May 31st, 2009

ppbk cover

Letting the character tell her story

cross-posted from

I've been working on revising my current work in progress. When I wrote the first draft, I went as fast as I could. I'd always heard about people writing a whole novel in the month of November for NaNoWriMo. And I decided to give myself a similar challenge -- see if I could write a novel in about a month. And I did it. Well, five weeks technically. But here's what I learned: This is not a good idea for me. It left my story feeling superficial, the characters not deeply developed, and the whole effort merely plot-based. When I went back to try to fill in the holes, it felt hopeless.

And so I backtracked...big time. I quit trying to tell the story. And I went back to listening. Because that's what I do when I write. When I was a kid, I never felt like I had a good imagination. And I still don't. But my characters do. That's why I have to let them tell the story. They do a much better job than I ever could. On this one, I'm having to earn back my character's trust. I tried to tell her story without listening to her and basically, she was pissed. And so now, little by little, she's letting me get to know her, telling me her true story, with all the depth and richness I could not possibly think up.

It's been a good lesson. A difficult and painful one, but good nonetheless. I won't try to tell my characters' stories without them again. I just listen and wait and serve as their pen and feel honored to be chosen to hear their stories.

Happy writing