Hard Characterizations

There are moments when you’re writing that you wonder if you’re nuts for getting into this business.  You wonder if it’s normal to torture yourself to get out a story.  It’s not unusual to wonder if you’re losing your mind from time to time–or maybe that’s only me.

Last night I was on-line with my beta reader–well, one of them.  And we were talking on and off.  Mostly I was trying to rewrite a scene, and it was slow going, because there are distractions, but there are also things i’m trying to keep in mind as I go along.    And we start talking about the story, but in particular we start speaking of Annie’s part in the story.  Now, I know she know Annie well, because, in many ways, she’s Annie, so when she talks I try to listen.  I don’t always do it very well, but I try.

And what she had to say wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t pretty because she was telling me I missed the mark on some things, and that she was there more or less as a decoration.  In short, I took someone who is suppose to be a main character and more or less shuffled her off to the background of Secondary Character land.

Did it hurt to hear this?  Yeah.  It hurt a lot.  No one likes being told that something they’ve just worked on for three months is really, totally flawed.  Was it true?

Every word of what she said was.  And I knew it.

She said, “Give your story a real read, not some bullshit read,” and I could, but since I’m so well tied into this story, I can see the goddamn words in my head, and they aren’t saying what I want them to say.  I can reread it all, but I know it’s going to back up everything she said last night.  There were other things said that rang true, and burned pretty hard, but that’s the way real truth hits you.  It’s not something you want to deal with, but if you don’t it’s gonna come back and bite you on the ass

"You rotten bastard of a software program!  How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!"

“You rotten bastard of a software program! How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!”

Another bit of advice I was gives was to create a character sheet for Annie, and to, in her worlds, “be painfully honest” about who she is.  But at the same time, I really need to do the same thing with Kerry, because there were thinks about him when I first started imagining him that didn’t come out as expected.

Like . . . he’s clueless.  Just like me.

You reach a point when you’re putting something together where you have to ask:  am I doing this story the right way because I’m so in love with my awesomeness, or am I doing this right because I want to get it right?  For me, I’ll take Door Number 2 every time.  As a once-famous director said about a movie he was filming, “If you can’t get it right, what’s the point?”  Of course at the time he said that he was knee-deep in cocaine, spending money likes there was no tomorrow to do things like tear down sets and rebuild them because the street just didn’t frame right, and was probably crazier than a shithouse rat throughout the whole experience (I know there are a few of you out there who know the person I’m describing).  But the feeling for creative people is a correct one:  do it right or don’t do it at all.

I got some work ahead of me.

Because I want to get it right.