The Battle Against Identity and Purpose


Do you know who your characters are? More importantly, do they?

Identity is a common YA theme. If you’ve survived the deep fiery hell known as adolescence you can much better understand why. It can even take a lifetime to figure out who you are, or who you want to be.

But at least, growing up, you can discover who you don’t want to be.

I never intended for identity to become such a deep-rooted theme in my book. It’s part of the mysterious element of the entire series, actually. The sci-fi element comes in when the villain figures out how to disguise himself to look and sound like anyone he wants to, with the help of some government technology meant for, of course, a completely different purpose. But that doesn’t come in until after the prequel.

Yes, one of my characters has a twin. Spoiler alert.

Yes, there are questions about who is related to whom.

But mostly, the story revolves around five teenagers who think they have their lives all figured out until a contest is announced, one that, if they win, will get them out of conducting an honors project and guarantee them what is the equivalent of one of us being accepted into college without having to apply.

It’s not what they think it will be. As you can probably guess.

It changes daily, but at this point my favorite character is probably Lucas, who is so shy around other people he never speaks. He and the narrator become friends after she defends him against his big bad bullies. She can never convince him to tell her why he stopped talking. Oh, she also saves his life on multiple occasions, but no big deal.

The events following the isn’t-what-it-seems competition don’t just change Lucas; they change each of the characters, mostly helping them come to terms with their futures and how they want to contribute to their society. That, of course, sets the stage for the subsequent books, which fast-forward 17 years. Go figure.

Then it gets even more fun, with an unidentified villain taking the places of different characters at unknown intervals.

But I can’t go back to writing those yet. I have to finish what I start.

The hardest part is taking elements of stories we’ve all read before and creating something new out of them. New identity struggles. New revelations.

Such as, which twin really jumped into the river?

Has Ollia’s mother really been missing all this time?

Who is Charles?!

Oops, sorry. Wrong story.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Why I Rewrote My Main Character’s Father, Who Now Reminds Me of My Own


He was a terrible father.

No, not my dad. I couldn’t have asked for a better paternal parent, which is one reason the first few drafts of my book just didn’t sit right with me.

I mean my main character’s father. The original version.

As writers we’re supposed to be able to imagine realities beyond our own experiences, while somehow still relying on our pasts to maintain just an ounce of realism. So I should be able to, in the unpredictable abyss that is my brain, sculpt and form a father figure who is nothing like the one I know.

I suppose I could have kept trying. But I couldn’t bear to keep him once I decided, for the first or fourth or ten millionth time (I’ve lost count), to start the story over again.

Ollia’s father used to be bitter and betrayed and controlling, but instead he’s now hard-working and loving. The issue is, of course, that love is trivial in this story, and to love someone means giving up your freedom and giving way to misery.

It’s complicated. But he’s still something like my dad.

The first memories I have of my dad involve books. He used to read to me all the time, and that’s how I fell in love with them and became the literary maniac I am today (I’m not ashamed). Ollia and her father also connect through reading, their main source of communication and understanding once the character named Kathyrine disappears.

Fortunately I love talking to my dad. I can’t imagine only having one virtually speechless thing in common. As I’ve grown up, and now that I’ve become more accustomed to this whole young adult thing and spend a ridiculous amount of time at home (groan), I’ve realized how much the two of us are alike. I know what kinds of things he would like as gifts. I know what will make him laugh. I know to leave the room if I’m about to cry, because it makes him sad, too.

Ollia’s father started out as an awful, mean-spirited, no-nonsense fragment of a human being who blamed everyone but himself for the absence of Kathyrine. He has become one of my favorite characters to write about. At a point when she is forced to grow up, they understand each other in a way only the love between a father and a daughter can birth.

No. I couldn’t bear to reverse that once the idea came to me. The original character, he doesn’t belong in this story. Another one, someday. Maybe.

There will be literary father figures that disappoint, that hate, that harm, that fail. But not this one.

I think first I have to pay tribute to the real-life dad who has been anything but awful toward me since day one, who taught me how to ride a bike and paint a picture and believe in myself. Who told me I could be a writer even though most writers don’t make a living and I’m not that good at it and I’m still living in his house.

I still forget to turn the lights off when I leave a room, and I hog the coffee and I know we don’t spend enough time together and it’s my fault. But he still loves me.

How do I know?

