Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Temper Tantrum: Annoying Characters

On great moment in writing a book is when the characters spring to life and start acting on their own. When that happens it’s a joy to sit down at the keyboard as you are hooked on the scene and you want to find out what your characters are going to do and how they will handle the situation you’ve set up.

When you start writing with these characters you sit down at your keyboard until you notice that your lower body is protesting and then notice you’ve written 5,000 words in one sitting.

The flip side is when you have a character that you’ve formed a complete backstory for, have their motivations down and even some of their little quirks mapped out and when they enter the scene they draw all the life out of it, the writing equivalent to watching a movie starring Ben Affleck.

I somehow managed to get one of these characters in my latest book and she is killing me. Every piece of dialog has to be written three times and still comes out flat. So I might write 3,000 words but what finally makes it on the page is under a thousand and I know I’m going to have to go back and rewrite it.

So my progress is jerky, I’ll zoom through 3,000 to 5,000 words a day with my strong characters that have come alive and then hit a scene with her and it will take a week to get the 1,500 word scene out.

The only good part about the fact that I really hate this character is that I had to have the heroes question her for information, and they were probably a bit rougher on her than if she had really come alive in the book before then.

It made for a good scene but if I can’t go back and get some life into her character it will be meaningless as the reader will just be totally indifferent to her and not care.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


Shakespeare said...

I rewrote a novel twice, changing the main character each time because I realized about 16 chapters in that I hated her.

I tried changing who she was, but in the end I invented her 16-year-old daughter... and she became the main character instead. MUCH better.

I'm glad you're paying attention to the characters. Nothing so irritates me is characters that have no real significance beyond their furthering of the plot.

Project Savior said...

This one is tough because she is absolutely critical to the plot, even if she is just being used by the bad guy. The problem is I've two larger than life characters and an average guy who is able to step up and hold his own against the two of them, and does, and then her.
It's not even her really, she's an interesting Pychopath who is pretending to be a sweet and innocent girl. I'm just having trouble having her drop her guard enough to be interesting without reveling her true self too soon.

Stephanie Barr said...

It's going to sound terribly conceited but I always love my characters. If I have a smarmy bad guy, I make sure he is insulted at nearly every turn, which ensures I enjoy those scenes. If I have a clueless know-nothing, my in-the-know characters are rolling their eyes and giving them a hard time. Or I find appealing characteristics (or explanations for the less appealing characteristics) to increase my interest in them. One of the thorn-in-the-side characters from my first novel is starring in the sequel. And, yes, I love him too.

Or it could just be that I'm prejudiced. Or that, if one of my characters doesn't do it for me, I stop until my subconscious has fixed it. Which might explain half a dozen unfinished manuscripts waiting to be picked back up.

I'm so character driven, if I didn't like a character he/she would have to go or be drastically changed or tossed or used as a human sacrifice. But that's just me.

Project Savior said...

She is being used as a human sacrifice, sort of. Unfortunately, the best human sacrifice stories (is it odd I've read enough to compare) the victim has a strong personality that makes you feel for them being sacrificed; like "The Lottery"
Maybe after I write her showing her true colors I'll be able to go back and write her acting better.