Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You Don't Know Me

It's the first Wednesday of the month and that means it is time for another insecure writer posting.  And, boy, am I insecure right now.  I have insecurity running down the street screaming loud and long.  Whew.  It's a relief to admit that.  Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group, we can all vent once a month. His co-hosts today are Julie Flanders, Heather Gardner, Kim Van Sickler, and Elsie is Writing. Please be sure to thank them for their time and effort to make all IWSG members feel welcome.

I confess I have not been writing.

I know.  I know.  I know.

I have a friend reading my WIP and she has actually pointed out some pretty important holes.  It finally became clear that all of these problems go back to my conflicting ideas about the character.  Which begs the question: do I know my character?  If I don't, then how can I write that character???  So, I have been spending time just pondering.

It has occurred to me that I can just keep writing and fix this problem in the edits.  Some authors have revamped entire novels once they got the idea down.

Has this ever happened to you?  Did you think that you KNEW your MC and then realized that maybe you weren't as certain as you thought?  How did you resolve this issue?  Did you write your way through it or spend your time in other constructive ways?  


  1. I've heard others say the best way to get to know your characters is to interview them. Maybe that would help?

  2. I'm feeling a little like that right now about my WIP. I feel like my female lead changed personalities in the middle. I keep telling myself that is what second drafts are for, to fix the big problems.

  3. Yikes, do I understand how you feel, Robin. One of my friend's has a mag-editor for a husband who has kindly offered to read my WIP when I'm finished. That was back in August. Am I finished my WIP? Heck no! I've done 2 more chapters since his offer. By the time I do finish he'll have probably forgotten who I am.

    Thanks for the great post.

  4. One a pretty successful author and editor told me that a good fun way to get to know your character was to go out with him. I raised my eyebrow too. But it's like some sort of interview. You imagine your character going wherever you go, and you "talk" with it, see how it manages daily life, what does it think about your activities, if it has similar activities, how does it handle, etc. I tried this technique after that chat and I found some very interesting stuff about my character. He turned out to be very chatty.

  5. I had a lengthy comment about nine tenths complete when my battery ran out - lucky you.

    In a nutshell what I was trying to say is; perhaps you DO know your character well, maybe so well in fact that you neglect to explain their motivations enough. I had this problem with my MC and when it was pointed out to me that there wasn't sufficient motivation for the character to do/say/think certain things I started tearing my hair in revisions, only to find out that YES there was sufficient motivation, I just had not let my readers in on it (because I KNEW it so well, I didn't feel the need to WRITE it- maybe who knows), but that was a much easier fix.

    I found out the hard way that although BETAS are great and necessary, it's best to have a consensus. I had two readers in direct conflict as to their opinions about what my story needed. It can make you nuts (or in my case more nuts).

    With respect to you questions about fixes - I wrote two full length novels during two separate NANOs. I found it very helpful to get my story down or up on the screen in that 30 day period and then go back and fill in the blanks, flesh out the characters and slash and burn the junk. For me it's all about Beginning, Middle and Ending, then you work on the rest.

    I've read some of your excerpts on other sites. You seem to have a great premise and an interesting character. Your style is reminiscent of two successful authors I enjoy for 'light reading'. I do think you could develop your own style (maybe similar to your very own style - as in how you write your blog) and have a knock-out story. Just sayin'.

  6. I'm in the middle of gutting much of the original manuscript for my current WIP, so I say tear it apart and rebuild it right. It's hard to get anything even remotely right in the rough draft, so don't feel insecure. The fact you realize this puts you ahead of many, many people who want to be writers but don't want to do what it takes to make their writing great.

  7. It happens almost every time I write, LOL!

    But unfortunately, I have no secret weapon, and what's worked for me at times in the past to get over humps like this has also NOT worked at other times. So I can't offer you that much advice beyond simply: "write what feels right".

    Not knowing every aspect of your character is not necessarily a bad thing -- it keeps the character complex and interesting. You're learning their story as you write it, just like your readers will.when they read it.

    Embrace the mystery, I say!

    Best of luck to ya!!!

  8. Hi, Robin,
    Maybe before you do a major edit, you can think about the motivation/needs/goals. If you have those fixed maybe it won't be so hard to fill in the plot holes and such.

  9. I use a detailed character sheet that covers background, personality, strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc. If it would help, be happy to email it to you.

  10. Hi Robin!
    You're getting some good advice.
    What works for me is before I start writing I create my characters. I go so far as to scour magazines to find what they look like. Then for each character I create a backstory. Once I have the general idea of who my characters are and feel like I kind of know them, I start writing. Inevitably I learn more about them as I write and I add those things to my character sketches. I review those sketches periodically to find what I've left out of weaving into the backstory about them, and of course I'm constantly tweaking facts and changing things. BUT it is a tremendous help for me to outline my characters ahead of time.

