Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Character Growth

She was at it yet again.

My latest novel sat unfinished on my desk.  There were things that were missing, and the Muse was off on another of her crazy forays, leaving me in the lurch.  Couldn't she be consistent just once?

I found her on the downstairs couch, her feet propped up as she polished off another donut.  "What do you think you're doing?"

"Catching up on the latest Breaking Amish show.  Did you know that Rebecca was a smoker?"

I looked from her to the TV and back again.  I'm sure the only thing that kept my eyeballs from popping out of my skull and hitting the ground was the retinal nerve attached to them.  Surely she felt this, but she stayed fixated on her show.

"I've got a deadline to reach and you're here watching some narcissistic kids who can't decide whether it was a good idea for them to leave an extreme religious sect?" I finally spluttered.

"Shhh," she admonished.  "I want to see why this guy hates Jeremiah so much."

That did it.  I yanked the remote from her hand and switched off the TV.

"Hey!" she yelled.  "I was watching that."

"Not anymore," I snapped.  "You've got to help me figure out why my characters are so flat.  Realism is something my readers expect, so it's time to get off your ass and start singing to me again."

Her sigh felt like a hurricane gust.  "This isn't hard to get.  Your characters are flat because none of them has depth.  They exist solely for a scene, and then you forget about them until several dozen pages later.  If you aren't thinking about them, why should the reader?"

"Why should I give a shit?" I asked, half annoyed and half curious.  "Every piece has its place."

"Maybe in your book, but not in life.  Listen, you were the one who asked me about why your characters weren't real, and now you don't like the answer you got.  These people have to develop over time so that readers can get to know each of their idiosyncrasies.  Few people care about a character they only see once, but bring them along slowly and give each a quirk of his or her own, and people begin to relate."

Thinking about this, I realized she was right.  However, I needed her guidance or all her words would be lost.  I wanted to drag her back to my room the way I'd done before, but she'd hidden in the closet a couple of times when I did that, so I decided on a different tact.

"The characters will be so much more believable if you helped breathe life into them," I said.  "You'll be depriving them of that life if you don't help."

"Flattery will get you nowhere," she said, but her tone implied it would.

"Come on," I teased.  "Don't you want to make them dance to your tune?  You do it so much better than I could."

"That's true, but if I give in too easily, you won't learn to appreciate my contributions."

"Not so," I protested.  "We've had our differences, but we make such a good team when we work together that I'd think you relished our time."

She sat up and said, "I do, but you don't let me do my own thing.  You're always trying to get me to work on your schedule.  When do I get to do what I want to do?"

"Tell you what," I said.  "You give me 5,000 good words on making my characters more realistic, and we'll DVR Breaking Amish.  You can watch it in the morning when I go to work.  Just think - the whole house all to yourself so you can listen to them scream at each other."

She chewed on hr cheek and finally said, "It would be nice to watch without distraction."

"Of course it would," I reached out my hand and she gingerly took it.  I pulled her up and kissed her on the cheek before leading her back upstairs.  I knew that my charms wouldn't always work, but I had to take the good with the bad when it came to her.  In the end, she was worth it.

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