Difficult Heroines

Right, well, no news for me this week. But I’m good with that. No, really, I am. Patience is a virtue and one I’m slowly learning. Certainly Maisey’s 20 month wait for her Call is a fantastic lesson in good things come to those who wait. So I shall continue waiting.

In the meantime, I am wrestling with Kate. She’s my hippy heroine who now isn’t so much hippy as an architect of eco-friendly houses. And I’m wrestling with her because I am having a few problems getting a handle on her character. Does anyone else have this problem at times? Now she’s an architect instead of a protestor, her character has – naturally enough – changed and I can’t seem to figure her out. I had to change her from my FTH entry because in that story she had no conflict at all and – I have to admit – did come over as a little bit shrill. And as Alex is, in my updated story, quite a strong alpha, she does have to hold her own against him. So far she’s managing to do that but in a quietly strong way, which surprised me because I had imagined her as fiery. But no, apparently not.

One of my problems, see, is that I write myself into my characters. The more of the story I write, the more they reveal themselves. Which is great if it wasn’t for my anal-ness with regard to first chapters. I really, really like to have my first chapter as done as it can be before I write the rest of it. It’s the set-up for the whole book you see and if it’s not working, I can’t write the rest. If I have a good first chapter, then the rest of the first draft can be as dirty as it gets, that doesn’t matter, just as long as that first part is done. But if I write myself into my characters, I usually don’t know much about them in the first chapter so sometimes their character is ‘off’ and hence the first chapter doesn’t go well. You see my conundrum? So with Kate, I’m really finding it difficult to progress the story because I can’t get past my first chapter difficulties with her.

However, in the interests of progress and getting words down, I have pushed through my first chapter woes and am writing further on in the hope that Kate will stop being such a changeable little thing and settle down. In fact I often do this too, just push through. Sometimes I’ll even skip a scene that isn’t working and go on to the next one. This can work well as usually the scene I’ll have problems with either turns out to be unnecessary or different in some way that I wasn’t aware of until I skipped it.

So what does everyone else do when they have problems with their ms or one of their characters? Long wistful walks in flowing white gowns through fields of sunflowers? Cleaning the shower? Throwing yourself dramatically on the couch and declaring you’re a hopeless writer, you’ll never get anywhere and you don’t know why you bother? *puts up hand*. 🙂

25 thoughts on “Difficult Heroines”

  1. Kate still sounds great. I take it she remains an eco warrior of sorts – might she be conflicted about her own (intractable) beliefs?

    When all else fails, I tweak. Started a new MS and spent an hr getting that first line/paragraph right while my mind raced on ahead to build the rest of the picture. I also look for word repetition and sentence variation to avoid starting lines with the same words – huge A retentive exercise.

    Don’t throw yourself on the couch… or else I’ll take up all this space and provide you with a list of authors who spent way longer than the exception to get published. I’ll start with Nora Roberts…. Maxine Sullivan (Silhoutte Desire – has rejections dating back 20 yrs) Jane Porter – HMB modern has a few yrs of trying under her belt… plenty more if you’re still in doubt. I’m on my (won’t say)th year and my grip on the tiger’s tail is as strong as ever.

    Thank you for blogging today. It’s always a treat to read your insights

  2. Thanks for the inspiration, Veronica… Sometimes it’s hard to stay focussed and gripping that tiger’s tail but, well, it’s nice to know others have been at this for years and are still raring to go. Certainly gives me a good boot up the behind! Which is what I need. 🙂

    As to Kate, she’s still eco-warrior-ish. But her conflict isn’t really about that because that’s an external conflict. Her thing is her home and her connection to it.

  3. What do i do?
    I think i’m of the throw my hands up and whine variety. then probably push on cos i refuse to let the problem beat me.
    Then some more whining.
    Wow, i must be fun to be around…
    =)

  4. LOL Jackie,
    We’re all pretty much in the same boat!

    Anyhow, there’s plenty of stuff to do while waiting. My problem is avoiding making the same old mistakes again.

    You’re on the right track. What’s really great about you is that you have the courage to share.

    BTW, I’ve bookmarked your elegant webpage in my HMBauthors menu for easy access. It has to stay there, so get cracking – I don’t want to delete it!

  5. Wine. Yes, I’m a lush. Fortunately, DH panders to this lushness by supplying a chilled glass of something every time I go, “ugh, this isn’t working!” Surprisingly, it helps the muse relax (or maybe the fingers? uhh…dunno). Seriously though, I find reading a good, intense Presents helps me get back in “the zone”. Long walks in a field of what, now? Most likely I’d drown with all the flooding going in this part of the world! 🙂 Hoping your heroine reveals herself double quick!

