Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

Gutting the Story, v2.0

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Somewhere in here, a wonderful story that's been unfairly locked away is making a break for it!

Somewhere in here, a wonderful story that’s been unfairly locked away is making a break for it!

No wonder I hated my writing the other day. I kept trying and trying to make the novel work from the new starting point, but it just didn’t feel right to me. It felt like I was trying to craft it into someone else’s story which… well, that’s exactly what I was doing. The problem with starting it from the suggested point was that I had zero emotional investment in any of the characters that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it! It was a great exercise and I have some valuable new stuff as a result. For the most part, though, starting a third of the way through meant I had so much to explain, and it changed my characters in ways I didn’t like and that didn’t work for the story I want to tell.

It’s back to the drawing board (or in this case, the printout) for me. I printed out all 300+ pages — I’m so sorry, trees, but I had to do it at least once — and am armed with my favorite red pen, my post-its, tape, and scissors. There’s something fun about working on things the old-fashioned way. I’m sure I’ll see so much that I missed on my computer screen, my tablet, my phone, and in my brain.

This is a story I really want to see through to the bitter end. I want it to be good, or even better than it is now. If I could give myself one piece of advice that I really need to learn to listen to well, it’s this: never be satisfied with a first draft. In my case, my weakness is always in adding enough conflict. That’s because I tend to genuinely like my characters. I know I need to throw them under the bus from time to time, both to make the story more interesting and to make them into stronger people. The first time around, I’m almost never able to do that.

Now I’m ready, though. I love realistic characters with all their warts, foibles, and flaws. I’ll probably overdo it on this draft just because I can, then have a good laugh over all the newly-introduced tropes and finally trim it back.

Then I’ll ask for a few new readers.

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Author: G.L. Jackson

Writer, reader, amateur photographer. Mostly, I just like pretending to be a different person each day of the week.

2 thoughts on “Gutting the Story, v2.0

  1. “I know I need to throw them under the bus from time to time, both to make the story more interesting and to make them into stronger people. The first time around, I’m almost never able to do that.”

    I’m too kind to my characters. I need to distance myself a little and making them suffer – terribly hard to do.

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    • It’s really hard! Especially when they’re our kids, for all intents and purposes, and we’ve spent our time nurturing them. But smooth sailing all along makes for a sweet but dull story, and these days people are used to action and intrigue and damage. THEN they want the kindness and happiness. I wish you luck with… causing pain and suffering?

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