Novel Update #2: Farewell to Characters

Remember how I complained the other day about the Writers’ fest I attended last weekend claiming to feel inadequate in the company of other writers? Well I have to admit that I did in fact come away with a wealth of information and new knowledge as to how I was going to rework my Novel.

The real gems of the weekend came from an editor and established author but today I am going to focus on what the editor said.

One of the most significant points raised was about the possibility of having to say goodbye to some of your characters in your manuscript. Immediately, my gut tightened. “Oh no! I can’t do that! They’re like family!”

For any writer who has slaved away at a story that has wrenched you from the inside out, you can appreciate when I say that doing away with a main character is like killing a friend. I was actually pained by the thought because, frankly, I knew who they would be before the cutting began.

The reasoning behind this point was that you can clutter a story with so many different directions for the reader to follow, it becomes too much. Instead of engaging the reader, allowing them to emotionally experience the action unfolding for your key characters, they can be overwhelmed, beaten down and eventually lost.

The fact that I can articulate that scares me because it means I am fully aware (though in major denial), that I have been guilty of such fabrication.

What this meant for me today was that I had to revise my chapters in such a way that ONLY the KEY characters would be revealed. Any reference to these “extras” would have to be eliminated if not directly connected to a Key character (1 of 3).

What resulted was that four chapters turned into eight. Why? Because I realized that in whittling the manuscript down, I would also have to condense chapters to focus on one character at a time, instead of writing several different episodes dealing with different people contained within one chapter.

Whew! Was it a productive day? Yes. I set out to revise four chapters and I did so.

It really is easy to lose your way sometimes though. You start to fall in love with characters and certain directions they are heading in that you can honestly, become distracted away from the heart of the story. But I think I’m finally on track now.

To prove it, here is my elevator pitch, that one sentence sum of the entire novel (I may revise it later but at least I’m attempting to express it here, now):

A chemist has a fatal accident. His friend is partly responsible. His wife suffers the most.

Next time, I will tackle the author’s advice which woke up my writing like nothing else.