For awhile, probably for the first month I worked on my current book, I found myself stuck: I had a basic plotline and a nice cast of round characters to keep it interesting. I had some suspenseful plot points and a few key individuals keeping some pretty big secrets.
I didn’t realize until about a month into the project that what I needed was an opposing force—a character who would, in some way, interfere with all other characters’ “missions” as the story progressed.
Then came the hard part: figuring out which character was, secretly, going to turn out to be the villain once the series progressed.
Something I’ve noticed about the way I write is that my writing time is pretty much the only time I don’t focus on doing things perfectly. Curse of the Type A overachiever and all that: it doesn’t apply when I sit down and crank out a whole mess of words. I don’t believe any piece of writing can ever be perfect. Revisions are meant to improve and enhance, but as I’m working on a draft, I’m much more focused on getting words out than I am on always making them the absolute best.
So at one point I randomly added in a character—something I don’t usually do, because my character list is typically laid out in my mind before I start writing. In passing during a flashback, I needed a character in the background of a scene who would add to the drama and make my MC’s reaction more believable.
Soon that character showed up again in a different scene (I don’t write in order; I skip around depending on which scene or part of the book has been running through my mind that morning) and became a minor character who only needed to serve as a FOIL to my MC. No big deal. She had a first name and a cringe-worthy personality and that was all I needed at that point.
The more I wrote, the more I realized how important this minor character needed to be to my MC, which quickly turned into a quick back story about how the minor character had shaped my MC’s competitive personality and eventually left her friendless and betrayed.
But it turns out this character, who started out as an extra of sorts, has a few reasons for being a bad friend, a control freak and, seemingly, destined to be crowned ‘most likely to succeed.’ Ulterior motives aren’t supposed to be obvious to the reader. I guess they’re not always obvious to the writer, either. At least not at first.
Since figuring out these motives, though, it’s been probably too much fun weaving in pieces of the truth through each chapter. One of the later books in the series will be titled Heroes; for some reason, it never occurred to me that to have heroes in my story I’d need at least one villain to act opposite them.
This is a midweek rambling post about a story you haven’t read yet, and I’m being a bit too vague. But as I mentioned above, no piece of writing is perfect and sometimes it’s healthy just to rant about the crazy things our characters do to us.
Tell me I’m not the only one constantly bullied by my characters …
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter.