Out of The Dark

>> Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's clearing...I can feel it. You know, that haze you live in when something in your wip isn't right, your direction unclear.

I'd forgotten that feeling of a story bubbling up inside me, popping and percolating and bursting to get out.

God, what a great feeling. Like finding out you're pregnant after you've been trying for months.

I had a hard time starting back up again on Dead Man's Hand. I stepped back and thought about it. Did some character work. Some plotting work. Some more character work.

And...a little more character work.

That's it -- the key for me. Those darn characters. Everything stems from them: plot, backstory, beginning, ending, middle, twists, turns, sexual tension, emotion.


And until I get them...really GET them, my story is flat. And getting to know them doesn't come overnight. It comes after walking with them, talking with them, interviewing them, living with them day in and day out--just like real friends. (You know, the flesh and blood kind). Even now, my husband will tell me something about himself I'd never known, or just didn't click.

For example. He hates caramel. Hates it on ice cream, hates it in candy bars, hates it...period. I've known this now for about 18 years. Another thing I've known for 18 years is that caramel apples are one of his favorite treats. It didn't click until I went to pick up a ginormous caramel apple covered in coconut for him for his birthday this year. I stood there thinking...why does he love caramel apples if he hates caramel? When I asked him later that night, he laughed and said, "I was wondering if you were ever going to ask me that."

Sometimes with characters, as with real life loved ones, things have to gel before they click. (No, it shouldn't take 18 years for this to happen, but you know what I mean.) And sometimes you have to see one thing lined up next to something else to see how they relate---or don't.

Anyway...I was having a tough time getting close to Stone and Christina (my h/h in Dead), but that deep character work I'd done seemed to have marinated my brain, because while I was on my scrapbooking retreat last weekend, I kept having this vision pop into my head: Stone. He was sitting on a bench outside his police precinct in his Evan Picone suit, one Dolce & Gabbana lace-up impatiently tapping against the concrete with that aren't-you-done-yet? glare.

That is a fantastic sign. I haven't had characters communicating with me like that for a long time. A very long time. A character actually nagging me to get on with the story--a real WOW moment.

I haven't fooled myself into believing I'm ready to run with it. Neither has Stone. And the fact that Christina was nowhere in the picture, even when I sought her out, tells me there is still work to be done, nuances to be found, plot and conflict to be woven.

But I'm bolstered by Stone's constant presence. And I push on.

Do your characters always talk to you? Or do you sometimes have to dig them out? Have you had characters that never spoke? Were you able to write adequately without it? Do you find it harder to communicate with some characters than others? What do you do to get under their skin and prod them into reality?


Elisabeth Naughton 8:06 PM  

I love that picture...and the title. I could totally see it on a book cover. ;)

Glad to hear the fog has lifted.

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