    Maya

  6. I usually just try to write it out. Even in a separate file. I might start writing about the heroine and see what I come up with, esp if she’s started surprising me with her responses! The heroine in my WIP is like that. I imagined her being more bookish and intellectual, but as soon as the hero gave her any crap she let loose on him and I hadn’t been expecting that!So I let her go, and I like her better because it’s who she is (are we writers INSANE or what?).

    And when all else fails, I hope in the shower. It works every time. The shower is like some magical idea giving wizard.

  7. Becca – hey, we could start up a whiners anonymous group. Then we could all whine with people who understand. 😉

    Veronica – *blush*! Don’t know if I AM on the right track. Been on plenty of wrong ones before. As to sharing with people, well, i admit it’s not easy to do so sometimes. Especially when you’ve cocked up big time. But it’s far easier to do that and get lots of lovely cyber hugs than to sit and stew at home. At least, that’s my opinion.
    And thanks for the comment re my webpage. It’s very sparse at the moment but since you’ve got it bookmarked, I’d better get off my butt to make sure it DOES stay that way huh? 🙂

    Maya, I like that kind of wining too! Could you get your hubby to ship some of that my way? ;-)But, yes, of course, reading a great Presents is a fantastic way to get back into the zone. In fact, might go and do that right now…

    Maisey, yeah, I think writing it out is the answer for me. Eventually I do get a better handle on a character if I do that and then I can go back and tweak the first chapter. Interesting re your heroine. I thought mine would totally go ape on the hero but no, she was just quietly sarcastic. Maybe we are insane? 🙂 Oh, and totally with you on the shower front. I spent 15 mins in there today just thinking about my story!

  8. I don’t suppose your heroine has met mine and they’ve ganged up on us? I’m having a similar problem but she’s done something bizarre to my plot and I think the editing could trigger a nervous breakdown and an addiction to chocolate 😉

  9. I think it’s the fact we’re trying to change them they object to! I had the same problem with my hero and the only way I solved it (I hope!) was to spend a huge amount of time thinking about him, in the car, the bath, when trying to sleep at night…

    I’ve also tried interviewing characters in the past on paper and been very surprised at the results.

    Good luck with the whole patience thing, hope you hear something soon.

  10. Ummm my first chapters often change. They do generally change in revisions as well.

    And heroines are oftentimes hiding things. I believe Kate Walker tells the story of standing in the supermarket and shouting very loudly — so that’s why you did that! about a heroine.

    I think Kate as an architect sounds like you have given her a few cards to play against Alex.

  11. I think Lorraine has a good idea, interviewing characters can be helpful. I always found that a bit boring and thought I didn’t need to do that (and I’m not really very good at being that organised!). But it’s amazing what characters tell you when you ask them questions and then ask them the famous ‘but why’.

    Might help, especially since Kate has changed since you first wrote her onto a page.

  12. When the wip isn’t flowing (like right now!!!!!) I like to take the pooches for long long walks. I also do what you do. Skip a scene or to and write one that does seem to be in my head, and that, hopefully will flow and break the block. Have a good weekend. Take care. Caroline x

  13. Jackie I hear you! I had a similar heroine who drove me batty. She was one of those hippies turn activist lawyer. I think there is something fascinating about a character that becomes to a degree a ‘conformist’. Again I’m speaking of how I saw my character. At over 100 pages in, my heroine didn’t work. Period. I seriously cried over her until I realized what was really at issue. I was writing against her truth.(No back slapping yet) Okay what was her truth? Hello – where are you truth? TRUTH where the heck are you?!
    No matter what I did I didn’t know what made her tick. I threw up my hands and headed for my tub.(the shower doesn’t work for me)While soaking, my painted toenails popped through the bubbles and I had a sudden epiphany. I pictured her in a Chanel suit with a hippie beaded choker- choking her.Daisy liked and was a success at her job but internally was struggling to hold on her beliefs.
    Anytime I get frustrated and want to cry Uncle I get in tub think about Daisy and why after all these years I still love to write.

    Hang in there, she will reveal herself. Though sooner would be better, right? 🙂

  14. Try journaling in her point of view. Write out her thoughts about meeting the hero or a project she’s working on. You might get a better sense of her.

