After an intense eight months of novel writing, I recently left my manuscript to sit and breathe for a few weeks. Last Friday, I chanced taking a peek at the first three chapters again. My husband keeps asking to read them and I just wanted to be sure they made some kind of sense. Surprisingly, they do. I did have to make one small adjustment as I had managed to repeat the same back story in two of the chapters. But apart from that, the chapters read through in quite an ordered and entertaining fashion.
At the same time, having moved on to look at chapters 4-6, I can see that the action is progressing at a rapid rate, not leaving the characters enough room to interact, to grow and captivate the reader. So, it will be my challenge to increase the build up to the main events and ensure that my characters’ personalities shine through and their motivations are clear.
To help with this process I have been turning to a book called ‘The Creative Writing Course Book’. There is a great, structured chapter by James Friel called ‘Redrafting your Novel’. It’s written under a series of headings which guide you through the stages of revisiting and ultimately reshaping your first draft. There are some good chapters on characterization as well.
Speaking of characterization, I’ve been reading an excellent article at Ploughshares magazine, entitled ‘Likeable, Relatable and Real‘. The article uses ‘The Great Gatsby’ as an example of a book containing characters that lack the likeability factor and I have to agree. While I adore the language of ‘The Great Gatsby’, I have always struggled to feel empathy with any of the characters. As the article progresses, however, Annie Cardi reaches the conclusion that it is less important to like a character than it is to find something ‘human’ and ‘pressing’ about them.
There’s one particular character of mine, who could be considered difficult to understand. Although it’s not hugely important for him to be liked by the reader, I don’t want him to come across as totally self-centred. My heroine obviously saw enough in him to form a deep connection in the past. I also feel that darker characters can sometimes have the most power to enthral a reader, if they are drawn right.
So, it’s back to editing for me and all the uncertainty that entails. At least I have the safety net of saving as a new document and returning to my original work, if it all goes wrong!