It would seem that without consciously and directly intending to, I have decided to shelve my first novel for now.
It makes me a little sad, but truthfully, not as much as I could be if my current novel weren’t flourishing, which is actually why, after many dead-end style rejections, I simply faded away from continuing the query process with the first.
Can you cheat on your own fictional characters? Sometimes, fleetingly, this is what I feel I am doing, as I am very much in love with my new characters. I think that if my first novel had found a future place in the world, I might not experience this sentiment. As it is, I feel a little badly that they have been sent to limbo while I now give my full attention to Julie, Lucy, Mikey, Zach, Grant, and Layla. This is as it should be, and I can remember the lessons I talked about in my post about Moving On and move into my new world of Second Novel with more confidence.
Not long ago, I tweeted out that my characters had finally taken up permanent residence in my brain and how much I loved that. The old ones have moved out and are wonderful friends that still visit from time to time, but the new ones live with me. Is it important to have that kind of relationship with them? What does it take for this to occur?
For me, to fully flesh out my voice for my characters, I need them with me full-time. Not just when I’m walking. Not just when I am pushing out a scene. When they are fully with me, “pushing” out a scene is no longer the case. The words flow because the characters can now speak and show me how they will react to events and one another. Of course I don’t mean that every time I sit to write it is easy, but I no longer have to make guesses on how my characters are feeling or thinking. Their voices have become clear.
What does it take to get to this point? I struggled with my main character’s voice for some time. I knew her part in the story. I knew the plot. I knew the roles the supporting characters would play. I had scenes written, but the progress was oh-so-slow. There were embers to indicate it was alive, but it was not thriving. I was ready to embark upon dreaded character development exercises galore when suddenly, I turned the corner. I simultaneously worked out a new twist and inserted a new character to carry it out and that was the breeze that stoked the embers into flame.
What I discovered about my writing so far is this: I need my main character to have a counterpart of some sort. She needs that counterpart to influence her thoughts and actions, for good or ill. In my first novel, I had my main character in my head for years and years before I landed on her counterpart. Once I had that character, the story very quickly fell into place. In my current novel, I thought I had her counterpart, but I was wrong. The one she has now, though, is right. Had I not also thought up the new twist, that new character might have ended up being less important, but the two creative decisions combined have started the fire.
So for me, so far, the key is the main character’s complement. For others the necessary piece might be the setting – what if you move the location to a different state, or even a different ambient locale (such as from metropolis to small town)? Maybe you’re someone who needs a theme, first. Maybe it’s the primary conflict. Maybe the sub climax or the final climax need the tweaking.
What is it that sparks the embers of your story into a full fire?