A Lesson in Character Development

I love this time of the day.  I put the toddlers in their rooms for quiet time and I sneak away in absolute silence to write.  I’ve always told myself that when I get  real time to myself, my writing goals are much easier to accomplish.  I’ve been reading about about voice, and in doing so, I have turned the microscope on high this morning.  I got out my journal and went into the kitchen to fix lunch for the kids.  They tore through the backyard after eating and I finally got to turn off the TV (the theme song from Cars has been worn out in this house the last few days thanks to my husband recovering the missing DVD).  I stood there with a blank look on my face just… staring.  Something I always do when I’m about to start scribbling like a mad woman.  In the end, here is what the gist of my 10 page doodle-rant was:

I’m just not that happy with my manuscript.  I mean, I really like my story, but I just don’t think I’m doing the best job developing my main character.  Writing in first person has enabled me to tell a story, but I feel like there’s more to it creatively and I just haven’t tapped into it yet.  I think it’s because I’m afraid that some people might not relate to my character enough and see her the way that I do – so I think it’s fear.  The only way to find out is to re-write it in a different narrative mode and see what happens.   If the fear goes away, then I’ll know it’s because I was drowning my character in the abyss of paranoia.  If it’s still there… well, then I guess this will have been an exercise in futility.


Well that sucked was painful.   First person is what developed her, and I can’t abandon it – I’m too attached…I think.  I sent a glib of it to my editor extraordinaire, we’ll see what she thinks.  It would be quite the task to rewrite the entire novel, but I would do it if it would make the story better.   And if I do that, as soon as I get the story out of me (all over again) from a different point of view, then the edits will start.  All. Over. Again.


She liked it.  I could keep pretending that it’s just a character / plot development exercise and see what happens?


I was suffocating my main character and creating enormous pressure on her to tell the story, when she may not be the best person to tell it, or simply be able to tell all of it.  After I got started, the words started spilling out… and this is how you know you made the right decision to make such a drastic change.  It’s kind of like when your hair grows out and it starts splitting at the ends – sometimes the best prescription to renew the liveliness of your hair is to chop it off.  You fret over it before you do it, but after a few days you’re glad you made the decision.

My compassionate editor didn’t want to tell me that I was right, be we’re both glad she did.   I’ll hammer on today and let it rest for a couple of days, and we’ll see what Monday brings.  That’s ample time to let this experiment simmer and then read the (hopefully positive) changes.  By then I’ll be able to tell if I’m simply too close to the fire here, or if I know exactly what I’m doing.  Let the re-write begin.


This feels like my very first edit, and is going very well.


3 Responses to “A Lesson in Character Development”

  1. worddreams Says:

    You sound so familiar. I think I’ve done that a zillion times over the years.

  2. JB Hill Says:

    I was surprised that I would be so excited to start over. It’s going pretty well, and it feels almost like the very first edit I ever did.

  3. Procrastination « JB Hill Says:

    […] edited front to back twice now, and I’m letting it rest again before picking it up to change the narrative mode (actually, I’ve already begun this process, but I stopped at chapter 4 to clear my head).   […]

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