Aren’t you guys fabulous? I got some great comments about the whole digging deep deal last post – really set off lots of lightbulbs for me, especially with the WIP I’m going to be subbing next. So big cheers and thanks to you all for commenting!
Anyway, that digging deep post really set me thinking about the problems I’m having with this current WIP. I know these characters so well now that I am forgetting the reader doesn’t. Remember the hero burning his toast? And the digging deep we did below the surface? We found out his real fear is that he’s inherently unlovable. Now the thing is, he doesn’t know that in chapter 1. In fact, in chapter 1, he’s fine. His life is great. It takes the whole book for him to realise that he’s not fine and it’s not until right at the very end that he understands why he isn’t.
Well, imagine my burnt toast hero thinking he’s not lovable in chapter 1 and that’s pretty much sums up my problem with my wip. I’m revealing my characters too early. I don’t have much in the way of external conflict – okay ANY external conflict – so I really wanted to get to the heart of their problems, get that conflict down on the page. I had my heroine – who doesn’t want a relationship – freaking out in day two of them seeing each other. But come on, really? She’s having a nice time with him sure but would she really be feeling worried? Just because you’re having a nice time with a guy doesn’t mean love, marriage and babies is on the cards. Especially if that’s not what you want. Besides, as far as she’s concerned she’s having a holiday romance, there’s no way she’d want anymore so freaking out about enjoying herself the second time she sees him is a bit odd wouldn’t you say?
Bascially what I did was dig too deep, too early (made her too self aware if you like). Sure, you need to let the reader know she’s enjoying herself, and maybe hint a little that she hasn’t had so much fun with a guy for a long time (cos this is special yes?) but save the freaking out for when she really needs it.
Which brings me to my blog title. Without mentioning stripper poles and pasties, I went for the tasteful option and thought about it in terms of veils. You need to reveal your characters conflict slowly. Like the dance of the seven veils, you drop one veil at a time. Mine didn’t want to do that, they wanted to drop three. Hey, my heroine went for broke and threw them ALL off, the silly girl! Anyway, slow is what you want so that by the end of the book, all the veils are down and we can see what’s at the heart of the problem for these characters.
Other people have other ways of saying this. Kate Walker I think calls it the layers of the onion. I quite like the veil analogy because it’s also how the characters reveal themselves to each other as well as the reader. Slowly, as trust grows between them, they allow another veil to drop, letting the other person see a deeper part of them. Not having conversations about how they hated their parents in chapter two after they’ve only just met (Jackie, take a bow!).
Anyway, that’s just my take on it. The speed at which your dance progresses really depends on the story though. Sometimes it’ll be fast, sometimes it won’t. But what you don’t want to is have naked characters half-way through the story because then there won’t be enough conflict to get you to the end and you’ll be forced to throw in a car chase or something.
So, anyone have problems with their characters throwing off veils willy nilly or is it just me?