So, how many of you writers out there like to view your characters as alive in their own right? You know they’re not real, but you still do exercises like having conversations with them to figure out what they like, how they grew up, or you even straight up ask them what they’re going to do next in the situation you’ve thrown them in. I like writing this way because then I’m even surprised by the plot twists and it makes me feel like the story is more alive than just some story map on a page. There is a downside to writing this way, though. Sometimes your characters will tell you plot twists too late and you have to go back and rewrite the beginning of the book to compensate. That always makes the book better, though.
Then, there are the times where you, the author, decide that the book needs a revision and, as for me, I’ve done it a lot. So, how do you break it to your characters? You can’t just blame it on one character by pointing out their plot twist so all of them are mad at that one character. You could just start doing it and hope they don’t notice. I always try to bring it to their attention, because then they might tell me other things that need improvement.
If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll know that I’m doing another revision on my novel. I’m trying to decrease word count, figure out if I’m telling and showing the same thing in one scene, and make the main character’s feelings more prominent. It’s a slow progress, but I’m making a lot of improvements and my goal is to have the draft completed by the end of the year (I know, it’s a long timeframe, but you never know what can happen in a year–I’m looking at you, 2020).
My characters knew I wanted to revise the story. I mean, something wasn’t working and we couldn’t figure out what, but thanks to a writing workshop, I know the direction we need to go and I’m excited to get there. So, when it came to breaking the News to my characters, I imaged it went something like this:
“Alright, everyone, gather around!” I waved my hands in the air to herd my characters closer. Looks like everyone was here, but…wait… “Justin!” I turn to my main character. “Where’s–” He cuts me off with a shake of his head. My spitfire girl isn’t coming. Why am I not surprised?
“Ok!” I smile as I look everyone over. Looks like everyone is here except my spitfire girl. I’ll track her down later. “As you all know, Justin and I just attended that writing conference. We’ve got a whole notebook of ways to improve our novel!”
“So, what’s she saying,” Justin crosses his arms and frowns at me. “Is that we’re going through another revision.”
Groans echo from the crowd. My chestnut centaur tosses his hands up. “What’s in this one?”
“I think it’s rather exciting!” My old chef smiles at the others. “I saw some of her notes! There’s going to be some heartfelt changes!”
“And probably some not so heartfelt changes.” I have a tanned lieutenant that gives me a very pointed and angry look. “Let me guess, something else is getting destroyed?”
“Calm down, it’s not as bad as you think!” I frown back at the lieutenant. “This is for the best and you know it! Word count is our biggest issue and I have some news way to shave it down. Not only that, but I’m changing up some scenes to draw in the most drama and anticipation! It’s going to be better than before! Just like every other revision!”
Muttering continues amongst my characters. Some of them don’t quite believe me, but others know I’m right. My dark-haired knight just turns and leaves, but he’s never been one for words. My chef is trying to explain some of my notes to my centaur, but those notes don’t actually effect the centaur, so he doesn’t look interested. Eventually, all of them just mill away. Some of them ask me questions and I let them know of any changes to their fate. I’m glad most of them are taking it well.
Justin’s remaining where he was. He stares at me with arms crossed and discontent on his face.. He’s waiting for everyone to leave. So, I can guess what he wants to talk to me about. “What’s on your mind?” I ask him.
“I don’t like some of the changes you’ve come up with.”
This doesn’t surprise me. “Why not? They’re helping the story. More tension, more background, more accuracy–”
I sigh. “Justin, you’re the main character. People have to know what’s going on inside your head.”
“No they don’t!” He snaps at me. “The older version was just fine! People don’t need to see…” He trails off with a deep breath. I know exactly what’s bothering him. I rewrote the beginning of my book to include a scene that was once a memory he didn’t want to relive.
“No one is going to think lesser of you.” I smile softly at him. “People read books to relate to the characters. To feel what they’re going through and see them overcome it. You’ve got what it takes, Justin.”
He doesn’t look at me and I see the doubt in his eyes, but instead of admitting it, he stiffens up. “You better make it worth it.”
“It will be.” I have to say those words strong enough for the both of us to believe it. “The story always gets better after a revision. Remember the hope we had when we first thought of these changes? We can’t lose it! Our dream will come true..”