I’m having difficulty shifting gears.
I just finished revisions on a dystopic YA novel tentatively called “The Afterward” in which a 16-year-old girl survives the collapse of the American government and the start of the second civil war. I also just finished the first draft of the book I wrote with my writing partner Jared. It’s previous title, “An Evil Heart” has been changed to “Gallery of Dolls” which better fits the story line. In this one, I wrote the character of a 23-year-old college student who becomes the only surviving victim of a serial killer. I started working on revisions this weekend.
Here’s where I’m running into problems: I started a new novel, currently titled “Death Kiss”, where a 17-year-old girl has seen the face of Death and is now obsessed with finding him. She is smart, but not as sweet as the Nia, the protagonist in “The Afterward” and she is not as adult as Brenna, the 23-year-old. But somehow, both of their voices are leaking over. Layna is the character from “Death Kiss” and she is struggling to find her own personality. She knows who she is (as d o I), and she’s been in the works for quite some time. But it is proving to be a challenge to shift gears between these three very important individuals. There is a lot of grinding and groaning going on.
It’s really irritating.
And it makes for a lot of rewriting very early in the writing process.
I don’t want to be one of those writers who allow all their characters to become so homogenous that they sound alike, think alike, and the only differentiation is hair color or height. As much as I love Dean Koontz, all his child characters sound alike and behave alike. It’s disappointing. There are other writers, famous and not-so, who make this same mistake with characters of all ages. It says to me that the writer is building a character to be the writer’s own mouthpiece rather than to tell an interesting story. I don’t want to be guilty of that. I also don’t want to be in any of my own books. My ego just isn’t that big.
There are a lot of valid (and not so valid) reasons as to why this is happening. Like I mentioned previously, my chaos level has been at maximum for the last three or four months, and that is making it harder to focus. My closest friend and writing companion abandoned me (yeah, I said it – abandoned! Okay, I smiled when I said it), and I’m still getting used to not having that person around on a daily basis. There are a lot of other factors that, to varying degrees, are getting in my head and keeping me from really being in the head of my character, but all of that boils down to just excuses. I don’t have writer’s block, I’m not stuck, so it’s time to take the dragon by the tail and get to work.
So I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in a while, but something I’ve often given to my students as an assignment: I’m having Layna write me a letter and tell me about herself, about her situation, and about how she thinks this ought to be resolved. I’ll allow her the free expression and hopefully catch her voice more effectively.
I have some other little tricks I can try, too, if that doesn’t work. For example, I intend to interview Layna about her history so I can know even more about her. I plan to interview other characters in the book about their relationship with Layna. Hopefully, all of this will solidify her as a person in my mind, and I won’t see bits of Nia or Brenna filtering through.
I have tons of resources at my disposal, I have wonderful writers who are always willing to give feedback and make suggestions. And as the old cliché goes, “This too shall pass.” Before I realize it, I’ll be head-long into this story and aggressively trying to make my self-imposed deadlines. Naturally, I’ll post my progress here.