Because there are memories I’m holding onto now, memories that inspire me to write posts like this even when I’d rather be writing a book.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Create a Cast of Diverse Characters


While 90 seconds is the perfect amount of time to refine your writing skills while multi-tasking, it’s not always enough time to explain more complex pieces of writing advice in detail.

As promised, we’re going to expand on some of the tips we shared in last week’s 90 Second Writing Lesson, starting with creating diverse characters in your stories.

The last thing you want to do is create a “cast” that has everything in common and behaves identically. Here are three ways to make sure your characters match people you might meet IRL—people who don’t always have the same way of doing things, but are (sometimes) okay to hang out with nonetheless.

They might even, maybe, turn an otherwise lifeless tale into a story that leaps off the page.

Mix and match their interests and hobbies

Not every character you write about should have the exact same set of interests. If you’re writing about a group of friends, it’s likely they all do have a common hobby—maybe they all like reading John Green. But think realistically. Some of them are also going to like sports, and some won’t. The more contrast you have between them, the more “interesting” your story will be.

One way to appeal to a broader audience is to create characters that more people can relate to. But the main reason you should mix it up is because, later, their varying interests might come in handy (and you don’t even know it yet).

Choose personality types that compliment one another

In your story, you need the quiet one, the obnoxious one, the know-it-all, the extrovert, the I-hate-everything—realistically, that’s what you’ll find if you direct a large mass of strangers into one room and keep them there.

Similarly, your characters are going to know or become acquainted with personalities they can relate to and those they can’t stand. Again, there’s audience appeal here: but also, it’s a good idea to highlight specific traits by providing foils—characters that represent the complete opposite of each other.

If you want to show someone is a total jerk, compliment him with a character that can literally do no wrong. This emphasis makes both of them stand out, and helps the reader pay more attention to whatever relative significance you have in mind.

Give them a common goal to work toward

Often, characters who display varying strengths and weaknesses unknowingly possess the qualifications to “team up” and solve a problem. This doesn’t mean you have to write about a bunch of superheroes to prove a point. Think of Alaska or Paper Towns (if you’ve read them). Those characters didn’t accomplish anything exceptional, but they found a task and went after it—together.

Each character should have something unique, yet equally vital, to contribute to the main plot points of the story.

Let’s say your YA novel takes place toward the end of senior year, and a group of honors students wants to join together to pull off the ultimate senior prank. There’s going to be someone good at logistics and planning, and someone who wants to stand back with the camera and record all the magic as it happens.

No one person can do every job, and even if your characters never become life-long friends, they need each other to make it work.

Simple examples here, but you get the idea. There’s a good reason stories don’t involve just one character. Especially if there’s a narrator, you need other incoming points of view, etcetera to make the story objective.

One person’s take on a series of events isn’t enough. You need other characters chiming in, reacting to things and “foiling,” if need be. It’s an element good stories simply can’t live without. To make a story real, to make it readable and entertaining, your characters all have an important job—and it’s up to you to make sure they do it well.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Construct Flat Characters


You probably remember learning about round versus flat characters way back in English class (er … maybe it wasn’t so far back for you. Lucky, lucky you). If you’ve filed that lesson away with all the other seemingly useless info you were forced to regurgitate in high school, it’s time to pull it back out.

Believe it or not, many of the things you learned in English, or language arts or whatever your education system called it, related to writing more than you realized at the time.

Characters who are “flat” are just as important to your stories as round ones. We’ll show you how—but first, let’s travel back to the basics for a second.

What Are Flat and Round Characters?

In a story, round characters are the ones that undergo significant development from the beginning of a story to the end. Your main character, for example, is usually changed somehow by events that occur or by reflecting on past events through narrative.

Flat characters, by contrast, do not change. That’s why we think of them as two-dimensional. We can also think of them as catalysts, if you’re more of a science-y thinker: while they still contribute to a story’s plotline, they aren’t changed by it. They stay the same from start to finish—someone who is cranky at the beginning of a story because of bad weather will still be just as cranky at the end.

Why Do Stories Need Both?

Think about real life. You come in contact with random people every day—sitting next to strangers on the train or subway, passing people on the street, buying coffee from a barista you only ever meet once. Not every single person you encounter in your lifetime is going to make a significant impact on the course of your future.

