Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Hero problems April 11, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:40 pm
Tags: , ,

No time to post for a while as I had to suddenly go to stay with my mother in law who suddenly became sick. I took my laptop so I could keep writing if I had the chance, but had no internet access, not even via mobile internet on my PDA as no mobile signal there either. I went through withdrawal symptoms as I realised just how dependent I am on my daily fix of blogs and discussions. I felt like all my friends had left me, plus I was stuck dealing with a difficult patient who alternated between being worryingly ill (as in can I safely wait and see how she is in half an hour, should I be calling the doctor, or does she need to go to hospital even though she doesn’t want to as I know I’ve looked after people who weren’t this sick but were admitted?), or cantankerous as she felt just a little better. She getting back to normal now, thank God, and I’m back home with my dh again, but it’s taken a while to get back into my story.

I got very stuck- my hero wanted to do something that seemed just so unheroic to me, but I wasn’t sure if I was self-censoring and that was how the story should go, so I should write it that way anyway; or if my instincts telling me that the idea sucked were absolutely right and no reader would respect a hero who behaved in that way. I have had some great advice from the very generous writers over at the e-Harlequin blog, who all think that he shouldn’t do it. It’s a tricky balance allowing heroes to be flawed, but not too flawed, he can make mistakes, but he still has to stay heroic, a man both the heroine and the reader can love and respect.

I thing a major problem here is that I didn’t spend enough pre-writing time really getting to know my characters, as I started the story so quickly to meet the competition deadline. I started with very two dimensional characters created to fit the situation. I have dug a lot deeper into them since then, and Rebecca has become a more rounded and developed person, I’m still having a lot more problems with my hero. I’m not sure I like or respect him, let alone falling in love with him! I’m not even sure he has the right name. Her POV scenes have more reality and emotion in them, while his lie flat and lifeless on the page. I need to spend more time finding out what there is to like and respect in him, what makes him a fitting man for my heroine, then I just hope I can fix the dead bits in the edits.

I oscillate between feeling I should just give up on the story and start something new (several stories in my ideas file are whispering “me, me me”), or keep plodding on with the painful process this story has become, in the hope that once I have a full first draft I can salvage something out of it. It’s so tempting to give in, and start afresh with a lovely shiny new problem-free story. But I don’t want to become a serial “give up in the middle” writer. Sure, it’s a step forward from the “give up after the first chapter” writer I was before, but not enough to get me where I want to be! I keep thinking of the bad times in my marriage, the times I wanted out, the times I felt I couldn’t bear things as they were any more, and only my committment kept me in there, trying to make things better, and how our relationship came to a stronger deeper more supportive place as a result. Maybe the story is the same, maybe hanging in there and keeping on working at it will produce soemthing worthwhile in the end. Or maybe, just like some relationships, it’s too fatally flawed to be worth pouring more energy into. I’m not sure how to discern the difference.

I’m trying hard to give up on hoping for a request from the Instant Seduction Competition editors to submit the full manuscript, although one of the editors has posted that they are still sending requests out.  The first chapter I sent in, though it was the best I could do at the time, in the time I had, just isn’t good enough. But if I keep going, maybe I can create a good story out of this, maybe I can send in my “three chapters and synopsis” in the usual way. Or maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation, and this will be one of the never to be submitted or published practice stories most published writers probably have hidden away. We’ll see….

The only way to find out is to say enough for today of everything else- stop blogging, stop posting on discussion groups, stop writing about writing, and get on with what this is ultimately all about- doing some real writing on the story, and seeing where it goes from there!

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