I finished a draft recently and I’ve gotten really gushy about characters! Drafts can be a long, exhausting process. This one kicked around in my head for over a year before it was completely out in one long, full story. I must have started and restarted the first thirty thousand words nearly a dozen times before I had the characters situated the way I wanted, and even then they managed to surprise me. The trick was to keep sorting the pieces until they combined into the pattern I wanted to make.
I’ve seen some stuff lately (Okay, Supernatural producers) about ‘going where the story takes you.’ Well, if that were true, this story would have completely dead-ended last year and would never have finished. I’m often struck with ideas for character-driven plots, and they like running away in their own directions. And I like seeing where the characters will go. Wes Kingston–protag of the draft I just finished–can be a willful, stubborn loner. If he really got his way, there wouldn’t be a story ’cause everything would be neatly solved and life would work out perfectly for him. He wouldn’t have the exciting adventure, wouldn’t have stuck around and realized that his high school crush was available, and he wouldn’t have any chance for growth or change because a majority of characters are just like people–they don’t want to change. Basically there comes a point where I’ve got to figure out what the story is and remember that I’m really the one in charge.
I’ve discovered there has to be a balance, though, between character and plot decisions. As I was writing up Possession and Other Invitations (the working title of upcoming book), I had a moment that I really wanted in the text. I thought that would be the cool, awesome way to lead the story. I was certain that’s where the draft “was going.” That moment seemed like the flawless, right decision. However, I realized that plot point would significantly change Drew–the romantic counterpart–and he’d become a different person. Since I planned on creating a series with Wes and Drew as the center points, I decided that forcing Drew into that choice this early in the series was too harsh. I opted for a slow growth pattern for now, because it just makes more storytelling sense to me. In other words, the story stopped driving off on that path and followed the directions I gave it. The course-corrected plot makes much more sense in the long run too, and winds up having some cyclical action.
And I’ve fallen madly in love with the characters too. By this point, I know Wes and Drew probably better than myself (mostly ’cause I’ve invented Wes and Drew’s subconsciouses while mine is elusive to me). As I was going over cover-art ideas with my talented friend, we were digging into what Wes Kingston looks like and there’s a lot of his appearance that has to do with his personality and history. I realized that I could go on talking about him for hours–which shouldn’t be a surprise to me since I’ve already done that and written a book about the guy. Also, as we worked, surprising details came out. She asked me about his ear lobes–detached or not–and the decision that flew out of me was “Oh, attached. Otherwise, he would have had to pierce them.” Little decisions like personal dress are areas where I’m happy to trust the characters. While clothes can affect plot, those are things that are going to be unique to each character. Wes, for example, is always dressing in old clothes, somewhat worn, some a bit too big and that comes from his lack of funds and his lack of concern over his physical appearance. The man forgets to shower sometimes, he’s not really one for keeping his t-shirts pressed. On the other hand, Drew is immaculate. His shirts are high-quality, even on his days off. Everything fits him and worn clothes are reserved for yard work. Oh, and he’s the kind of person who totally has pajamas sets for cold weather but doesn’t bother in the summer—
See what I mean about being able to go on and on about them? That’s just a fragment of the thoughts that are running through my head about them. The longer I continue working, the more characters flit about in my headspace. Besides the ones from Possession and Other Invitations, I’ve got characters from Starfell begging me for an audience, and then others whose voices are only light whispers at the moment. I think that keeping in love with them is what’s going to carry me through the drafts and the edits and the publishing cycles. Their stories are ones I want to share with as many people as possible–and of course it’s up to me to decide how those stories go. I can’t wait.
Thanks for indulging my ramble. Anybody happening to read this, feel free to ramble in the comments about your favorite characters! Created anyone awesome lately? Fallen in love with a figment? What’s your favorite part about writing a story draft?