No one is born perfect. We don’t pop out of the womb walking, talking, and negotiating complex business transactions. We must learn. We adapt. We evolve. The same is true in writing. You must be willing to let your story evolve.
evolution: (n) the process of working out or developing.
Whether or not we want to believe it, first drafts are not born perfect. For many people (including yours truly), it’ll take second, third, fourth drafts. As we write and re-write we need to be willing to let our characters and the plot work themselves out.
Have you ever found yourself sitting at your keyboard, trying to figure out why your story isn’t working? After spending hours and days and weeks and months slaving away, creating characters and plots, things just aren’t fitting together. Why?
I’m currently on the third rewrite of a manuscript. My main character started as a ditzy girly-girl. I wrote 45,000 words before I realized the plot wasn’t working. Then I wrote another 40,000 words before I realized it wasn’t just the plot – it was my main character. I wanted to show her transition from ditz to down-to-earth, and I forced it through almost 90,000 words. I knew what I wanted from my girl, and I tried to make it happen.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t working. That girl didn’t fit well with my other characters, so she didn’t fit well in the story, which wouldn’t work at all, since the story was about her. How did that happen?
It happened because I wasn’t willing to let my character develop. There were character traits and flaws that needed to be worked out, but I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to do it because I knew it would change the person I had created.
What I never considered was that I had to let my character evolve. Yes, I had created a wonderful person, but it was just a glimpse of her true self. Like a first impression, I had an idea of what the person was like, but not the full picture. I had to let her develop. Now I realize that she’s actually a meticulous girly-girl, a planner and organizer. Understanding that makes all of the difference to the plot, which is finally coming together.
In order to let my character evolve, however, I had to learn a little bit about people. Two books that I found very helpful were Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins, and What Type Am I? by Renee Baron. I found that these books helped me to figure out how people might really act as well as how to write about it, and that helped when I realized that my characters wanted to act differently than I thought they should.
QUESTION: Have any of your characters evolved beyond what you originally imagined? How did you handle it?