Monday, January 27, 2020

When You Should Have Listened to Your Character...

Yeah, I think Emma was right. From the start, Emma kept wanting to tell Acktorek in 1st person. She wasn't very assertive about it, and I kept telling her "no." I got the story all ironed out (though there are a few little things I'm planning to change now), but sitting in classes at Realm Makers, I realized I really hadn't figured out the character voice. But...I didn't really make changes to it after RM. When the book was rejected based on the quality of the writing, it hurt. A lot. Mostly because I knew for this book the criticism was 100% fair. The writing was kind of bland.

I'd been working on book 2, figuring out the plot (just finished that, though I wrote up detailed summaries of the last few chapters instead of writing them in full), and Emma still wanted to tell the story in 1st person. So I decided to let her for half a chapter. And I told her I was right to not let her tell the story herself.

I went back to writing 3rd, and it was mostly bland, but I was figuring out the plot (which still needs work, but anyway). I had to figure out why people were vanishing into thin air: where they were going, if they were alive, if it was a natural phenomenon or if someone was causing it, and if someone was causing it, why. And I knew the writing wasn't very good.

Part of it was lack of worldbuilding. So I worldbuilt. Part of it was lack of understanding of my characters, primarily Emma. So I skimmed through books on neglect, abuse, and living with a mentally ill parent. And I kept writing 3rd.

Through research, living life, and rereading The Hunger Games trilogy, I gradually started understanding Emma better. (She and Katniss have a lot of wholly unintentional key similarities, though they still have many differences.) And Emma still wanted to tell her story.

Keep in mind, the only book I've successfully completed in 1st person is Espionage, and that's 1. a pretty straightforward storyline, and 2. narrated by Vannie Cumberland, the character who never shuts up. And Emma is the type of character who tends to shut out everyone, including me, even though she acknowledges she lives inside my head. She likes to tell me I don't understand her, but yet refuses to remedy the fact by letting me in.

But then late one night, I had an idea for a way to start the first book in 1st person. I wanted to try. Took a little while to get my computer to turn on (sooooooo glad I got a new one a few weeks's beyond amazing to use a computer that doesn't have speeds rivaling that of a sloth), but I got about half a chapter written. In 1st person. And I actually kind of liked it. And so did my sister, who gets more and more critical of books/movies/writing in general the older she gets.

So I acknowledged that Emma was probably right. I needed to understand her. I needed to know where she was going in her life. But I still needed to let Emma tell her story. Because no one understands Emma Edsel like she does herself.

Carla and Mitchell were still a consideration, whether to go back to 3rd for their chapters or try multiple 1st. I'm trying multiple 1st, and so far liking it, but I'm aware it's very difficult to do well so that people don't get confused (though interestingly, I've read two books that utilize multiple 1st in the last month or so). So far, they seem distinct from each other, and everyone has more of a voice than they did before, but we'll see.

At any rate, the lesson I've learned is that my characters do know what they're talking about. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how this draft turns out. And also fixing book 2, and plotting out book 3 where they go to rescue an Acktorek agent from space pirates. =D And it's (finally) going to be awesome.

Because I should have listened to my character.

P.S. Yes, I'm aware I sound like a nut when I talk about my characters this way. Go watch The Man Who Invented Christmas.


  1. You clearly have a very vivid imagination. This sounds like an interesting story.

  2. Love hearing the process of you figuring out your characters! My current WIP is feeling rather bland of yet, & I feel like I'm losing my passion to finish it---GAH. I think it has to do wholly with the plot & all that its lacking in that area, but we'll see. You've actually got me thinking...

    Happy writing!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I hope it gives you some ideas of how to fix your WIP. Sometimes the problem can actually be super simple. For instance, in my Time Captives trilogy, I brought the less interesting sister on the adventure and used the wrong sibling for my main POV character. Change those things, and it made a world of difference. I'd try brainstorming what sort of things you could change and go back to what made you excited about it in the first place. I hope you're able to make your WIP awesome!


Share your thoughts! I love getting comments. Please keep them clean and relevant to the post. Thank you!