Day two hundred eleven of my 365 Day Writing Project.
I have been keen to work on the characters in my book. I’m making notes to more fully develop the characters and to not let them get watered down and lost in the plot. After reading the first draft, I realized that although the characters are compelling in my mind and I know them in and out, I wasn’t conveying enough about them to the reader. As I wrote, I imagined their involvement in the story, why they would have certain reactions to events and how they would interact with other characters based on their personalities and past histories. I see now that I wasn’t getting enough of that information on the page. Important aspects of my characters weren’t adequately coming through my writing.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that I am able to recognize these flaws in my first draft. I know I have work to do. I want my characters to be as compelling as they deserve to be. To allow anything less would cheat the story and most definitely, the reader. Because if your characters aren’t compelling, your book won’t be either.
Day one hundred twenty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.
The flow was disjointed for me tonight. My problem? Timing. Not real world timing, but timing within the story I am writing. I started a new chapter that is partly a re-telling of a scene from another character’s perspective. It is more of an overlap of two scenes, but the point is to tell it from two perspectives. That’s where the difficulty came in. Getting the timing right was harder than I expected.
These two characters are having different experiences in the scene, with the first being actively involved and the other being an observer. They enter and exit the scene at different times. That’s all well and good, except for making the timing work with the rest of each of their respective stories. They each came from somewhere doing something, and after the scene they each have somewhere to go. The timing of all of this is just plain tricky. It made writing the scene twice equally tricky.
I decided to just write the scene now and fix the timing later. It’s not the best solution, but it’s a solution I can make work. It won’t be the case in the end, but for now, timing isn’t everything.
I sprung into writing today at the beginning of a fast-paced scene. I have so much fun writing those. One reason they are fun is how the words just fly onto the page. I wrote for under an hour and hammered out 1,200 words without breaking a sweat. I don’t want to say it was easy, but as far as how the writing came to me, it was.
I am always learning about the creative process. I have learned how the fast-paced scenes are the most enjoyable to write, while the slower-paced ones tend feel…well, slower to write. Hello, Captain Obvious. But seriously, I find it interesting that the type of scene I am writing dictates my writing experience. I suppose it is rather silly for me to think otherwise, that my writing experience would be the same no matter what I was writing. I know that it is not. I experience the emotions while I write the characters’ experience of them. I feel it as I write it. If I didn’t, I don’t think it would be very good writing.
Tonight, I wrote a fast-paced scene that was dark, dramatic and uncertain, causing me to feel anxious, nervous and worried. Fight or flight ensued. The words spilled out as I hit the keys, my fingers and focus being driven by anxiety and maybe even some adrenaline. So the words came to me faster and I typed with hyper-speed, banging on the keys with aggressive purpose. I don’t think I ever realized it before, but it is coming clear to me now that my viscerally empathetic responses shape not only my experience of writing a scene, but also what will be the experience of the reader. This is yet another reason to love books, and especially, to love writing them.
Today I worked on a chapter in which the main character remembers something from her childhood. I had originally intended for her flashback to be quick and to the point, but it got much more involved and lengthy. The story developed nicely and her memory of what happened more than fifteen years ago (from her present day) gives some good insight into her make-up as an adult.
Although it is an excellent window into the main character’s history as well as a good tie-in to what is happening to her currently and why she is handling it the way she is, this flashback does bring up a dilemma for me surrounding the timing. It wouldn’t be a creative process without a dilemma of some sort, right?
Writing a flashback into a story is, in my opinion, an effective tool to help the reader get to know a character. I have done it previously in this book, but this particular flashback makes me wonder if it should be occurring earlier in the story. The dilemma is this: Is it possible to screw up the timing of a flashback? Is it ever too late to give the reader more history about a character? My instinct with regard to the latter tells me ‘no,’ but it would be helpful to hear from other writers about their use of flashbacks because I do generally believe that timing can be crucial.
The information revealed in this particular flashback is information the reader doesn’t need to have earlier in the story, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come earlier. Perhaps the reader will feel cheated not learning of it sooner. It’s tough to tell at this point but I am going to make note of it for later.
After several chapters writing from the perspective of my main character, I have made a big change. I am now writing a chapter in which other layers of the story unfold as described from the perspectives of two key players in her life. Although unplanned, these changes in character perspectives are proving to be quite enjoyable to write. Even more surprising is how the scope of the story has significantly expanded from these developments. Oh, how I love the learning process of writing fiction!
I took the story in this direction because while writing about some pretty intense things happening to “Skylar,” I couldn’t stop thinking about what these two men would be doing while she was missing. They would be trying to reach her, frantically, and would be worried and confused about perhaps their own involvement in things going wrong. They would both be compelled to take action to find her. First, separately, and then later, together. Operating on very little information in a very big city, they would have to go through many challenges to get answers, and hopefully, to find Skylar.
Of course, I have read many books with accounts from different perspectives. But writing it is an entirely different experience. I’m writing all three perspectives from the third-person point of view because I think it is easier for readers to follow. For this book, which has plenty of action and plot twists, the flow of the story is important. When I go back and read how this chapter flows I may switch back and forth between these three characters more often. Or, perhaps I’ll keep it to a minimum. Only the story will tell. For now, I’m relishing in the new creative channels that have opened because of these unplanned changes.