I have a plant in my office that was given to me just over a year ago. I am amazed it is still alive despite my best efforts to the contrary. For those of you unable to recognize this pitiful creature, it is a poinsettia. The two white leaves are all that remain of the original plant. I imagine they are no longer on speaking terms, as they have branched off and gone their separate ways. The one a lone survivor standing it’s ground. The other decided to invite some friends to the party. The new growth developing because it was set free from it’s counterpart. Of course this is all speculation since I know nothing about growing plants apart from giving it water and light, it is obvious my little friend needs a new home. I recently contemplated discarded the poor thing, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I am attached. I root for its survival.
As I stared at this plant this morning, I realized it is a visual representation of my novel. The white leaves are my first draft. The roots are still there, but many chunks of the manuscript have dried up and fallen away. The new growth is a result of revision. It became clear it was time to replant my novel. I have begun rewriting from a different point of view. New scenes have nurtured the story and I can already see the results. While I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the office plant, my novel is thriving and for that I am grateful.
I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately. It feels like I am in an endless stage of revision that is going no where.I decided I needed to take some time away from it. Instead of giving in to the tempting idea to jump into a new project, I decided to find ways to improve my writing. I bought several writing books and am currently reading THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass. It has been an interesting read and I am learning a lot about my WIP.
The first part of the book focuses on characters. What I have learned is that protagonists need to have a quality of strength, but also need to be flawed to be liked by readers. My main character, Ella, is an insecure teenager with family issues. She lives each day plagued by the fact that her parents abandoned her at birth, only to find she is not alone. While Ella does find her strength throughout the story, the reader sees her strengths from the beginning.
It is important to develop side characters to make them human and provide a contrast to the protagonist. Kevin, is Ella’s best friend. It’s clear he supports Ella and is an encouragement to her, but as it stands now, the reader knows little about him. I have realized that while my side characters are fully developed to me, I need to portray that more throughout the story.
The biggest lesson I needed to learn is the development of the antagonist. My antagonist is named Silas. He is Ella’s great uncle, whom she has never met. While it is clear what Silas’ motivations are, his character falls flat. I have known this for some time, but was unsure how to remedy the situation. I now know that not all antagonists have to be totally bad. They need to have some redeeming qualities. I have decided upon a way in which Silas can win over one of the other characters. I had debated this plot point for some time, but now realize it is crucial to the story.
Now that I have learned new techniques in making my characters come to life on the page, I look forward to reshaping them in my novel. I am excited about revising again.
Have you struggled with your characters? How have you improved them? Have you read a book on writing that has been helpful to you? Please leave a comment and share.