Monday, May 12, 2014

Character Surprise

It's finally spring here in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. New life abounds – the geese
and ducks with their babies and the fresh green of new leaves.

There's lots of work required at the tree farm – setting up the irrigation system, grading and filling low spots in the access roads, as well as waiting for this year's new seedlings to arrive.

After a long grey winter where many things shuffled creativity to the side, writing has re-bounded with my shiny new story. Not only is it a lighter book, it's the first time I've deliberately planned to write a series. Like the farm, writing—especially writing a series—requires building the infrastructure and then adding and deleting—grading and planting if you will—to strengthen plot and character. Simple and yet wonderfully complex.

About a year ago, I read a wonderful quote. Paraphrasing: Once you finish writing a book, you haven’t “learned” to write any book, you’ve learned to write the one you just wrote.

WIP  Which means the next one isn't necessarily “easier.” Some manuscripts seem to write themselves. Others constantly struggle—in concept, writing, revision, etc. Every book is different.

I'm at the delightful part of my new story, where anything is possible. Not only is the plot evolving, my characters make interesting announcements as they introduce themselves. Yesterday—Mother's Day—my main character abruptly told me why she divorced The Jerk. It wasn't just that he'd cheated on her. He'd done it deliberately, looking for a new wife, one who could have children. My heart twisted as the words appeared. I have two wonderful children and can only glimpse the pain of someone who can't have a child. While this isn't the focus of the story, I can see already that those experiences are going to shape who Keri is as a character and how she moves forward with her life.

So what about you, fellow authors? Do your characters surprise you with details that make you rethink the character, subplots or the plot itself?

What about you, fellow readers? (I don't know many authors who aren't readers.) Do you enjoy the layers that build a character or are you action oriented? As in, it's all about the plot? Or the characters?

7 comments:

Rita said...

Let’s see, in my last release Point of No Return, I was chugging along and the heroine out of no where says she had an affair with the character I’m writing. Say what? &%#%@ Story rewrite.
WIP H&H are talking about families. She has none. Zip. Nada. When she’s asked if she would change anything about the last time she saw her father she thinks to herself she wouldn’t warn him before she stuck a knife in his stomach. Say what? &%#%@ Here we go again. Story rewrite.
Why can’t they tell me before I’m almost finished?

Elise Warner said...

When I read I have to get involved with the characters. My characters are always butting in--quite opinionated and usually right. I just rewrote the bad guy and more rewrites will be needed. Loved your blog, your writing about the farm was fascinating to this city girl.

Anne Marie Becker said...

I love getting to know my characters! But they make me go back and rewrite so much because often they don't tell me the whole tale until I'm at the end of the first draft. Sigh.

Kathy Ivan said...

I love when my characters surprise me with unexpected twists and turns. I think I know all about them before i start writing and then BOOM! A complete 180 out of left field. But then, that's part of the joy of being a writer.

Cathy Perkins said...

@Rita - Oh My! Major surprises there! At least mine are chatting me up earlier in the process :)

Cathy Perkins said...

@Elise - Isn't it interesting how we always say we have to get to know the characters, not we have to finish making them up? They do take on their own personalities.
Re the mountain place - I haven't said much about it over here. Usually I talk about it on the other blog, but as I spend more of my time here, it's starting to sneak into the posts. Sorta like those characters sliding bits and pieces in unexpectedly. :)

Cathy Perkins said...

@Anne Marie - oh, you and Rita :) And wow, you, too @Kathy!

I love the surprises, because generally they've been there tracking along in my subconscious but I wasn't paying enough attention ;)

Inevitably I'll find threads already worked into the story, just waiting for me to weave in the new element. But those revelations! Yep, out of left field (or in farm talk, out of that back meadow...)