Life has been very interesting this week as my computer decided it was going to have a meltdown on Thursday. Trouble was, it took me two more days to really realize the whole darn thing. Sigh. And it was only in the middle of a chat I realized just how bad it was.
I tried desperately to fix it myself for an extra two more days and finally gave up this morning to call in a PC doctor. And man, did I get my money’s worth. After only two hours, the problem was fixed and I was back to receiving and sending email. Too bad, I have to rebuild some things because I reinstalled some software in hopes of fixing it all. That’s what I get for being impatient. LOL!
But I did an interesting thing on my forced exile from the internet and all my email. I wrote more and read more. Imagine that! LOL! And boy was it fun. I read everything I could get my hands on: books in my to be read pile, magazine that had stacked up and writing manuals I had purchased but never cracked open.
While everything was informative, there were a few standouts I’d like to tell you about. The first is a fiction book called Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch. This book has had me in stitches from cover to cover. I was lucky enough to met Gini at the Desert Dreams conference and she’s an absolute doll. Pick up this book and you’ll see what I mean.
The second was an article in Prevention magazine of all things. I have always read the last page as it by Ardath Rodale, one of the founders of Rodale books and a long time contributor to the magazine. Her column was always inspirational and I always took something away from the words.
So this month, they have a new person, Jane Smiley, doing the column and while her words were quite interesting, they more fit writers than the general populace. The column was titled It’s Nothing Personal and there was a section I found particularly interesting. ““There’s nothing personal going on here – but what is going on is worth contemplating.” Certainly this is a novelist’s mantra. We invent characters whose feelings and actions form into a plot – a plot whose beauties and terrors create a response in a reader’s mind. But it is also a wiser way of understanding the people around you. And how they have their own passions, motivations, and histories sometimes (always) that grip them in ways even they do not grasp – ways you don’t have to respond to automatically.” This woman’s husband had left her and she went back to the one thing she knew intimately...but I’m not sure if what she said is what she meant...and here’s where I’m coming from.
It is my contention as an author every character I create is personal and more likely than not, each of them male or female have something of me in them. It's true, writing can make you better understand your fellow human beings. Now in the big worldview of things, like during a critique session or even a review, it really isn’t you they are looking at but your stories...so in those cases, you do have to remember it really isn’t personal. But it’s my thought until you know a character as well as you know the mole on your own backside, it is personal because you are molding and shaping them into something everyone will love. Until the process is done, it is personal because that part taps into your psyche as well as your character’s. Until they are fully formed and hatched, they are still cooking. And in my mind, they are cooking until everyone, you, your beta readers and crit partners alike, are satisfied with the outcome.
True, you have the final say but if you go into a crit meeting and everyone hates that character, you as a writer either have to change their minds or rewrite the character. Now there are times when you might need to dump the crit group but if your writing is getting better with each meeting, I would sit back and see what happens.
Now the last thing I did more of was editing on my Where’s My Underwear story. And I’m doing a lot of reworking as I discovered some of my characters were not as cooked as I needed. I’ve had to dig deeper into them and since the hero and heroine have a complicated relationship, I had to make it sound possible.
In the not too distant past, a bestselling local author had told me she once had to dump around fifty percent of a book in a rewrite. I was appalled but can now see the truth in the matter. I mean, if the editor or I don’t like it, why would a reader? So in dumping a thousand words here and there, I’ve had to bring in the big guns and make each new section count even more by making it stronger and even more plausible.
What are your opinions on characters and how they come together? Do you all like strong well-developed characters? Or do you like the ones who have a little more fluff and are therefore lighter reading?
I’m interested in knowing what you all think. Until next time...