Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wherefore Art Thou, Heath and Genevieve?

One of the big steps forward I've made in my recent writing history, is to really get the thing they say about 'character is plot'. I've realised that if you really know your characters, then the story becomes clear, as do their choices and the twists and turns of the story. What I have found is that if you're even the littlest bit muddy about your characters and their motivations, the story spins out of control.

I think that's just what's happened to mine. I thought I knew Heath and Genevieve intimately, but do I really? Sometimes they behave in ways that don't make sense with the the character profile/emotional conflict I've given them.

At this point, I'm in the middle of the book - a very crucial time - and for it to be believable, I have to be 100% certain about my characters and their motivations. But am I? If not, how do I fix this? Probably, I need to think about them more. When I get busy with other stuff, the story recedes and the intensity fades. That's a problem.

My critique partner - who has a very sharp eye for these things - told me she didn't 'buy' Heath's character in the current chapter. Alarm bells. I think that means going back over the chapter, and for me, running it through my head like a movie and in the process, gaining some distance. What would I think if these characters behaved this way on the screen? It's always easy to spot problems when you're not so up close. And perhaps that's just where I go wrong. I write, become immersed in the scene and sometimes don't stop to ask the vital questions. Would he/she say this? How would this make her/him feel? What does her/his choice do to the story? Where can they go from here?

It's incredibly tricky, and something you can only learn through doing. I'm sure - at least I hope - that someday I'm going to have a lightbulb moment about it. In the meantime, I'll pick up the shovel and keep digging.

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