills of them. I then put them together as my first movie trailer. I showed it to my roommate, and she died laughing. It wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for, but at least she liked it. 🙂