    I'm learning how important it is both from a timesuck perspective and also from a mental perspective to get my story on track earlier rather than later, and this is what helps me. You'll find what works best for you as you go along. Good luck!

    --December IWSG co-host

  11. Sounds like you've gotten some excellent advice Robin! Thanks for encouraging me, and I know that things will work our for your character. You're too talented to let this setback get you down.


  12. Sometimes it's not a question of how well you know your mc. Sometimes it's just a question of narrowing the focus on what you want to show your reader. What I mean is, all real people can have conflicting ideas and even illogical beliefs; they can change their minds for no reason, be intuitive or stubborn just because that's the way they are. But if you give these realistic attributes to your mc, the reader will just get confused. Readers always want to know "Why?" So it's better to focus on only certain characterization attributes and make sure the reader understands the character's reasons for doing what he/she does. Good luck!! :-)

  13. I have always pushed through and kept writing. That's kind of my motto in general - but I find that sometimes when I THINK I know my MC I realize that he won't do want I want him to do later on and things take a turn despite all my best efforts. That being said - sometimes it is hard to keep a clear head as you write if you don't have a couple really solid pillars. One of the things that I tried out and found somewhat helpful was to do a Meyers-Briggs personality test for a couple of my characters. I found that it helped (I did the one on Maybe try that out and see if it helps redirect you. That or do some free writing on your character - but follow the free writing rules - don't stop, don't edit, don't judge = just spew it all out. Sometimes that helps me a lot. Good luck. I'm sure it will only prove a small bump in the road, and you will quickly be back on your way.

  14. I don't necessarily think it's a problem that you feel you don't know your MC that well. People are complex and every-changing, so your MC is developing with every paragraph. Down those lines, I say: Keep writing, Robin. Go write through it.


  15. Do you know your character? Is your plot believable? Is the conflict believable/ resolved too easily/too quickly?
    These are all reasons why I am not a writer. I'd like to be and I know I should work at it, but I'm quite sure any story I might write wouldn't make it past a first draft. My ideas just never "gel".

  16. When I find myself in this position I turn to my list of character/story questions which I've found to be quite helpful. Some of them are very basic questions like name DOB family school, but others delve deeper like what is your characters biggest fear? What does your character want more than anything else? If you want I can send them to you - just email me :)

  17. The story of my life. Hmm--actually the story of my MC is kind of a story of my life. I put myself inside the character and try to imagine what I would be doing if I were that person and through my imagination live that character's life. I take myself from the story at hand and put myself as that character in other situations.

    I don't know how well it works, but that's what I often do.

    Tossing It Out

  18. Just a suggestion connect with your MC. For instance give him/her a personality, Take notes on everything you want your MC to be. Dig into the mind of the MC. Take notes, pretend you are the MC. I'm not sure if that makes sense.

  19. It happens to all fiction writers. I bought a book one time that enabled me to fill in the complete biography of all the characters in any novel - before anything was written! It does not make us brilliant writers, but it solves the immediate problem.

  20. Wow. What a great lot of advice there is here. I am going to try ALL of them and see what works best.

    Anyone who offered to email me material, YES PLEASE.

  21. I use Scrivener to write my novels, so all of my character bios are right there staring me in the face. If I decide to go off the rails, I feel like I have that freedom, however.

    Also keep in mind that character are multi dimensional, and your want them to be dynamic as possible. People change and evolve throughout your story.

  22. Well, yeah, revision is part of discovering the character too. We can't know them truly until we've written their story. They evolve the more we get to know them. I've written two novels based on the same MC and she continues to grow and reveal herself to me, same as any interesting person would over time. :))

  23. What the heck happened to my comment?

  24. I was kinda going thru this with my sequel. Oy. Just haven't been in the mode. But I've outlined the first half extensively, so I've forced myself to crank out at least one chapter a day. And I've only done 2 so far. It's literally taken my 4-5 hours to do a chapter. But I'm ok with that cuz often I just sit and think about what needs to happen while staring at the screen. So anyway, it's working for me cuz I'm thinking in short terms. 1 chapter in 1 day. That's it.

  25. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that you should draw up a character profile and include lots of tiny details, even stuff that probably won't be included in the actual story, but will give you an in depth understanding of your character, what makes him tick, how he'd respond/react in different situations, etc.
    The more detailed the profile, the more life-like the character.
    That's just my two cents... and perhaps I should take this advice and use it! LOL

  26. Hmmm...This happened to me with my first manuscript. I couldn't nail down my MC. Because of it, I rewrote it 432 times and eventually shelved it (it had many problems). HOWEVER, I think that you can get to know your MC as you write and then go back and fix him/her. I really do. I don't be too hard on yourself for not writing. Pondering time is important too. ;) I've spent all day "pondering" how to outline the second half of my MS. It's one of the more productive days I've had and I didn't write a word. ;)


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