The same goes for stories. Main characters, whom the story focuses on, go through changes because that’s part of the story being told. The flat characters they come in contact with matter, but especially if they meet in passing, their changes occur off the page and outside the storyline. We just don’t see them. That doesn’t mean those characters aren’t still important.

We’ll go into more detail in the next section. 

How Do We Create Flat Characters?

Flat characters interact with round characters in big and small ways, sometimes maybe not even directly. As we mentioned above, though, it’s just like real life. They need to exist. One way to emphasize their importance is to introduce them, leave them in the back of your readers’ minds for a while, then bring them back. Here’s an example.

Let’s go back to our cranky-about-the-weather example. We’ll call him Greg (another ancient inside joke—if you remember this one you’ve been following this blog far too long for your own good). Greg hates rain. He gripes at anyone passing by about how he hopes they have a terrible day as he wades through puddles.

Enter our MC, Larry. Larry is a very unhappy, lonely guy. When he passes Greg on his way to work, and Greg tells him to have a terrible day, Larry spins around and gets into an argument with him. Then as the story progresses, Larry becomes significantly happier and less lonely. He remembers how it feels to be sad and alone even though he isn’t anymore. So at the end of the story, he passes Greg on the street again. This time when Greg tells him to have a terrible day, he tells Greg he hopes he has an extraordinary day, and walks away. The end.

This might mean a lot to Greg. He might go on to change his attitude, too. But we don’t need to see that. Because we don’t, that makes Greg our flat character. The reason Greg is important is because, through these two interactions, we see the effects of the significant changes Larry has undergone from the beginning of the story to the end. That’s important. Without Greg, this point becomes far less significant.

This is just one way to do it. You could end up writing in a flat character that also happens to be your MC’s best friend, who is there throughout most of the book. No two stories are a like: there is no right, wrong, better or worse way to construct a flat character. It’s not the character that matters as much as their interaction with the round characters in the story.

Round and flat characters need each other. You’ve probably constructed both types in your own stories before, maybe without realizing that’s what you were doing. Now you know: the strategy makes your character development symbolize more than just an attitude adjustment. It shows your readers, without telling them, that everything your MC has gone through matters. Even passing a cranky weather-hater on the street.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

I Told My Characters Not to Fall in Love and They Did It Anyway (Midweek Novel Update #1)


Since first starting my book in 2012, I’ve learned a lot about the creative process. I’ve learned a lot about how an idea transforms over time, if you give it the chance to grow. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to fall in love with a story, so much so that you’re willing to let that story shift and change so it can become, well, better, even if it’s nothing even resembling your original plot.

Kind of funny, considering the story of the book-that-currently-has-no-title started out in a setting that (is this cliché enough for you?) did not allow people to fall in love. At all. Ever. Punishable by death? Eh. Sort of.

Actually, technically, the story started out as a semi-utopian sci-fi something-or-other with no plot structure and cringe-worthy dialogue, but what book doesn’t?

For the record, I don’t consider myself a particularly talented (or accomplished) writer. That’s why I spend most of my time with NR giving you all writing advice instead of talking about my own work.

But I’ve done some stats reviews recently, and it turns out you all (trying to stop myself from y’alling, it’s hard) apparently like reading about my novel-writing shenanigans. So I’ve made a decision.

Once a week, on Wednesdays, you get a novel update on our blog. So from now on, you can celebrate Hump Day with a blog post about my book, even if I haven’t made any progress, even if I am fighting with it, even if it kills me. You’re welcome.

So where am I now in the novel-conquering process? Struggling, big time. I like to be as transparent as possible when I do talk about my book (aside from giving away major plot points, in case a miracle happens and you someday get to read it in print). I think that’s important, for authors, for aspiring writers, anybody. Writing can be fun, it can be very rewarding, and everyone deserves praise for at least trying. But it’s hard.

Some days even I don’t feel like writing. I spend more time disliking my work than I do being proud of it. But that’s part of the process, I think. At some point you get past that, and you have a finished product and all that struggling seems worth it by then.

I’m not past that yet, though. I’m far from finishing my product, and as a Wrimo veteran, this is difficult for me. This book has gone through three Wrimos now (July 2014, November 2014, April 2015) and it’s still in fragments and shards. I know where I’m going with it. I’m just taking my time in filling the gaps.

