Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turning up the Heat

Have you ever stood in a crowd of people? Perhaps at a party or a sports event--anywhere. You're talking to one particular person, maybe the one you came with but for some reason your attention keeps getting diverted. You start noticing that other man or woman standing nearby. The one who has a way with his words, or a certain way he reacts--with an engaging smile or an infectious laugh.

You turn from who you are supposed to be giving all your attention to in order to listen to them.

On Monday as I sat in the waiting room while my husband had his surgery, (thank you for all your prayers! He's on the mend.) I pulled out The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I'd purchased the book so it would arrive in time for me to read that day.

As I read the chapter about our heroes and protagonists, I finally figured out why I kept turning away from my main character in my current WIP. I figured out why the other character kept grabbing my attention.

He needed to be the main character. He exhibits the possiblity of hero qualities. Not the whiny woman who I thought I could transform. He isn't pefect but he's the one I relate to most.

Ok so that means some heavy revisions but I'm glad I listened. I'm glad I caught my problem at 16,000 words rather than later.

Are you listening to your characters--to your heart--to what your instincts are telling you about them? Have you had to make some major character changes early on?

40 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

You have to keep in mind, though, that if your protagonist starts out with heroic qualities, then where is he to go? Will he have an arc? Your original protag, on the other hand, might have the possibility of developing those qualities as s/he grows and faces the challenges on her way to finding herself or her purpose.

Helen
Straight From Hel

momma's heart said...

I'm glad things went fine yesterday and that he's on the mend. Praying.

I'm learning so much from you, as I read these posts. I don't know if I have any fiction in me, but I love learning all these details.

Lin Floyd said...

I taught a class on blogging last night to our writers group and showed them your page and how you had such great ideas for writers. Keep up the good work.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

It amazes me how much of a blessing bloggers can be and in what ways too. We just never know how God will use us, do we?

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Okay, that one went with the other post too.

The Fire in Fiction is a great book. One of those that I need to take in small doses though, because there is so much in it to absorb.

Jody Hedlund said...

Fire In Fiction is on my Christmas Wish List! And yes, it's awesome your character caught your attention early in the novel!

Andrea said...

My heart usually navigates my writing, good or bad!
Hope your husband is recovering and doing well.
Blessings, andrea

Jill Kemerer said...

I agree! Some characters just pull us in. Those are the ones to write about! If one of my main characters is kind of blah, it usually means I don't know enough about her. Delving into the character's past can really help.

I'm so glad your husband is recovering!

jdcoughlin said...

Mr. Maass is the Bomb isn't he? Very concise. Very common sense. Gives me the, why didn't I think of that, feeling when I give him a listen. But I did just change a bad character and gave him some goodness. And what a change. So much more depth.
Best wishes to you hubby!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love how this change came about for you. I find I realize stuff like this at the oddest times, mostly when I'm in the shower. You should see how funny I look racing around w/ a towel around my body and my head trying to get to a computuer or pen so I get it all down. :D

Glad your man is on the mend.
~ Wendy

Angie Ledbetter said...

Woohoo on the WIP work...but can't ya keep both strong characters?

Prayers for hubby (and his caregiver). :)

Paul said...

I've definitely done major revisions focusing on character. For me sometimes the voice doesn't shine through until I'm several drafts into the project.

Jessica said...

So far I haven't done major character changes, but who knows, I might someday. :-) I'm trying to listen to my heart and I usually go where the characters do. I will say that I've had non-heroic characters because I used the wrong words. Wording is everything. So is motivation. Have fun with this guy. :-)

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

What happens when I'm the main character of most of my writing? I'd better be paying attention...

I've struggled with words lately; maybe I need to "get a life" outside these four walls. My husband is always telling me to "get outside" and get moving; he seems to think this might inspire me. You know... make ME more interesting!

Glad hubby is on the mend. Hang in there and keep writing!

peace~elaine

Susan R. Mills said...

I realized my character issue way too late. It's one reason I'm having to rewrite my whole manuscript. I'm glad you found your problem early.

Greg C said...

Yes I am listening to my heart and my instincts and they are telling me I am heading in the wrong direction.

Melissa Marsh said...

Very insightful! I think I'm listening to my characters. I know that even in certain scenes, I need to listen to who is supposed to be the POV - often it will make a great deal of difference.

Journaling Woman said...

Well I have WIP where the main character is a little boring. I think I am pampering her...protecting her not accepting your flaws. I need to sit down with her and have a talk.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's so great you caught something like that early on!

And I'm so happy that your hubby is on the mend!

carolynyalin said...

I just ordered this book, and hope to start it soon.
Glad all went well with the surgery.

Precious Gems said...

That is my dream to write a book. Thanks so much for sharing. I just wrote a blog you might be interested in. Take a peek!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Terri!

