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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Defining Character

I spend a lot of time with my h/h in any story I write. Some of them are in my head constantly even when I'm not writing. This is actually pretty cool and I often get scenes that won't make the book, but help round out the characters and explains them.

I'm not sure how to describe my relationship with my characters. The best analogy I've been able to come up with is it's as if your best friends are living in your house with you. They're always around and sometimes that gets annoying when you'd just like a little peace and quiet. Sometimes it's awesome because you can really get to know them in ways that help make them real. (In my case, even more real because they pretty much show up as three-dimensional, stubborn people from the start.)

Some characters will lie to me (like my demons). Some will refuse to talk to me. Some will give me surface stuff and think that I'll be diverted from digging any deeper. Characters are evil.

Unfortunately for them and their secrets, our relationship (sharing a house and all) is far too close and intimate for any of their tactics to work. Sometimes, though, it takes me a little while to catch on to their underhanded tactics.

One of my heroines almost pulled the wool over my eyes entirely. She was so slick, I never suspected anything. Okay, this isn't quite true. I briefly questioned why she didn't have any friends in her home city. Her only friends are in another country some 3,500 miles away and even then she doesn't see more than a few times a year. But she was so good, it was only a fleeting though that I didn't spend much time on.

She would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for the synopsis.

As I'm writing it, trying to make it work with the hero's issue--which I thought was the driving growth arc of the story--I realize his problem isn't enough to carry the synopsis. At first, I just thought that I wasn't explaining his issue well, that it would be better in the book. But if the synopsis is a mess, would I even have the opportunity to write the book?

A friend suggested I focus on the heroine's issue and not even mention the hero's in the synopsis. And it stymied me. The heroine apparently had no issues. She was a paragon. And that set my BS detector humming. Everyone has issues and baggage--you don't reach her age without them.

Once I turned the spotlights on her and got out the rubber hose, I discovered more than I expected. As it turns out, she does have the growth arc that drives the book. Yes, the hero has his issues--his are actually pretty close to the heroine's--the difference is that he has friends. I've never before had two characters with the same problems to overcome. This could be interesting.