So, I haven’t written shit in awhile! That’s not good for a writer. I finished writing book 3 of The Shadow-Borne Chronicles last year… and hated it! The plot had wandered off in the wrong direction, the character growth was nonexistent and the book was lacking something important that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Needless to say, I kept setting it aside with the hope that some spark of inspiration would strike and show me how I could fix it. Sadly though, every time I would try to patch the holes in the plot and add depth to the story, it didn’t work and it was frustrating me to no end. So I stopped.
At this point, the book had a life of its own, however small and insignificant, but kept waving its feeble, frail arms at my consciousness, constantly begging for attention. It got to the point where it sat in the back of my mind eating, gnawing and clawing at me, trying to break free. It wanted out to make its way into the big, wide world and share with others. It wanted a life of its own. It’s difficult to ignore something in your head that is frantically jumping up and down and screaming, over here, look at me, look at me dammit! I spent a lot of time trying and failing, to figure out how to fix it.
I discussed my dilemma with my writing group several times and they’ve been attempting to help me work through my tribulation by asking some very good questions. What don’t you like about it? What doesn’t work? Where did the story take a right turn at Albuquerque instead of a left? My answers were always vague and unhelpful because, as I said, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem. That meant that I also couldn’t fix it. But I kept going back to poke at it in the recesses of my mind, trying to get it to coalesce into a book or at least some semblance of something that resembled a book. It wasn’t working and so continued to frustrate and taunt me with its impotent potential.
Then, I went to eat with Melody Wingfield, one of the amazing writers in my group, and we started discussing my frustration, yet again. While talking about what wasn’t working, I realized that in one of the very first chapters of the book, my main character was being very passive about a situation where he should have been aggressively angry. He wasn’t just shrugging his shoulders as if to say c’est la vie, he was treating a major issue as if it were nothing more than a small wrinkle in a rug that he had inadvertently tripped over. It wasn’t just poor writing, it was unrealistic on so many levels that a visually impaired person could have clearly seen it. And that was just one of the problems.
During the course of dinner, Mel brought up the fact that my main character didn’t really have a major flaw, other than being passive to the point of inaction. I had realized the problem early on and she and I discussed how and why I had chosen passivity as his main issue. She didn’t really see that as a character flaw so much as an attribute of his personality based on his past experiences. He needed depth. He needed something more to make his story truly interesting. I wasn’t exactly sure what his major flaw should be. She pointed out that the duality of his nature could cause some serious issues and what interesting challenges this might create. It intrigued me, so we started playing the ‘what if’ game that writers often play. Suddenly, I gained insight into the vulnerable balance that my character was trying to maintain and I found a major point that I could exploit to my heart’s content.
With the realization of this flaw, the story took on new depth and paths that weren’t open to me before began to manifest. The ideas not only manifested but branched off to plot points I’d been trying to reach by sheer force of will rather than creative writing. I had found my story once more and it was back on track! I came home, started my computer and began listing the many elements that I could use to move my book forward. It was exciting. It’s taken me a long time to work through, but thanks to that conversation and a wonderful friend who is also a writer, I can start working on my novel again. I am happy and excited to start writing once more but my poor main character is in for a world of hurt he never saw coming… and I can’t wait to see what happens next!