What’s hardest for me isn’t the actual writing; it’s the story. If you’ve been following me for at least the past few months, you know I’ve made a lot of changes recently. In January I decided to start the book over completely … and again last month. This most recent change is, I’m certain, headed in the right direction. But I’m worried. Why?

Because two characters end up falling in love. And that’s not what I wanted them to do.

Characters have minds of their own, they really do. The narrator literally starts off telling the story with the line, “This is not a love story.” It’s not, I guess. I think every story has to have a little romance of some kind or readers get bored, or it doesn’t seem realistic. But that wasn’t my plan for my main characters. Nothing ever goes according to plan when you’re trying to write a book.

The way these characters express their love to each other is a bit out of the ordinary, because these kids are trained and manipulated not to register their own emotions (they’re too distracting, or so they are told). So love is confusing and, while not forbidden (thank God) widely misunderstood. Imagine two people feeling attracted to each other but never having felt that way about anybody before. Sort of like that.

Companionship in this society is complicated. A group of characters end up having to work as a team to overcome a few obstacles (we’re talking literal obstacles, more specifically, fire, darkness, trees) which obviously won’t go well at first, since they’re students, the best of the best, only accustomed to working alone. What are friends? No one has any clue what’s going on and I kind of like that. But I’ve been fighting this whole time to keep character A and character B apart, and they’re just not having it.

No, it’s not a love story. Because our narrator has read a lot of love stories, and hers isn’t anything like those books.

Too bad she doesn’t have a mom to help her sort out all these confusing feelings. Her dad may or may not have sent her away on behalf of “curious circumstances” and, despite prodding over the years, has never explained the details.

Love is confusing. You have been warned.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Write About a Character with Mental Health Issues


Some of you might not like this topic. Some of you clicked because you’re curious about my angle. If you’re worried I’m going to say something offensive, out of line or flat-out wrong, have a little faith. Trust me. Give this post a chance.

I had the pleasure of working with NoStigmas, a nonprofit bound and determined to peel mental illness stigma off the map, for six months as a social media volunteer. And no, they haven’t asked me to mention them here. The most valuable thing I learned as I wrote and rewrote posts for the organization was how to talk about mental health, both pleasing those affected and intriguing those far too ignorant for their own good.

Ignorance, remember, is not stupidity. That’s the point. The only way to eradicate a stigma is to teach people why it’s wrong, because they just don’t know any better.

For some reason, “mental illness” (mental health issues being the preferred phrase) is a popular issue to cover in most genres of fiction. That’s because it’s a much more prominent issue than we’re often willing to realize. What the issue needs is an honest viewpoint: an unexaggerated portrayal of normal people, living normal lives, living with mental health issues, and doing just fine for the most part.

If you have characters in mind you’re certain you want to develop with mental health issues as a vital characteristic (not a character flaw, please), go ahead. There’s no shame in that. As long as you follow these important guidelines when doing so.

Have a Good Reason 

If you want mental health to be a topic of importance in your story, for the sake of “shedding light on a misunderstood issue,” don’t bother. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking your ground-breaking novel about depression—all about depression—will change the world.

So what’s a “good” reason to talk about mental health issues in a story? To make the point that it’s no longer an issue we need to dangle in front of readers’ faces. (Mind you, organizations like NoStigmas have this privilege; leave it to the experts.)

The best thing you can do is include a relevant character, or multiple, who may happen to live with mental health issues—but the story keeps going. The message we should aim to get across, as writers, is that “mental illness” is just a part of life. Someone can go about their day, go on an adventure, help a friend solve a problem. They’re not ruined. They’re nothing like Hollywood seems to think they are. They are people. 

Do Your Research

No, this does not mean Google a few famous people and go on your way. To write about mental health, you need to understand it. Play the role of a journalist, if you aren’t one already. Go to organizations’ websites and social media pages, like NoStigmas, and see what real people who deal with these issues daily have to say about it.

Before you can create authentic, relatable characters to casually bring these issues to your readers’ attention, you have to know how that character feels, and how they tend to act in response. What do they really struggle with? How does that shape who they are as a person?

Be Daring, but Considerate

It’s okay to want to portray a character dealing with mental health issues. Some writers don’t even want to try. If you spend enough time on your research and purpose for including that character, you have much more of a foundation to work with. It’s more probable to take risks and highlight issues without forcing them down your readers’ throats.

