It’s been a week since my last NaNoWriMo update, and there’s still so much work to do on the novel. Maybe I’ll have the draft done by the beginning of the new year? Maybe I should make that an official goal.
As I continue to work on it — albeit on a much slower pace — I continue to process the things that have happened and how they connect and will shape the things to come. (Well, the ones I know will come. Being a pantser means that I don’t have that many details figured out yet.)
There is one thing I’d love to talk about, but I haven’t figured out how to discuss it without major spoilers. It feels especially wrong to spoil a story that not only isn’t published but also isn’t even complete yet.
So instead, let’s go back to the summer of 2016. I was working on the novel back then but was running into a major road block. The characters were starting to go silent on me. They were lethargic and uninterested in the story, so I took a couple of months off to let them brew more before giving them a fresh start in November.
While all of the characters had fallen into a rut, it was really a duo of minor characters who were the worst. They were cousins, and they started off all right, but they had become indistinguishable from one another and completely flat. It was pathetic.
Whenever this happens, there’s always a huge question about what to do. Do the characters stay but go through some personality therapy or does that part of the story just need reinvented?
I ended up opting for reinventing. To do that, there were a few things that I needed to assess:
- Why do these characters need to be in the story?
- What role(s) are they filling?
- Is there another way to do this?
The answer to the first and second was that I needed at least one more person on the spaceship to handle the engines and air systems, so that meant the character couldn’t be completely eliminated. There’s more to it, but that was really the most important part.
The third question opened up some possibilities. Instead of being two cousins, what if it was just one character instead? There’s something about the dynamic of two people who know each other well, but that wasn’t cutting it. So I decided to trim down to one character and make him more dynamic by himself.
So far, that seems to be the right choice. Of course, who knows what will happen in the next draft?
What do you do when your characters fall into a rut? Have you combined/completely replaced characters in a story?