Thursday, August 12, 2010


Okay. I've finally made some great headway. The one thing my beta-readers found unsettling in the one-now-two books I'm working on was character development. It seemed I slacked up a bit when it came to almost everyone in the story. Yep! As Robbie the Robot (oops! dated myself) once said, "Error. Error."

Character development appears in class number one of any writer's workshop. The key to success is to make the reader love at least one of the characters and have strong feelings about the rest, whether they're villains or heroes. When members of my writing group began the book, my main character was spellbinding. Well, that may be a little strong, but hey! They liked her a whole lot. When the book passed the half-way point, I began to hurry, letting my compulsive desire to finish overwhelm the characters, all the characters. Doesn't work. By the end of the book, most readers were glad the read was over, having seen the MC turn from strong and complicated to whiny and overbearing. Not good. Not good at all.

This go around, I'm trying to be more patient, to read the un-trunked volumes with an objective air, and through revisions, to tell readers what I already know: that the main character is indeed complicated, rootless yet strong enough to try to find a place in life to plant herself and grow. I'm hoping that all these revisions will work that magic and that by the time readers close the book, they'll want to open it and start again from the beginning. A good dream if I can pull it off.

Harper Lee did just that in To Kill a Mockingbird. Dare I hope to achieve that success? Well, a girl can hope, but I'd be happy with simply writing a good book and finally have readers other than my long-suffering writing group. Of course, no writer writes just to see hundreds of unsold books stacked in a dusty warehouse. I, like all authors (I sometimes call myself 'author' just so somebody says it), want to be read and often. My name on a bookjacket is a nice thought, but knowing that readers think I actually have something to say is a better idea.

I'd certainly like to think I have something to say, that my work will not only entertain the reader but also offer insight into the human condition. I write literary fiction, so far mostly historical literary fiction. For some reason, looking back at what we've been seems more appealing than looking forward to what we might become. We learn from history, or so I've been told, and history has always shown me a new way to view the present. As a writer, I can re-write history just a bit, hopefully just enough to offer that 20/20 hindsight we've all heard talk about. Some write about a future that we may never see. Their imaginations send us to apocalypse or to a wonderland in which all things evil are overcome by good. A nice place if you can find it.

My late husband was a visionary of sorts, even though, like John Milton, he was legally blind. He enjoyed Star Trek, not so much because of the scifi adventure but because the Trekkie world held cures for all diseases, hope that poverty would be eliminated, and laws that forbid the use of force except at times when Justice had been raped by burgeoning Injustice. Evil was always nipped in the bud, as Barney Fife once said. He liked to learn what visions writers had for the yet-to-come. To those who write futuristically, I doff my hat.

As for me and the 1800 or so words I've added to the WIP, I'm hoping my words give insight to the importance of personal history, to the idea that where we come from does as much to shape who we are as any other component of life. We're built, brick by tragic brick. We don't spring to life fully completed. Like the potter's clay, we're molded and shaped by circumstance, geography, and history, ours and the history of those around us. That's the point. We're born, yes, but then we must become.

My main character is finally becoming. What? Well, should the book be published and if you're interested, you must purchase a copy or otherwise, wait for the movie. :D

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