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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Growing Pains

Right now, I find myself in a very interesting position--I don't know the growth arcs of either character in my Work In Progress (WIP).

When I say growth arcs, a lot of writers think I mean an elaborate chart where I have pivotal moments that change the character and how much they change. No, I don't do that. This strikes me as something a plotter would do and I'm much closer to the seat of the pants side of the spectrum.

How growth arcs work for me is that I get the thing about the character that needs to change. The character who has to do the big change? I say it's their book. The other character has a growth arc, too, but theirs isn't as big.

To use an example, In the Darkest Night was Kel's book. He had PTSD and he refused to talk about anything that happened while he was captured and tortured. Over the course of the book, he had to go from stubborn silence to sharing The Big Secret. Farran, his heroine, had the minor growth arc. She was physically abused by her father. In another story, that might have been the major growth arc and it might have been her story, it's certainly serious enough and big enough, but not for this book. I knew immediately it was Kel's story. She had a self-worth issue that needed to be worked on during the story.

Usually, I know whose book it's going to be and what their issue is before I ever write one word. The one and only other time I didn't have it before I started, I got it when I finished the prologue. (Which ended up getting cut. I don't consider it wasted writing, though, because it gave me the growth arc and fleshed out the heroine in a way she hadn't been earlier.)

I know the WIP is the hero's book, so he's got the big change to make. I thought I had his issue even though it felt just a teeny bit forced on my part. Then, as I drove home from work at the end of last week, I was told that he wasn't stupid. The growth arc I thought was his involved him realizing something over the course of the story, so this message was to tell me this is not going to work, he already realizes it.

Okay. Thanks. Now I'm back to having no growth arc for him. I've asked him questions, but he's totally clammed up on me. That makes me believe it's something kind of big, but I'm not sure about that. Usually when a character won't share, I ask the people that know them, but he hasn't told anyone about it, so I have nothing.

I have no minor arc for the heroine either, but I'm not as worried about that. Minor arcs aren't pivotal to story structure (usually), but the major one is.

I'm feeling kind of at a loss right now because I've never had to prod about this particular piece of a character before. It's always been laid out for me like a gift. This time? Nothing.