So there I was, whipping along with the Chessman, 15k in three days and thinking “I SO rock at this writing thing” etc, etc, when suddenly, at 39k, everything came to a crashing halt. And the problem? My heroine. As you who read this blog know, heroines make me want to tear my hair out. They have to be sympathetic yet flawed. Not so different that the reader can’t identify with them, but different enough to stand out from all the other heroines in this world. They have to be aspirational. They have to be someone the reader can imagine being. They have to be strong. They have to be simple (for category, their motivations etc must be simple) and yet more complex than a stereotype. Oh and yes, they have to be original.
Easiest thing in the world. Not.
So, the problem of my heroine was this – I kind of knew bits of her, but there was an element that I was missing that would have solidified her on the page and in my head. Do you know what I mean? It’s hard to describe. But the essence was that I realised that all she was doing was reacting to the hero. He’d do something, she’d react. And the problem with that is she wasn’t actually taking charge of the plot. It was all being driven by him. Why by him? It’s not just because he’s an alpha. It’s because I knew him. I know what he’d do in a situation, I know his conflict, I know his feelings about things. And so because I didn’t really know her, he was taking over, the dear, sweet, darling man (yeah, baby, it’s all about the hero).
Now, normally when this happens, I push through and finish the thing and then go back and fix the problem, but this time I figured I really had to stop and do something about my heroine. My black moment wasn’t going to work, let alone the HEA, if I didn’t know who the hell she was. So I had to figure her out which – as you all know – is not easy.
After much hair pulling, I think the reason why I couldn’t get a handle on her is that my initial idea of her was actually too difficult pull off. She was a drifter, someone without any idea of what she wanted to do. She was goalless. The problem with a heroine like that is if she doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life or what she wants, then neither does the reader. And that’s not particularly aspirational or sympathetic. It also plays merry hell with the pace. I’m not saying you can’t have a character like this, it’s just hard work. And God knows, getting this stuff right is hard enough without giving yourself a difficult character to pull off. Keep it simple stupid. 🙂
So, figuring out characters… For me, I have write the whole first draft before I know them. Character interviews, all that kind of stuff doesn’t work. It’s not until I’m writing that I figure it out. Oh and discussing ideas with the CPs helps a treat too. And all it’ll take for me is one suggestion and then suddenly it’ll come right (like it did in this instance).
What about you guys? How do you figure out yours? Do you have to write the whole thing first and get to know them as you go along? Or do you know everything before you write?
Oh and my heroine? Yep, figured her out finally. She’s a passionate artist who draws graphic novels. And no, they are NOT cartoons…