Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Australian YA author Aimee Said to DeeScribewriting.
Aimee is going to talk about her book, Little Sister and explain why it’s important to talk to your characters and listen to what they have to say.
ABOUT LITTLE SISTER
Allison Miller is counting down the days until her overachieving elder sister, Larissa, finishes Year 12 and leaves their school for good. Then, Al is certain, people will finally see her as more than just “Larrie’s little sister”. But when rumours start circulating about Larrie and her best friend, and Al has to decide whether to support her sister or distance herself to protect her own reputation.
When I started writing my second novel, Little Sister, I felt pretty confident. I’d been thinking about the story for six months, I thought I knew my characters well and I had a basic plot outline. It should’ve been a recipe for success but somewhere around the 20,000 word mark – a third of the way into the book – I got stuck.
It wasn’t that I’d run out of ideas, just the opposite: I had loads of options for what could happen to move the characters from Point A to Point B in the plot, but I couldn’t decide which would result in the best story. I thought if I just kept writing the story would sort itself out. But the more I wrote the further I got from my original outline, until I’d bypassed Point B altogether, arrived at an unplanned Point C and was hurtling towards a conclusion that I didn’t know would be an unsatisfying end to the story.
I was now about 45,000 words and six months into writing. I knew something had gone drastically wrong and I knew I had to fix it, even though the idea of wasting all those words and all that time made me feel sick. So I stepped away from my computer and thought about it. And thought about it. And thought about it. Weeks later I was still thinking about it when I realised that I’d been so focused on what was going to happen that I’d lost sight of who it was happening to and how they would react (which would drive the next stage of the plot). I needed to get back in touch with my characters – especially my narrator, Al.
So I wrote a letter. Or rather, Al did. I looked back over all the notes I’d made about her: personality traits, likes, dislikes, dreams and fears, until I felt like I’d reconnected with her. Then, channeling my inner Al, I imagined her telling the story of what had happened to her over the past six weeks (the period that the book is set over). The letter took three hours to write and covered 10 pages. At the end of it I had about two paragraphs per day that the book is set over, describing what Al thought were the most significant events. I had my plot – the whole thing. More importantly, it was written in Al’s voice, with her reactions and her leading the action.
I did have to go back and delete about 20,000 words, but after writing that letter I was so in touch with Al and what she’d been through that I actually wanted to start again! Best of all, in telling me her story, Al mentioned a few things that I hadn’t known about her, that became subplots in the book.
It was a hard earned lesson, but what I took away from those torturous few months was that sometimes you have to let your characters lead the story. Trust them, they usually know what they’re doing.
Thanks Aimee for sharing this experience with us. Getting to know your main character is so important isn’t it?
If I’m stuck, I often interview my main character to find out what is going to happen next. I’d love you to share any tips on how you get to know your main characters. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.
Today, author Janice Hardy has a great post at her blog about how characters fit into your story. Here’s the link: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/01/whats-their-story-discovering-front.html. Just another good reason to talk to your characters:)
FRIDAY FEEDBACK STARTS THIS WEEK
Also, this Friday, we start our Friday Feedback at this blog. Here’s how it works:
- You submit 150 words of a story and you can ask a writing question about your excerpt.
- I post my feedback to this blog.
- Other people can comment on the feedback as well.
Don’t miss this Friday’s first post offering feedback on Ben Marshall’s new YA adventure.