Posted by Leslie Aug 22 2011, 9:44 am in writerly advice
Energized by creativity in the thrill of beginning a new project, your characters whisper to you, revealing their desires and flaws. Your plot is linear, you can see the solid scenes that lead from inciting incident to resolution. Your outline flows. Your proposal pours out in scintillating prose.
Until a niggling voice reminds you that nothing is this easy and you realize you have some concerns about your heroine. The voice grows louder, more insistent, until you can no longer ignore the truth . . . you loathe your heroine. A progress stopping moment. A screeching, slam-into-the-wall feeling.
If you, the grand creator of your world cannot connect with your main lead, how can a reader?
Fortunately, there is hope beyond the wall created by imagination’s betrayal. Solutions:
Cut her out of the manuscript. I can almost hear the collective gasp (but it is under the “severe” heading, after all). Does her character arc conflict with the story path or the hero’s journey? Is she unsympathetic?
If you cannot find anything redeemable about your character, not one kernel to build around, dump her and find yourself a heroine who is worthy. There are too many stories with lackluster leads, do not add to the list. Whether you’ve written two pages or two hundred pages, do everyone a favor with some ruthless revisions.
Reexamine your work. Can you pinpoint why you are disconnecting? Are her reactions reflecting her inner self, that private need, or some other emotion? Why would there be a gap between her feelings and her actions?
Ask “why” until your vision blurs with the pulsing pain in your head — or until you find the answers.
If you can reconnect with that spark that vitalized your character and analyze the execution of the idea, it may deepen your understanding of her and lead to possibilities on how to present these nuances.
Treat each scene to this scrutiny, massage the details and restructure, until it produces the manuscript you initially envisioned.
EASY MODERATE (We’re talking about loathing the heroine. You didn’t REALLY think any of this was easy, did you?)
Ask for help. No one can write your story for you, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you have a critique group, ask for advice. If you don’t have a critique group and think you would benefit from this type of camaraderie, search out a local chapter of writers or an online version if you’re not located near a city.
Friends who enjoy reading can offer suggestions from a reader’s perspective (just don’t be a pest) and testing the loyalty of your spouse and his tolerance for romance plots might prove fruitful (just don’t be surprised with the suggestion to “add more mayhem and bad guys” along with the insightful gems!)
Watch interactions. Find a bench at the local mall or any popular hangout and watch people. You can sense the subtext of the relationships by noting body language along with tone and language usage. Let your imagination supply the rest. Some of it may be usable in your manuscript and at the very least the observations give you a template for real life communication.
Step away. When you get too close to your work, it can look like a gnarled mess, hence the repeated advice from seasoned writers to let your work sit before beginning edits. You may need a rest from your unfinished project to let your subconscious work through the snarls.
Read an author you admire for inspiration. Work on a different project. You may find when you reenter the manuscript, the heroine is not as loathsome as you’d thought, or softening her hard angles was not as complicated as you’d envisioned.
The wall of loathing. I’d like to say it disappears with practice, but I suspect that’s a fallacy. I’ve heard mention of the hair pulling moment from newbies with their first shiny pen to seasoned professionals on the bestselling list.
Every writer must find his or her method of overcoming the wall, of pushing forward until the seamless story in the imagination matches the words created on the page.
Do you have some advice for writing through the loathing moments?