August 5, 2011

Getting Down to the Truth

I always think of writing a MS as a journey. There’s the linear part of it, beginning to end. And then there’s the descent down into it, deep into the characters, and to the, for lack of a better word, truth of the MS.

Because there’s your surface set up. Your plot. Then there’s the outer shell of a character. I’ll use my coffee magnate as an example.

He doesn’t do relationships. Of course, that begs the question: Why doesn’t he do relationships?

His answer to you would probably be: Because it’s too complicated. I don’t like emotional entanglements.

But why, Mr. Coffee Magnate? (We might press)

He would probably glare at you, a but annoyed, some of his charming veneer slipping a bit. “Because I’ve had enough emotional drama for one lifetime.”

Ah-ha!

So, you don’t want the drama then, Mr. Coffee Magnate? Do I have that right?

He might shift uncomfortably in his seat at this point. “Sort of.”

Well, we ask him, what if you fell in love?

He would give us one of his infamous icy glares at this point. “I won’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t let anyone mean everything to me.”

And there we have a real answer. And it’s one you really won’t get out of a character right at first, because a real person wouldn’t give it to you right at first. A person may not really know why they don’t want to fall in love, or they might, but they don’t carry that reason right at the surface.

So up front, in the beginning of my Coffee Magnate MS, you have this man who seems sort of charming and unshakable, capable of warmth and friendliness, but without a lot of deep emotion behind it. But down beneath that is his protection, the real hard, armored cover he keeps locked tight over his heart. And the reasons for that protection.

When you uncover it all, he’s a man who’s afraid, because he’s been hurt so badly. That’s the core truth of his conflict, and essentially, of his character. That’s what he has to heal from, that’s what he has to overcome. Not ‘I don’t want a relationship because it’s too complicated’. But the deep, underlying cause of that statement.

As I said at the beginning of the post, this isn’t something you’ll have laid out in the first few pages or even the first few chapter, not necessarily. Because it’s going to take some digging to get the heroine to see it, it’ll take digging to get the hero to see it.

But don’t forget to do the digging into the character. I think that’s what makes a character three dimensional rather than flat and cliche. It gives weight to the decisions the characters have made, it makes it cost them to find their HEA. And that makes for a more rewarding read!

I’m getting close to typing The End on the Coffee Magnate and this song by Adele has been fueling the angst. Please do enjoy!


Comments

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  1. Perfect! Just what I need to think about. I’ve got to that 12k stage again where everything falls apart. I’m making things too easy for my characters and revealing those deep down hurts way too soon. Thanks, Maisey, you’re a gem!

  2. Alexandra, always glad to help! It’s something *I* was thinking about as I was pummeling the Coffee Magnate and trying to figure out just how deep his wounds went.

  3. Ah, I love this. It’s all so true and something that I have to watch out for in my own writing. I’m going to have to go back in my WIP and poke at my characters to make sure they’re not spilling secrets too soon!

  4. Marlena, hello! It’s not SO much secrets. I’ve blogged about that too, making sure the momentum of your WIP isn’t being driven by characters keeping secrets. (I had to completely rewrite a book where I’d done that. *whimper*)

    I think it’s more (and I have a CP rolling her eyes at me right now. Heh) Characters being too self-aware. Or another character being too intuitive. Does that make sense?

  5. I think any book with that song on the soundtrack must be full of tasty angst.

    And I have read recently a couple of (not HP) books where the characters were preternaturally self-aware. It made the emotional conflict seem a bit slight.

  6. Great post, Maisey. Do you mind me asking which book you rewrote because it was driven by secrets? I think it would be easy to fall into that trap. Was it the motivations for keeping those secrets that ended up driving it instead?

  7. Julia, right? The posts on Jackie’s blog from Dr. jax are really good I think. It explains how aware we really are, or aren’t, of why we do things.

    Lacey, The Highest Price to Pay. In the initial draft, Ella’s scars were a secret and Blaise’s erm…indiscretion with his brother’s fiancee was as well. And while my editor said it kept her reading because she wanted to know what had happened in their lives, she said that she felt she didn’t know them at all. So she told me to go back to the beginning with everything out in the open and let their internal conflict drive it. It’s not the secrets, but how the events shaped them.

    In the version that I sold, they both know OF each other, and he knows about her scars, they’re visible, in fact, and he’s infamous for his sins. So then it became about them dealing with the issues rather than hiding them.

  8. Thanks, Maisey. That’s a huge help đŸ™‚

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