Writer: Heal Thyself!

I really should listen to my own advice, shouldn’t I?

A couple weeks ago I wrote that characters need depth. Both Brandon and I touched on it, and you know that if Brandon emerged from his blogging torpor to utter such wisdom, they must be great pearls indeed.

I’ve been chewing on that truth. Not long ago, my novel pitch was rejected by Angry Robot. (Remember that open novel submission period they had back in the spring?) Sure, it’d be nice to get a whole novel published, but this also gives me the time to put more polish on it. Or, you know, tear out everything but the framework and do a major renovation job.

I took a look at my characters. Eight main characters carried the weight of the story. One of them provided first-person narration. Many, many secondary characters entered and exited the story for various purposes. Frankly, it was too many people for one novel. I’m not Robert Jordan, nor am I George R. R. Martin. Pruning time! Given what we’ve discussed here, I wanted to keep the characters with the most depth. I wanted to keep the characters with the best character arcs.

Which meant… my protagonist had to go.

Whoa! Wait a second! Get rid of my protagonist? He told the story! He narrated the entire thing for the reader, giving commentary and explaining actions when necessary. He was the main character! How could I get rid of him?

Yet, he didn’t provide a character arc. He didn’t change. He didn’t grow. He didn’t present any real flaws. Sure, I liked him as a character, but as a protagonist… he simply didn’t have the depth that he needed to have to carry the story.

My bride and I mulled it over for a bit. We considered giving him a story arc, but compared to the richness of a few of the other characters, anything we did just seemed tacked-on. And well it should seem that way, since it would be tacked-on! Rather than provide a character-enhancement, we simply performed a character-ectomy. He no longer exists in the current draft.

In fact, we examined every single major character and not a few minor characters in the light of character growth and character depth. We’re down to four main characters now. They’re the four that gave the richest backstory and interaction. We folded some of the other character’s abilities into those four, so we still have all the abilities and quirks we need for the plot.

Then again, if Tolkien took this advice, imagine how much shorter the movies would have been!

I’m not entirely sure if this is going to work. I might need to reintroduce some of the old characters. It does drastically alter the plot of the story. But then again, I want something with depth, right?

So, wish me luck as I attempt to apply what’s been written here to my own writing. I really should use what we write here anyway, right?

(On a related note: I wrote earlier that I needed to have more output to be able to edit and get better. This past week I smashed my goal of 7k by a good five hundred words; it’s the first time I’ve actually made the goal. I pray it continues to happen so I have to up my goal!)

Go me!

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