I want you imagine me, tall and lanky, dancing in a circle and gibbering like a madwoman in absolute GLEE. You’re right, that is an ugly picture, but it’s apropos to how I feel right now.
Remember my twelve-year-old character that has been causing me to suffer multiple conniptions? Well I’ve finally got her. Here’s how it happened:
I know I’ve talked about character sketches endlessly, and I think that they are valuable tools. I pour over them when I’m unable to connect with my characters during an important scene. However, with Lindsay I was never able to manufacture much more than the barest sketch of her character. She remained an enigma to me no matter how hard I tried. I had a twelve-year-old caricature where I wanted a flesh and blood believable character.
The character sketch wasn’t working, so I decided to write around her for a while. I wrote chapter two, and I have the action in addition to a glimmer of her inner self, but it was very uncomfortable for me to write from her point of view. She came through brilliantly when I was writing from Lucian’s point of view, but when it came time to write my next chapter from Lindsay’s point of view, I foundered. I wrote the chapter anyway, hoping that at some point, Lindsay would show me a glimmer of her inner self.
I hated the entire chapter. It wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. In mad desperation, I threw the chapter out to my OWW critique group and it came back mangled and maimed. I printed all their suggestions, re-worked the chapter and decided to run the new version by two OWW members via e-mail before I re-submitted it to the entire OWW group. One of these gracious ladies sent me back a detailed critique and it was with her critique that I unearthed Lindsay.
There was one line that I had thrown into the paragraph almost as an afterthought. All right, I was grasping at straws. The line is: He sounded like her dad after he finished the fourth beer that always signaled the inevitable fight between her parents. And my OWW critiquer said that Lindsay’s behavior toward Lucian did not reflect the behavior of a child of an alcoholic.
I didn’t say Lindsay was the child of an alcoholic. It never occurred to me that her father might be a functioning alcoholic. But it worked. It worked splendidly! Suddenly this child is alive before my eyes, and I can anticipate her thoughts, how she’s going to act and react to her situations and the people around her.
Always start with a character sketch. I hate having to write my way into a character like I had to do with Lindsay because it is so time consuming. However, writers shouldn’t become so locked into one methodology that they disregard all others. Writers have numerous tools and I believe it’s important to be flexible enough to use them all. Of course, in this case, this magic ah-ha moment came from someone else’s insight. I can’t wait to hear from my other OWW critiquer, because I’m sure I’ll be able to weave her suggestions into Lindsay’s character as well.
Tomorrow I start the re-writes on chapter seven and there I’m sure I’ll find a whole host of issues awaiting me. But just for today, I can gibber and I dance like a wild-woman (hehe).
Copyright 2009 Teresa Frohock