By Melissa Tagg
Several weeks ago I turned in the rewrites on my third book. If I were to describe the process of writing From the Start, um, I might slip into slight melodramatic territory.
Or I’d straight up tell you it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written.
Which is the truth, no matter how drama queen-ish it sounds.
I just didn’t get along with my main characters this time around. Their names are Kate and Colton and man, they wreaked havoc with my mental and emotional state as I wrote their story. We fought. A lot.
And really, the story’s probably better for it. I think anytime our characters rise up and challenge our preconceived notions of where their journeys ought to go, it’s a good sign that the story is coming alive…telling itself. It’s the most magical part of writing.
But also the most frustrating.
The great thing is, about two or three weeks from my rewrite deadline, my characters and I suddenly made up. Everything got fun and rosy and exciting in those final days of edits. And I think there are some specific reasons things finally smoothed out.
So in case I’m not the only one who sometimes has trouble getting along with fake people, here’s what helped me make up with Kate and Colton:
-I gave them space to talk. My editors pointed out that in several scenes in my original draft, especially near the end, I pulled back too quickly, cut out too soon. So in my last days of rewrites, I pushed those scenes further. I let my characters say more. I stopped holding back. And that freedom had great and hopefully impacting results.
-I stopped pushing my own agenda. It’s so easy to go into a story with set plans for our characters. Maybe there’s an epiphany we want them to experience. A lesson to learn. A theme to explore. But sometimes (or always) our stories go places we never planned. And I think the best things happen when we loosen our grip on our characters and let their reactions, emotions, and epiphanies breathe on their own.
-I closed my laptop. I know, silly, right? But several times I pushed my computer away, closed my eyes and simply let scenes play out in my mind. I probably looked hilarious, but I let my imagination carry me into my character’s head…and heart…and I walked through the scene with her. It sounds funny, but we connected. 🙂
-I prayed and played hermit. I’m not good at all at disconnecting from the world. I’m also not the best pray-er on the planet. I’m easily distracted and too often, caught up in my to-do list. But in those last weeks before the deadline, I stopped blogging. I was only minimally present online. For two weekends in a row, I completely unplugged from social media. And I prayed. I’m telling you, my head space cleared in a way it hasn’t in months, if not years.
I’m happy to say Kate, Colton and I are getting along pretty well now that their story is off my plate for awhile. But tell me I’m not alone…I’m not the only one who fights with her pretend people right?
Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing coordinator for My Book Therapy. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com.
Melissa, allowing our characters scope to fully reveal themselves is really challenging. And it’s good they mucked you around as they told their story.
Oh, and there are very few of us who are good prayers. So don’t be tough on yourself but as you experienced, God loves us to turn up so we can enjoy His presence and better still help nudge those rascal characters along for us.
Lovely post, my friend.
So glad to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t always get along with their characters. Right now I’d like to…Nah, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Great post, Melissa!