Progress report – stuckish

Storm

Did I mention I gave up on trying to finish the book before fixing the main character? No? Well, that’s because I haven’t been on here much lately. I should be, it’s good for me, forces me to write more.

Anyhow, I have been working on my book, but haven’t managed to finish those last pesky few chapters. I got stuck. In part, I’m tired from my day job – this is our busy season, and also because I wasn’t able to make chapter 17 work. The reason I couldn’t make it work has to do with the fact that it’s the point in the story where the main character has to make some decisions. Since the character started out so weak, it had no punch and basically fell flat for me as both a reader and writer.

How am I supposed to make the reader care about the character and decisions he’s having to make if they didn’t care about him in the first place? Well, that’s a good question. So, stuck as I am, I went back to chapter one, and stared at it for a day or two. No help there. So, I went back further to a page or three of back-story that won’t ever see the light of day (at least not in the book). I wrote my character with a new perspective. Gave him a reason to fall into the circumstances that come later. In a few sentences, I laid out his world view in something like a monologue. This seemed to work. Of course, it means re-writing the entire book as it is so far. Not awesome, not awesome at all, but necessary. That said, I’m not really changing the plot or the events, more the reaction to those events, and perhaps a little be of how those elements of plot are arrived at.

What was good about this approach though is that if I get stuck or the story starts to seem flimsy, I can refer back to that bit of writing to remind me how the character is supposed to react. So far, I’m back up to chapter 12. One interesting side effect of revising the main character in this manner is that it gives the main supporting character more to work with thus making him stronger as well.

At this point if you’re not asking, why didn’t I just do this to begin with? you probably should be. Truth is, I thought I had. I wrote a whole long chapter of back story, but it didn’t really get at his motivations and perspective. Most of the other character’s I’ve tried to write usually start out fairly strong in my mind, but this character never has. It’s one of the reasons this project took so long to get off the ground.

I’ve still got lots of polishing to do, but now I feel like I’m once again making progress – even if I still haven’t actually finished the first draft.

Problems with my main character

As I work through the first few chapters of my current story yet again, one of the main issues I’m trying to address is a weak protagonist. For the last re-write of these chapters I intentionally focused on him having a lack of confidence. I thought this would be a good way to show the character grow as he regained that trait and took charge of his particular situation. Turns out this wasn’t a good idea. The entire story was written so that a protagonist without confidence simply isn’t believable. Damn. Now what?

Another aspect of this character is that he has been born with a special gift of magic. It’s a gift he doesn’t trust, and if anyone knew of it, he’d be ostracized. Not only that, it’s a gift he’d never been taught to fully exploit. There are some other twists to it, but this is the gist. By the end of the story, he will have learned the trick of commanding the better part of his real power, and use it to win the day. At first glance, it’s a pretty subtle bit of character development, but when I look back at what he goes through, it’s not really subtle. In fact, it’s the key change he undergoes through the story. From that perspective, it makes perfect sense that I should focus on his magic as the dynamic element, especially since most of the story revolves around his learning of magic. The next step is to go through each chapter and re-write to make him confident, perhaps to a fault, and instead focus on magic as the key aspect of character development. With luck, this change will make the story more interesting, believable and engaging. If not, well, I’ll just revise again.