How to lose characters and improve people

Time has been pretty tight this week.  My husband and I are planning a big overseas move and everything is happening at once.  In spite of my best intentions, I’ve had to let the blog lapse this week.  Every time I feel guilty, I remind myself it’s the blog or the MS.

Because I am working on the MS.  I’m now three chapters into the rewrite and gaining some momentum.  Chapter two was HARD!  So hard in fact, I had a moment of: “maybe I should shelve this project for a while and come back to it later?”  There are a few other books – one in particular – rattling around my head at the moment, dying to be written.  It would be so easy…  But, then I told myself to get a grip, poured a glass of wine and plodded on.

Why was chapter two so tricky?  It covered an ensemble scene and in the latest draft, half the original characters have been cut from the story.  The rewrite experience was at turns painful and invigorating.  It started with “Oh, I’m so sad he/she’s not here anymore”, followed by “Damn, how is that plot point going to work now?”  But there’s a happy ending to this story.   The original details fell into one of three categories:

1. not important – can be cut;

2. not critical to the main plot but is funny, tells us something about the characters etc (adds something special to the overall story); and

3. critical to the plot – has to be included somehow

Once I had broken the chapter down into these parts, I could cheerfully cut certain details or reassign action / dialogue to the remaining characters.  It was challenging.  The hardest part was rewriting dialogue to fit the new owner  – without losing its original impact. But once the chapter was finished, I was surprised to find that certain characters had an added dimension to their personality.  Not to mention the plot was so much sharper.  All in all, a great learning experience.  I just hope I remember that less is more when I’m dreaming up the characters for my next novel…


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Alison Whipp

Lawyer. Writes Middle Grade and YA. Known to cackle raucously at 13 y.o. boy-humour. Partial to baked goods of the sweet variety.
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