While you can be “daring,” you also have to be considerate of your potential audiences. Watch your language. Be honest, but gentle. Portray mental health issues as they are, not as society alone perceives them to be. Take a neutral stance. Don’t say mental health issues are “good” or “bad.” Be encouraging. Be smart.

We posted a #WriterProblem on Facebook earlier this morning, and wanted to acknowledge it in case it bothered you, especially after this post.

“It’s the voices in my head” was not meant to be offensive. If you’re a writer, you know characters really do tend to have their own voices. It’s just wordplay.

One final tip for writers: you won’t ever be able to please everyone no matter how careful you are. There will always be someone who claims offense after something you’ve written. You didn’t do it on purpose (I hope). Shake it off.

Writing about “iffy” topics like mental health issues, over time, makes them less so. But we can’t spend all our time putting the issue in the spotlight, either. I wrote this post because, some days, you just have to write about what’s on your mind.

So if you regularly read these posts, thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for letting me put a literary spin on important, real-life things. Thank you, really, for supporting me and my brain and all the brain crack (thanks Hank Green) that results in posts like this.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

The Perfectly Acceptable Reason I Never Write About My Mom


The first “book” I ever wrote, I based off real life events in my oh-so-tragic teenage life. Maybe a little too closely. I wrote about real people and changed all their names.

As we mature as writers, we figure out new and better ways to weave tiny threads of people we know and care about into our stories, much more subtly than a simple name change. I do it all the time: that person in class who thinks he knows everything (but doesn’t); that roommate you stay up half the night laughing with (love you Olive!). Sometimes our parents even get the occasional cameo reference.

I wanted to write a post on Mother’s Day, about my mother, because I didn’t feel like one cookbook was enough, after an entire year of putting up with living with my post-grad self, to remind her how much I want and need her in my life. But I started outlining what I wanted to say, and realized something that at first made me uncomfortable.

I’ve never written my mom into a story before. Not really.

But it turns out I’ve had a pretty good reason not to. Yes, she’s been here since the beginning; yes, she’s been to all my concerts and graduations and paid more attention to the A’s on my report cards than the other letters of the grade point alphabet. She’s also my one and only mom, the only one I’ll ever have.

And do you know what? I don’t want to share her with anybody else (little bro, if you could just skip a few paragraphs, that’d be great).

As my mother’s only daughter, I think I have a right to want to keep the “mom” part of her for myself. I’m all for sharing, except in this particular case. Having lived with her day in and day out most of my life, I’ve seen her in all lights, good and sometimes not so good. But I love every piece of her, because without her, I wouldn’t be me.

We base characters off people we know, care about and sometimes even love all the time, often without realizing it. What makes it difficult to pinpoint is that, in a well-crafted story, one character isn’t always a clear-cut image of the real-life person you’re basing them off of.

Usually, one character serves as a symbolic representation of one characteristic you’ve taken from someone you know, or maybe multiple people. So all your characters could end up representing multiple characteristics of the same person. We unknowingly distribute these characteristics because we know, care about and sometimes even love the person these characteristics belong to. We don’t need to clone them into a book; they’re already right here.

I feel this way about my mom.

In my book (the name keeps changing, so I won’t risk deceiving you again), the main character does not have a mother (it’s a long story—er, literally). She spends a good portion of the book carrying around the mystery of what really happened to her, and eventually may or may not figure it out. The point is, she doesn’t have a mom to turn to. So she stumbles across a few substitutes along the way.

Every motherly figure my MC encounters along her journey never seems to be enough to satisfy her needs, because what she’s really hoping to find is the only mom that fits all the criteria in one person: hers. There are pieces of my mom woven in here and there, sure. But even the most important of these isn’t based off her entirely.

I like my mom just the way she is, right here next to me, without character flaws and downfalls that prevent her from reaching her full potential as a parent. Nobody is perfect all the time, and I don’t expect her to be. And in real life, that’s okay. In this story, it isn’t. My mom doesn’t belong there. She belongs here.

So I think I’ll keep her with me, because let’s face it, she’s too good of a mom to confine to the pages of a book. There shouldn’t have to be a beginning and an end to the story of how she’s made my life amazing. That gives me something to look forward to.

By the way, that first “book” I wrote? She read it. And she told me it was good, even though it wasn’t.

That’s love. That’s a mother’s beautiful love.

