You Always Hurt the Characters You Love
Posted on Feb 29, 2012
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my WIP here. For good reason I think – I’ve been in a bit of a vulnerable state regarding it lately. I sent out an initial query flurry in mid-January, entered a couple of contests, got some interesting feedback. Stopped querying.
Because of those contests, I met a couple of fantastic new beta readers in addition to the wonderful CPs I met a few months ago and my other CPs who have been with me forever. These new folks graciously offered to take a look at what I had and give me their feedback. I sent the MS off and thought I had a finished product for them to read. Their comments made me realize in no uncertain terms that while the book was ok, I still had lots of work to do.
My heart broke. Don’t get me wrong – their comments and critiques were kind and thorough and completely dead right. I just couldn’t fathom having to go back into a story I thought I’d finished and having to make some pretty substantial changes.
Like deleting a POV.
There has been something fundamentally bothering me about the story for a while. Something I keep ignoring and assuming is my author brain. But it niggled at me, kept me from sending any more queries. And then I realized two things (with the help of these wonderful people). One of my main characters was BORING. Even though I’d tried to ramp up the internal conflict, there was no EXTERNAL conflict. Nothing that forced her to make the hard decisions. Nothing that put her in a spot where she had no choices. And when someone says they like your book, but there was no real incentive to pick it back up, you know you have a problem. So yeah, the thought of having to start over, to figure out how to weave that sort of information back into a story you thought was done almost made me cry. I wanted to give up.
And then I realized, even worse, that one of my POV characters really served no purpose but to repeat what the reader already knew (thanks to Marieke for pointing this out!). I put him in there to give the reader a different perspective, to give them insight into the other side of the story, but instead, it slowed down the pacing, took away the tension, and really just didn’t work. Everything that he said/showed/did would be better served to be said/shown/done within his interactions with my other MCs.
But it kind of hurt. I loved some of those chapters – the details, the sentiment, the personality. I’ve never really had to kill any darlings before, but this more than made up for it. Both of these things coupled together gave me a serious case of the I NEED TO GIVE UP ON THIS STORY ALREADY. I turned off my computer, started looking at another WIP, tried to ignore the calls of my MCs.
And then I thought…what if…. What if I just moved that one chapter here. What would happen if I deleted that chapter over there? What if something bad happened to someone my MC loves? Before I knew it, I’d cut 5k words and spent an entire weekend playing What If. I’m still having a hard time, but now at least there’s some excitement again at seeing these changes.
I’m hoping when I’m done this will be the book I thought I had in the first place.