Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…

by Rick Blechta

Now that I’m back seriously crafting my new novel and able to put in the required hours without risk of falling behind in more monetarily meaningful work, I’m faced with the problem of getting to know the characters populating the story.

Since this is also the first in what I’m hoping might become a long-running series, I’m also well aware of the dangers and pitfalls of the long term consequences of getting their personalities incorrect. As I’ve mentioned here before, I once began one of my one-off thrillers with a poorly-drawn character and by the time I got to around the 70th page of my ms, I realized that I was faced with a horrible problem: I really disliked the person who was driving my story, and if I’d continued on, I would probably have wound up killing him off before the end of the story. Even worse, the narration was in first-person! So I was down the end of a dark alley facing a blank wall. I stopped writing the novel, then began again with a completely different protagonist, one with whom I felt I could “work”.

So with the start of a novel that is also the start of a series (if I should be so lucky), I have to make sure I’ve gotten things right. I don’t want to be working on a story several books down the line and realize that I’d gotten one of my protagonists seriously skewed way back in the first book. Not much you can do then, is there?

I spent a lot of hours working up pretty extensive character background outlines for both of my protagonists. Even so, nearly every time I sit down to work, I realize I left out something pretty critical. Back to my outlines to add this additional information. Yesterday, for instance, I realized I hadn’t given my characters birthdays. Now it might become important in some future novel to know that so-and-so was born in late June. No big deal if I hadn’t known this information beforehand, but how about the year they were born. That has huge ramifications when shaping their likes/dislikes and experiences. We are a product of our generation, as the saying goes. And I hadn’t thought of that.

The question that has me really worried now is this: what other critical information have I overlooked. Or worse yet, have I already used something that could have serious consequences somewhere down the road?

This writing gig is tough!

And sorry for the Rogers and Hammerstein quote that makes up the title...

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