I'm glad your husband is doing well!

I definitely understand! I've never had a secondary character become the MC, but I have had one become so real to me that I empathesized with her, staying up late at night because I understood her heart. Since she's my antagonist, it completely caught me by surprise. Now I love her as much as the mc.

Kara said...

So glad you husband is doing well!

That is awesome that you caught that early on. I guess I need to get that book too!

Cindy said...

Oh, that Donald Maass book is awesome and it seems to be making the rounds :D

In my current manuscript, I am finding heroes in just about all my characters except my main character :) It's a challenge because I find myself wanting to create more scenes with those characters even though they aren't the focus of the story. The great thing is, however, I feel my main character is still strong and she's being STRONGLY influenced by all these other enjoyable and passionate characters. And she's got redeemable qualities by the handfuls--I'm learning that as I go!

I'm just too excited about this, I'd take up three comment boxes if I could :D I am soooo, soooo happy your hubby is doing well and getting better.

Sassy Granny ... said...

All I can say is: you go girl! Since I'm not a writer (per se), I don't give much thought to characters (other than the ones I live with).

So glad hubby's doing well. No doubt you'll sleep much better tonight!

Hugs,
Kathleen

Katie Ganshert said...

Donald Maass is a genius, isn't he? I love his books. So glad you discovered this before you got any further. Praying your revisions go well and your new MC steals the show with relative ease!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I must pick up Donald Maass' books.

My books are multiple POV, but have two main characters. As I write, I get to know them.

I'm still reading Brandilynn Collins' book on characters. Maybe some of it will stick. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Natalie said...

I just changed my protagonist from a class hearthrob to a class clown-- it just worked better for the story. It's nice to realize these things as early as possible--it's a pain to change everything :)

Edie said...

I'm so sorry I got here late to pray for your husband's surgery but I will pray for quick and complete recovery.

I will pray for your neighbor too. Poor woman. My heart goes out to her.

Glad you got your characters worked out. Wow that sounds like a lot of rework. I really admire you.

authorphilipkledzik said...

Thank you for your post. I'll have to check out the book The Fire in Fiction. I've definately noticed that as I write my novels they tend to turn into something different than what I had originally planned, even with trying to stick to an outline. Thanks for the encouragement!
Philip Kledzik
"Painted Rooms"
www.authorphilipkledzik.books.officelive.com

Heather Sunseri said...

Yeah, I realized 25k words in that I really liked my villain. He's no longer a villain and I now have a new villain who is really a horrible person. But my original "villain" is just misunderstood. He has turned out to be the hero.

LauraLee Shaw said...

So glad your husband's surgery went well. Haven't been by in awhile, but I'm so excited to see all that the Lord is doing with your gifts and talents, and especially the way you are sharing them with others. Love that!

Nancy said...

That's a major work change. Good for you. But you've got to love your main guy. You'll be much happier in the end.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Terri:
How did the job interview go? Been thinking about you this morning.

On another note, I've had a very difficult time getting back into my WIP. Did I say difficult? Anyway, today I was bound and determined to get another 1200 words written, and finally, after 4 hours, I'm there. Have mercy. This is something. Pray that I will stay the course. I don't see me making swift progress; I'd settle for steady at this point.

Just wanted to share this with someone who understood!

peace~elaine

Amy Tate said...

Yes! I had to tone down a character because she was taking over. After some tweeking, I got my main character where he needed to be, and I moved Lucy to my current WIP...as the main character. It's sort of fun when it happens that way, because they come to life. It's more work, but at least it's fun work.

Texas Playwright Chick said...

Ah, important point. I don't know about you book writers, but us playwrights often have a character 'take over' and you do have to stop and look carefully at what's happening. Why is the more minor character drawing the attention....

Kathryn Magendie said...

SO glad your husband is okay! *big hug and smiling*


One of the mistakes I think that writers make is they are afraid to change something, especially if they've written many words and especially if it is major changes ...but, when your instincts prod you like that, just do it, as you are doing! When I tossed out 30,000 words of the second VK novel, it hurt like hellvetica, but, it had to be done...those 30,000 words just would not work. I've since re-written those words plus more and the novel will be better for it...

so, congrats on your ephipany~!

Faith Imagined said...

I'm glad you're willing to give up all the effort and time (16,000words) to keep to the integrity of the story within you!

Heckety said...

Hmmm. Need to think about this and its relevance to me and my 'doings'. Thank you for making me think!

Amy De Trempe said...

When I added an already planned brother into my current WIP, he took on a bigger life than I anticiapted, as did the heroine's best friend and a story blossomed out of that which was so unexpected. I want to stop work on my current WIP and work on their story. This happens to me all the time, which is why I have 15 different stories started.