NaNoEdMo Week 3: Those crazy characters

So I’m getting this out a little late, because I had a deadline to meet last week on an unexpected project. I was asked to do a guest blog post for a major website, an honor which I feel was completely unearned. I’m pretty pleased with what I wrote, though, and I’ll share the link here as soon as it’s up. Let’s face it, I’ll be sharing that with everyone who will listen. I’m pretty excited. Because of this, I’m ridiculously behind on my NaNoEdMo hours, and I actually forgot to log them at all last week. So I will not be winning this year. Nevertheless, I am still plowing ahead with my revision of PQ.

One of the biggest areas needing improvement in my novel is my characters. As is typical in a first draft, I had characters who walked into scenes and then never appeared again. Others were very inconsistently portrayed, both in small details and their motivations. My villain was weak, and actually fairly undefined. The climax involved a war between forces that had never been properly introduced. I had a major character start a scene talking about his wife, then completely ignored that and had him be single for the rest of the novel. These are the sorts of things you do when you’re writing a first draft. You change your mind, move on, and pledge to fix them in revision.

Actually fixing them is not always easy. In analyzing my characters, I realized that I had made the wrong person the villain. A different character had much better motivation to oppose my protagonist, and it was possible to keep his identity hidden until ultimately using it as the biggest twist in the story. This means that I am now re-plotting my entire novel, because this character had been more of a pawn in the big picture of the first draft. In some cases, I’m just tweaking existing scenes to place him in a position of power. In others, I’m scrapping entire scenes and adding new ones.

Another character issue I found is a bit of a tougher call. I realized that my protagonist has no friends. Well, she has one friend who disappears about halfway through the story, and who is little more than set dressing. The trouble is, I’ve written a very independent protagonist who is used to spending time on her own because of her profession, and who has only just returned to her home city after years of being away. I’ve decided to bring in some new characters that were friends of hers during her time away, and I’m looking for ways to better incorporate the one friend I originally wrote.

When considering character changes, the biggest question I’ve been asking myself is, “How does this person help the story?” Clearly defining each character’s role in the story is the first step in making sure you have the right cast of characters. Weeding out extraneous characters makes the story flow better for your readers, and can tighten up your scenes. I’m getting rid of probably a dozen one-off characters, but adding nearly as many supporting cast members to flesh out the story where it was thin on first draft.

Have you had to cut a character you loved? Or maybe, like me, you realized your protagonist had no allies to help them reach their goals? Share your own experiences in the comments. I’ll have one more NaNoEdMo post later this week. If you’re participating, let me know how your revision is going and if you’re on-target for total editing hours. You can do it!


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Filed under NaNoEdMo, Revision, Writing

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