Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asking the characters

Some work I'm doing on my current project reminded me of a story I once shelved because it didn't quite work out. I think both projects have the same issue: elements that were a little forced, because I wanted or needed the book to go in a certain direction.

With my current project, the flaw is not fatal; it's a minor plot point that I can easily fix. With my former project, the flaws were much more a part of the structure, and I believe they fatally weakened it. I have to thank C. Lee McKenzie for helping me understand what wasn't quite right with my stories: when she recently posted on her blog about not letting the character lead the way, something clicked in my head.

I've actually blogged about this concept before, which just illustrates all over again why I keep this blog: because I need to keep reminding myself of truths about writing, even the things I supposedly already know. So here's my lesson for this week:

Events in the book must arise out of the characters' needs, not my needs. Plot points must evolve naturally from the characters, rather than being imposed upon them.

It can be a scary lesson, because when I don't know where a story needs to go, it's tempting to impose a structure on it, in a top-down manner. Instead, I need to listen to the characters. They will tell me.


  1. Again, a virtual sticky tab moment!

    Reminding me to focus and zero in on my character's needs is so helpful to me right now. Thank you.

  2. Great post! I needed to read this today. Thanks! : )

  3. Thanks, Mieke and Cynthia! Glad I could pass along Lee's wisdom. :-)