Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stuck in Writer-land or Answering the Question of Why

     What do you do when your main character refuses to talk to you? That is the trouble I have been having with my favorite elf, and main character for this book, Zel.

     Now, admittedly, real life has been a big problem for the past year and a half. Between my mom have shoulder surgery, me getting pneumonia, my sister having a stroke, my mom having double knee replacement surgery, to my dad having a mystery illness for the past eight months, life has been really rough. And my writing has taken a back seat.

     But now things are looking up. So naturally, when I want to write, when I have the motivation, my character stops talking to me. This is the book that I want to get done. I have the previous two already finished and edited. I have about 100 pages left, and I know what will happen, but the journey to the end has hit a major roadblock, and I have two flat tires and no jack.

     It would be easy for me to put this book on the back seat and play with other worlds and characters, but I NEED to get this book done. I WANT to get this written.

     The past few weeks I have been fighting with Zel. his mouth is full of peanut butter and he has been mocking me. So how do I get him to cooperate? How do I get him to talk to me? 

     I have started with little things. I've read back through the 485 pages I already have. And I've picked up on a few little quirks that he has deigned to let loose. So I pounced on them. Zel has a problem trusting people. He said so himself. So the question beckoned: Why? Why does he have a trust issue? How has he been able to keep this from his sister and father and the rest of his elven fellows? This little word - why - has broken through Zel's silence. I know more about him now. I know why he doesn't trust people, and I know how to help him conquer this.

     Discovering this new personality trait of my main character has led to many other discoveries by other characters. I have discovered what is MOTIVATING more characters, even minor (for the moment) characters.

     This is what I was stuck on. I didn't know how to motivate Zel. I didn't know how to make him talk to me. But once I figured it out, he opened up. I can have my bizarre conversations with him - and they truly are bizarre. I have latched on to another facet of his personality, and I can weave more of his character into the upcoming situations. He is not the brash, confident elf everyone thinks he is. But that is what he wanted everyone to see.

     The lesson I learned is to not give up on a character, chapter, novella, or book because my character is being stubborn. You have to dig deep into your character, find out what makes them tick. You have to answer the question of WHY? Why did they say this? Why are they doing this? Why do they want to do this?

     My elf talks to me now. I know why he feels the way he does, and I know how to help him. Everything else is coming together, and hopefully I will have this book finished by the end of the month. That is my goal.

     So if you get stuck, ask your character why? Why are they being stubborn? By digging deeper into your character you learn so much more about them. They are your creations - your children - and you need to understand them. Motivation is the key.


  1. Wonderful lesson and I am going to put this to the test with one of my babies (a novel that is less than 100 pages from being done) very soon. Also I'm really happy that Zel is being cooperative for you now and let us know when you finish the book! Here's hoping for the end of the month ^_^

  2. Great piece! Does his lack of trust and mask of bravery come into play in these last pages? Is that why it was so hard or was it just the missing piece of him and it felt like he wasn't himself in the scenes?

  3. I wrote this line: "He is smarter and more heroic than anyone realizes." It is one of the last things I wrote in this book before everything went to pot. I reread what I had, and I was struck by that line. So I read through it again, and found several places where Zel flat out says that he's dumb, that he's not worth the trouble - but that is something that he has been saying and portraying for centuries so others would see his sister as a worthy individual. (Backstory: Ana and Zel are twins - a no-no in the elf world, but were both born with the ability to slay demons. Plus Ana was the first female slayer - lots of angst about it. In order to make her life easier, Zel thought to portray himself as a goofball and unintelligent one so everyone would recognize her brilliance. Along the way he begins to believe his own lies about himself, since no one tells him he is wrong except his sister.) There is a great scene when he realizes how alone he is, but tries to hide it from everyone. But once I figured out why he felt this way, it multiplied his confidence level. It was his lack of self that was bringing him down, but now that he has figured himself out he can evolve into the great character that I know he is. Does any of that make sense? My world is massive and convoluted.

  4. I think you just gave me an idea of how to cement some things with my elemental. Thank you!!!