Saturday, February 24, 2007

Getting to Know You

OK - I know I only recently finished up the first draft of my newest book, but I knew (as I finished writing) that the first few chapters needed some major overhauls. With that in mind, I decided to begin rewriting them last night. Hubby was out with a few buddies, the kids were in bed, had the house to myself so I popped in Disc 2 from CSI, Season 5, and sat down to rewrite.

Three hours later, my hand was cramped up, I had red ink all down the outside of that same, crampy hand, and I had completely rewritten the first chapter and was pretty well on my way gutting Chapter Two. I don't think I've seen so much red ink - I had notes on top of notes on top of notes. And this is only the second draft.

For the most part, when I begin a new book, I know only the basics about my characters - where they live, how they live, what they look like, and what their basic personality is. As the book grows, so do they. I learn their habits and their faults, their quirks, and what makes them tick.

I know in this book, my hero, Hugh - Earl of Knightshire - needs to be a bit darker than he was in the original draft. He's a veteran of the War of 1812 and was pretty seriously wounded in battle. He was way too light and fluffy - as the book unfolded, I learned that he is really a rather serious sort. Not exactly a fatalist, but serious. I also know his habits now. Time to go back and incorporate these changes because, let's face it, being sexy just ain't enough.

Miranda - the heroine - is a bit trickier. She's a little whiny in the first draft and I found myself getting more than a little annoyed with her. Need to make her a bit more sympathetic, which I can do now that I know her as well. She's a bit of a free spirit, and very empathetic where Hugh is concerned. They've both lost someone close to them, and that is the catalyst for bringing them together. In the original draft, I hadn't killed off her father, so she wasn't quite as empathetic. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the poor guy had to go. It's all off screen, though, since it's more backstory than anything and I could avoid that annoying info dump that usually takes place within the first 50 pages.

So now these two have common ground and it will set the tone for their entire relationship. At first, both were rather simple, but after thirty chapters, they've become so much more complex, and I hope, more interesting. It's tough to keep them from being perfect people, which is what they were at the beginning. But perfect people are soooo boring. Give them flaws, and those quirks that make them unique. These traits don't normally emerge until I've gotten to know them a little better. Now that they've arrived, I have to go back and add the highlights and lowlights that make them human. It will take a few more drafts to get that down, but with each one, I see them as more three-dimensional. More real.

From there, the secondary characters will grow as well, since they change through their interaction with the main characters. My villian is a little too villianous. Almost cartoonish, which is never good. I don't like over the top villians. I prefer them to be more complex as well, because no one is all good or all bad. Actually, in this story, the villian isn't really so evil, so much as just blinded by her own wants - more selfish, really. She doesn't see what she's doing as really rotten, she's merely trying to protect her own interests. In the process, she loses the very thing she is scheming so hard to keep.

So, now that I know these people, it's time to bring them to life with each subsequent draft. It should be interesting to see how the story changes, now that those subtle shades are being filled in. I can't wait to see what I end up with as a result.

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