Monday, April 30, 2018

Writers: This Happens When You Develop a Character

They, um, develop.

I can virtually hear some of you say, "Well, duh! That's the point."

But it's true.

And that's one good reason why, soon after the writer types the last words of the novelist, he or she needs to get out the red pen, go back to the beginning, and reread (and edit) the characters.

Because they'll have changed.

Funny, isn't it?

We spend SO MUCH TIME getting them JUST RIGHT. We know what's on their feet and in their refrigerators. We know what they do on Saturday afternoons and how thoroughly they clean their homes.

Yet somehow, as if they have lives of their own, these make-believe people will grow, change, and take on a lives of their own while you're busy writing their story.

We can see it happen in other media. Take a television series that's run ten seasons. Re-watch the earlier seasons and compare the characters, then and now. Or reread first comic books of longtime series: Foxtrot, Doonesbury, Peanuts.

You see what I mean? Now look at your story.

You'll giggle (or groan) at some of Joe Doe's early dialogue. He'd NEVER say that!

Or you'll shake your head at some of his reactions and responses in the opening chapters. Nope, not Joe!

Even when we put dedicated time in fabricating pretend people, until we move them about the story like chess pieces, we never see their full scope. It can happen so gradually, you may miss it.

Hence, another read, the red pen, and a bit more editing.

You'll be happier with the story if you do.

And so will your reader.

Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

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