  15. Sorry, Jackie, can’t offer any advice, I’m having trouble with everyone just now, with no idea how I’m going to write myself out of it. Think some dramatic throwing of myself on couch is called for…

    Tons of luck with Kate. I know you’ll work her out.
    XX

  16. Lacey – so far she hasn’t done anything ddogy plot-wise. Famous last words!

    Lorraine – yes, I have thought about her a lot. She’s slowly coming through now – she’s just quieter than I expected which is maybe why I was having problems.

    Michelle – Lol re Kate Walker! Sometimes I have those revelations too! You think the architect angle may work? Better than what I had originally eh? Can’t think why it didn’t occur to me before – it’s a much more natural career move for her.

    Joanne – I did do a bit of ‘but why?’ to her. Her background is all there, it’s just her personality that I was having a bit of trouble with.

    Caroline – walking is defintely good. I don’t have pooches though. I wonder if a kid would work…

    Eve – I’m hearing you! Sooner is way better! Your character sounds really interesting. I kind of picture Kate as a non-conformist but professional about her work. Definitely a case of the Chanel suit and the hippy choker. Great image btw.

    Cat – thanks for the tip. I might give that a go.

    Suzanne – no worries. I suggest a break might help with the problems with everyone! Mind you, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

  17. Hi Jackie. Wow. I didn’t know Maisey waited 20 months for her Call, that’s made my night. I can now continue waiting hopefully, rather than waiting in dread.
    If she’s an architect then she’s obviously spent a lot of time studying and applying herself, and if she’s eco-friendly too and applying that into the mix, I can understand that she would be quieter, she obviously thinks deeply and long about things.
    She can be quietly strong against Alex, because she’s informed. She’s moved from hippy, which is all about feelings, into a do-er, making an informed difference about the world. I admire her. She sounds great. I’d want to know what set her onto this path, why does she care? Does this help?
    After doing nano I came back to an older book that I thought I’d finished and realised why it wasn’t working. (I think, fingers crossed). Blog up about it tonight. Think sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees, and doing something else can clear the head.
    I have a never to be published regency short that I write when all else fails, getting into a different time period and letting it rip is great!
    All the best, hope she sees sense soon.

  18. Sally, I think you just made my morning! Yes, that’s exactly how I’m beginning to see Kate. She’s matured from her early hippy beginnings but at the core, she still feels deeply about things. She’s learned a lot about the value of putting beliefs into action from her mother, who died when Kate was 20 or so. Hmmm…she’s coming together I think! Yay.

    Gosh all you ladies have given me such great help! I loves me some blog buddies…

  19. Hi Jackie, thanks so much for sharing your insights-we can all relate! (BIG sigh!)
    I’m fairly new at this-serving my apprentiship on only my fourth mss(past three hidden under the bed!!), but—
    I find digging deep to come up with really STRONG motivations for my heroine’s book goal, makes her a lot more vivid/real. It’s taken me forever to realise this is where I need to focus when I start a new mss. Before I agonised over the first three chapters!
    Really enjoying all the posts everyone.
    PS-Maisey-just caught up with your fabulous news. Well ‘blooming’ done!!
    margie s

  20. Margie, yes, I’m having that very same realisation. Doing it BEFORE you start the mss does make it much easier to write. And makes for a much stronger story in the long run!

  21. Same problem here.. My heroes are always tall, dark, dashing (they ought to be for paranormal ones) and I have about three of them firm in their “bites”..It’s the heroines who trouble me.. by either being too wimpy or being too accepting, but never aggressive enough to challenge my hero!

    I get a statement from my CP – if she is unable to connect with the heroine, then I know, I got to tweak it up..

    And of course, when I start imagining a new way to up her quotient, I end up with a new heroine 😉

    Now, am writing one who is brave enough to turn her back on a ‘Queen’ in the paranormal ! Let me see if she breaks the spell 😉

    On my spice brief attempt front, my heroines are shy “flowers” who bloom into confident, sensual ones by the end 🙂 So far so good 😉

  22. On the plus side Jackie, she’s a well formed enough character that she’s dictating the pace, and telling you how she reacts to things. Perhaps the person you initially thought she was is actually another character, the one from the next book?

  23. Ju – it’s interesting eh? Yes, if you change them they DO become a whole new character. And it’s vital that the readers connect with her because if they don’t, then they don’t connect with the whole story. Good luck with your new heroine…

    Sally – That’s true. She is starting to become quite insistent on certain things so she’s getting there. A character from the next book huh? I’ve never really done connecting stories but that has set off some interesting ideas! 🙂

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