I love you, mom. I always have. I always will.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Meg Dowell.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How a Character’s Point of View Can Become a Writing Barrier

No matter how experienced you think you are—at anything—there is always something new to learn. I consider myself an experienced writer, rather than an accomplished one; I write a lot, but my readership tends to struggle. (I don’t mind; it’s a process you have to build up from the bottom, and it takes years.) Still, I find the more I write, and the more I immerse myself in the writing process, the more I discover about my own work.

If you have been following my updates on my current writing project (aka the novel that never sleeps), you know I’ve witnessed many revisions in its structure and perspective since first starting the process in 2012. I’m excited and terrified to say I have reached another milestone in the never-ending writing challenge called Elite, and for those of you who have been following, I wanted you to be the first to know.

The Exposition

Elite originally began as a single first-person narrative, told from the perspective of an ambitious student seeking to climb to the top of her fictional society’s political hierarchy. The story then picked up a second critical perspective: the current holder of this top position, what was then called some Latin word I’m glad I abandoned after the first partially completed drafts.

This second perspective quickly became my favorite. I enjoy stories that give an inside perspective on a somewhat misconceived (let’s use the word mysterious, and you’ll see why later) position of power. It was exceptionally enjoyable once I got to toy with a love interest. Do you see the flaw in my thinking yet? Keep reading.

The Conflict

As authors, we become parents to our characters. We create and develop them, shaping them to fit our story (or so we think). Often times we “raise” our characters so well that before we even realize what we’re dealing with, we have formulated a persona that can think and even act on her own behalf. Rather than the writer influencing the character to shape the story, the character begins manipulating the story to adhere to her own needs.

Frustrating? Yes and no. As it turns out, sometimes it works in our favor.

The second main character, Ollia, became my favorite perspective to write in of the two. Her story, especially the background you started getting in small fragments toward the end of the original draft, intrigued me. I found myself wanting to tell a love story amidst all the other conflict, a love story that was different from all the others.

She was, and still is, important to the story. Essential, really. However, I realized while listening to a few podcasts at work yesterday, that Ollia’s story and her perspective on the main conflict, while interesting, was never meant to be the main focus of the book in the first place.

The Climax, Pasted Between Rising and Falling Actions

Sitting at my desk, feeling the combined relief and horror of a sudden unintentional discovery, I started thinking about Ollia as a character. I obviously couldn’t cut her out; in time, the book had developed multiple other character viewpoints, all centered on this political power everyone admires, but simultaneously knows nothing about.

So how could I have a character, meant to be mysterious, with her own thoughts and opinions splattered across the pages?

I knew then, and feel more confidently now, that I needed to make a major shift in the way I was formatting and constructing my book. I realized the reason I have been struggling so much to work through even an outline of the first book in what I’m mostly certain has to be a series is that Ollia as a narrator was taking away from the rest of my story. Writer’s Block does not exist, friends; our characters, however, do. They can often become barriers to the stories we are trying to tell; but there are ways to fix the problem.

The Resolution

The character preventing me from moving steadily forward with this project just so happens to be the most important character in the entire trilogy (or whatever it ends up being). The challenge becomes not a matter of taking her out of the book completely, which would be relatively easy in comparison, but rewriting the scenes told from her point of view through the eyes of other characters.

Does this drive me absolutely mad? Of course it does! Some of my favorite scenes so far have been told from Ollia’s viewpoint, and there’s one scene in particular I won’t be able to use anymore because of this change. A lot is going to have to change, actually, which makes me glad that I’ve been averaging 100-200 words daily and haven’t gotten very far the past month or so.

It’s going to take a lot longer than I thought to finish this book this year; but strangely, I’m not upset. I’m ready. This is a major breakthrough in this project’s process. We are one step closer to you never having to read about the unfinished version of this novel ever again!

What I’m learning from this, even before I start applying the shift in style, is that writing does not get easier the more time you spend doing it. You might get better over time at cranking out more stories more often, but that’s not what’s always the most important.

The basis of your story, your purpose for writing it, will always be there. Everything else, though, will keep changing. I think we have to let that keep us going, let that change keep us writing even when we start wondering if this thing is ever going to make up its mind. Your “writing blocks” might turn out to be characters whose opinions aren’t important to your story anymore, or a side plot that’s just not working.

It’s not that you don’t love them. You just love your story, and all the places you believe it can go, a little bit more.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.