Sunday, February 1, 2015

What to do with an antagonist you love

For National Novel Writing Month 2014, I did things a little different. Months before the event actually started, I had already began a young adult fantasy novel and knew the category and genre would need to be at least 70,000 words. So I decided that rather then write an entire novel, I would finish this one and start the second in my planned two-book series. That's exactly what I did. Then on December 1st, I stopped and put it all away for over a month.

New Year's came around and I was terrified. I knew, as most writers do, the draft I'd ignored for over a month was riddled with plot jackalopes and horrible syntax, and the plot was no where near the way I'd imagined it would be. Grief struck me, so I procrastinated. I worked hard, throwing myself into freelancing gigs and my domestic role. (I must admit, my house stayed much cleaner then it normally is for a couple weeks.)

When everyone seemed to recover mid-January from all the festivities and school starting up again, my critique partners and I got in touch and decided to swap some chapters. I was so confounded at the awkwardness of my manuscript that I knew any advice would help get my fire going again. I had the great fortune to enter a few contests and receive feedback on my first chapter from Lori Goldstein (If you haven't pre-ordered her book Becoming Jinn which releases in April, go here now!) and a query critique from Kristine Asselin (who rocks and has just released the cover for Anyway You Slice It). In both cases, their questions and suggestions made me wonder if I'd over worked the manuscript. Utterly confounded, I held back from editing until my critique partners gave me their golden wisdom. They felt the mess as I did.

Anguish. Complete anguish. The gut twisting and mind numbing reality was that my first draft was, well, a first draft that needed a complete overhaul. But how to start and where?

A pattern I noticed was a concern for such a quick transition in the personalities for two of my characters during a two year gap of the plot. The beginning chapter needed so much work, including an understanding of the two main female protagonists. Also, everyone wanted to know the bad guy's story that was continually hinted at. I'd had a deep relationship with this character despite his role as antagonist in the novel. I knew him inside and out, down to smells that sparked memories and the symptoms of his farce to keep power. Even now, as I describe him to you, I'm smiling. Who smiles while talking about a killer?

Then a switch flipped. I needed to tell his story. And it would take a whole novel to do it.

Just like that, the strange tug I'd been feeling dissipated. Of course Rudger demanded his own story. A story only I could write. A story that would create the sympathy I craved for him in the novel I'd already written. He was the beginning of Samana's story.

Have you ever changed a manuscript this drastically? Have you ever realized a character needed their own dedicated manuscript? Have you ever known a character this well? Please comment below. I'll get back to you soon. Excuse me while I go start writing RUDGER'S CLIMB.

1 comment:

  1. I've had to completely rewrite one of my books, but I've never had a antagonist take over before. I think that's pretty cool. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the Star wars I, II and III, it was still fascinating to see Darth Vader's story, how he came to be.