Finetuning Character Traits
Saturday, October 23, 2010
I went through the first page of each chapter and made sure the timeline was absolutely correct. I did start out keeping a check on the days that elapsed, but my careful planning slipped away while I wrote the last few chapters of the book. I get neurotic when I get to this phase for fear that I’ll have a book in print in which some reader will find out that my days don’t add up correctly. With this in mind, I made sure that if something was supposed to happen two hours, days or months after, then that’s exactly when it did. While I’m writing, I do this by inserting the day and week at the start of each chapter, but like I said, in the heat of storytelling my good intentions swoop out the window.
At this point, I may also rework chapter breaks based on what’s happening with the characters. What worked well together while the story was in progress sometimes doesn’t read as well when I analyze them months later. That’s when incidents and sometimes whole chapters get shifted around.
I know I wrote about this before, but I wanted to ensure I put the ladies’ mannerisms in throughout the story, particularly when the stress and tension escalated. I did fairly well in the early chapters, but the latter ones needed some help.
Dionne twirls her hair when nervous and gets chest pains when stressed. To make her character ring true, I inserted a few more episodes so it was clear that she was under a lot of pressure. I had her husband notice that she was in pain, so he’d also know things were not normal.
I made reference to one character’s tendency to say that things are never as bad as they seem, but somehow I neglected to ever have her say that during the entire novel. I still need to have these words come directly from Justine’s lips at least once. She reflects a lot on her life, so I need to ensure again that the pace doesn't drag too much in her chapters.
Kyra has minor weight issues that she thinks about up to midpoint in the book and then she never thinks about them again. Life doesn’t work like that, so this is something else I need to fix. While she doesn’t lose weight, she does come to a point of acceptance of who she is, which works for her storyline.
Early in the book, I tried to keep the women’s tastes and special gifts in mind. To some extent, I have this covered. Dionne works hard and has an affair, but doesn’t do anything that she really enjoys. I have to think of something, even if it’s watching television. Not that that will work. She’s too impatient to sit around staring at a screen, but I’ll think of something. Kyra likes to cook and loves expensive clothes, shoes and perfume, so I think I’ve got her covered. Justine likes flowers and has a green thumb. I think I can get away with that.
One additional benefit I derive from this exercise is that I clarify my thought processes and figure out exactly what needs to be done to complete each novel.
I’m still not done yet, because there are all these tiny sticky notes hanging out of the manuscript. Each colour represents a character and the things I need to work on. I’ll know I’m done tinkering when every last one is removed.
After that, it will be time to print out the story again and read it as a whole.