So, I have problems. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone who knows me more than say, a couple of weeks. (Heck, almost anybody can hide anything for a couple of weeks, right?) But I’m going to try to keep it on track as to two specific problems. That I have for a specific story known affectionately as “Tarina.”
The first is a proverb that I first heard a couple of years ago that I didn’t get the FULL IMPACT of until Tarina’s rewrites.
- “It is easier to give birth, than it is to raise the dead.” *
Not that Tarina should be considered dead by any means. But the sentiment is still there. It’s apparently infinitely easier to create a story from nothingness than it is to rework a story — regardless of how much it is loved and cherished — into something publishable, when it was previously and without question unpublishable.
And the second is:
- A less than original backstory for the main character. (We will keep the stress to a minimum by not visiting a possibility of Copyright infringement. Nope.)
First the second. Not original, you may say? There is nothing original out there! It’s all been done! Go forth and write!
I say: Nay! I too was of that school of thought. I just need a little of this and a little of that and presto, the character will Become-My-Own through my clever characterization and dazzling plot twining. So in tuned with my own contrivance abilities that I fell completely into that trap and wrote upwards of 600,000 words worth of content for said Main Character! She was, in a word, fabulous. Perfect. Loved her. We shall refer to her henceforth, as Jean.
Years passed. Decades. But one evening I was watching a television show with my youngest, and we were getting one of the Team’s main character’s backstory. And my jaw dropped. You would’ve thought I had lifted it literally word for word.
Because I had. Only the names had changed. And it had become so inexorably intertwined with Jean, that I only saw it as Jean, and everything else was simply extraneous material I’d drawn on to achieve Jean. And I forgot about this favorite character of mine from 1980’s graphic novels. Suddenly, Tarina was nothing but a lie.
A lie, you say? But isn’t all fiction, technically, a lie? Well, sort of. Except you have to be true to your world, your genre, your style and your characters.
And now I’m gazing at the First Problem with new alarm. Not only do I have to (e.g. want to) rewrite this world into something publishable, but I also have to — somehow — fix Jean so that she is not a clone from this 1980’s character — who has gained new life and a new following in the 2010’s.
Is this even possible?
And if so, how?
How do you strip down a character and make her something unique, while still being true to your world that you created, basically, AROUND this character? Do you start with her? Do you start with the world? Do you just start writing and it will work itself out?
Not if you want to have something publishable by, say, autumn.
I think I HAVE to start with the character. I think I HAVE to sit down with these two favorite characters of mine and work out their differences and make someone new that I am still just as happy with. And then what about all the other characters? (There’s over 600,000 words here, remember.) Will they still be the same around her? How can they be? This is someone different than with whom they had a relationship before? So, not only am I giving birth, but I’m still raising the dead!
Who else gets into these messes?
The good part about this? Tarina has a writing partner whom I trust explicitly. If what she says doesn’t go, then there is at least a well-thought-through discussion on the possibilities and the why’s versus the why not’s. Hopefully, she’ll have a brilliant plan of her own, smack me around, and then I will begin, as it were, again.
…. We shall have to see how this progresses.
*from Donna Wright, Romancing the Smokies, event planner.