Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A God-Like Complex

Okay, so "I'll come back later" apparently meant "I'll come back the next day." Well, it is later.

That was quite an interesting poll (thank you for participating!). Apparently readers of this blog come down heavily on the bottom half of the scale--no control freaks here. {g} At this time, the results are:
  • 55% Option 3: I give them the basic idea and see what they do with it. Then I change as needed.
  • 27% Option 4: I give them the basic idea, and let them do whatever they want.
  • 18% Option 5: They tell me what to do. I just follow them around and write it down.
I answered Option 3. This is actually a change for me, just with this draft.

When I started writing, I was an Option 4 all the way. I never could outline. Well, okay, I tried, but nothing would work out the way I'd thought--I'd get somewhere and the characters just wouldn't DO that, or it would seem stupid, or worse, forced. I scrapped the whole first bit of my novel because I was trying to force the characters toward a desired climax--and it just would NOT happen.

Then I discovered the magic of listening to characters. Once I trusted in it, in them, it was the right way to go for me. I have a vague idea of what is going to happen in a scene when I sit down to write it, but from there I just let them go...see what will happen, what they'll say, who else will pop up. (Aside: I love my mushroom characters, those people who pop up whole and sharp in a scene even if they have a small part. Sometimes they're even hard to get rid of.) I wrote the whole book that way, and I was amazed at how well things worked out, in general.

But. Here's where I become an Option 3. I happily sent out my cool character-driven book, and 3 (bless-ed) agents read fulls or partials and gave me their opinions. And it does hang together in general, yes. But what I didn't realize is that it's not. quite. there. It needed a little more direction, more shaping. More hand-of-God authorial intrusion than was there before. More WORK. My characters did wonderfully well on their own up to a point; now it's time for me to make it better.

So this draft is where I make changes "as needed". Now I have to guide them a little more, and even be a little harsher. Who knew that would be necessary? I didn't. But then when I started I didn't even know I had to listen to my characters.

What are your thoughts? Your reasons for voting as you did?

Medieval Word of the Day: rackle: Hasty, rash, impetuous, headstrong; rough or coarse in action; also Sc. possessed of rude strength, vigorous at an advanced age.

Wow, that's a good one, eh?


Sara Walker Howe said...

Hey, Susan. I'm doing the same in my rewrite. I threw out about half the book, and now I'm bringing out what was left over. I let my characters do their thing the first time, and ended up with two stories competing for attention. Now I'm working with one story and delving deeper into character and theme.

I hope it's working.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan:
I didn't take part, sorry! but I'm both 3 and 4, depending on how stubborn I'm feeling. But then, we talked about that before - I was completely stuck because I had an agenda all lined up and my characters just Wouldn't Play Along! So I think you make some good points here!
Take Care

Susan Adrian said...


Yep, sometimes you have to throw out all "your" scenes, where you pushed them too hard, and sometimes you end up having to throw out "their" scenes too. Find the happy medium.


Susan Adrian said...


You still can take part if you want! I think it stays there for quite some time.

I certainly wouldn't have thought I'd need to step in and direct more, but it DOES make it better.