One of the hardest experiences when writing a new book stems from the connections you make with a new collection of characters. As some characters inevitably don’t behave the way you expect, you can’t help but like them as a result.
Part of the process of creating a convincing individual involves a close focus on character motivation. After drafting a moderately coherent plot you’ll inevitably realise that a character needs more motivation to follow your plot than they start with. This can lead to reworking the story.
Part of this process includes writing extra scenes that deepen your character’s personality in order to explain their actions and choices. This extra familiarity with the character typically leads you to feel more connected to them.
The fear creeps in
With this in mind I’m now nearking the end of my newest book and I am definitely apprehensive about saying goodbye to a few of my characters. This creates an odd tension for me as a writer because I obviously want to take the story through to its natural conclusion, but I also don’t want to say goodbye to these characters.
This particular book is set to become another stand-alone title (like Marcus was) which means there will be no going back to revisit old friends. For a reader the book may only represent a few hours of reading but my experience is markedly different.
How long I’ll spend with these characters
I’ll spend a month (possibly more) on this first draft and the second draft could take another few months. After this I’ll get someone to pass an objective eye over it, before using their responses to create a third draft.
At this point I may even pass copies to ‘beta testers’ to check readability and appeal, taking their feedback to work out a fourth draft. Then I have a final formatting draft to get page alignment, fonts, etc.
When all is said and done I will have spent between a year and eighteen months on this book. More than a year getting to know these characters, honing my picture of them, and gaining sympathy for who they are and why they behave the way they do.
All of this means that by then I may even ‘know’ some characters (as much as knowledge is the correct term for facts about fictional people) better than some friends or more distant family members.
One of the tougher jobs
As you can imagine, it’s hard to go through so much with someone and then say goodbye forever, but at its core that’s my job. In the grand scheme of things it’s not exactly the hardest job in the world to do, but I can’t pretend there isn’t a wee pang as I write the final lines.
It’s the last day of NaNoWriMo tomorrow and thankfully I’m on target for my 50,000 word total (though the book will be a little longer than this in the end). It’s definitely worth being excited about but I can’t deny that it’s also a little bittersweet.
Soon I’ll be saying goodbye to a new character that I’ve grown really attached to. She’s pretty great actually. The one silver lining is that once I get her out into the world and more people get to know her, she’ll get that little bit more real. I’m looking forward to introducing her sometime in 2020/21.
As always thanks for reading, all the best, John