More bloody red ink, spewing endlessly while I cut, chop, whack. This time I’m attacking the characters.

After all the gore, about forty fictional people have survived. They are the community of the heroine and hero; the other protagonists, the antagonists, and folks that don’t have a clue about what’s going on – but are nevertheless affected. Though all of the characters are important, only about fifteen have major roles.

Traditional romantic suspense stories generally have only the hero, heroine, heroine’s protector, an antagonist or two, and maybe one or two additional characters as foils or confidants. For this story of corporate intrigue, traditional numbers and roles are too confining. The heroine is an analyst who works with a team of other analysts. The hero, some protagonists and the main antagonist are executives with partners and staff. The hero and heroine share their leisure time with friends. When the heroine discovers that ‘the sky is falling’, she doesn’t drop everything and run off to isolate herself with the hero. They both work to maintain normalcy in their world while trying to figure out how much of the sky is actually falling and how to prevent being flattened when it does.

Though challenging to keep them, I need all the remaining characters. They help expose different attributes of the heroine and hero by drawing their thoughts out onto the page where they can be seen. Not by switching through forty points of view (though that is a thought…), but by revealing character traits through dialogue. The heroine communicates differently with one of her posse than with a corporate teammate. The hero doesn’t interact the same with corporate associates as with his crew. Having the community of characters simplifies the task of juxtaposing the heroine’s and hero’s personal and professional lives. They also provide information about – and various reactions to – the disrupting consequences of the heroine’s discoveries.

The community of characters is organic to the novel. Each one has his or her own personality and reason to exist. My goal is to show them as real people; not as nebulous clouds of loosely defined characteristics, dropped into the flow just long enough to focus attention on a particular personality aspect.

How is it going? Good question. I have no answer yet. What I do know is that I must get it exactly right. The tone and delivery of the dialogue have to be sincere. Especially with the hero’s interactions. It can’t sound as though ‘this female author thinks this is the way men talk’; a failure that would rip the heart right out of the story. Luckily, I have a way to avert that disaster. No chopping, cutting or whacking this time. Going for a weapon with more finesse. En Garde!

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#ROW80 update, 02/20/2011:

  • Goal 1: Five more chapters to create revision artifacts for. The closer I get to the end, the more intricate the work and the slower I go. It’s maddening! But still, there’s been progress…
  • Goal 2: Very close to my 3 hours per day goal. Tuesdays tend to be the hardest day. Only managing an hour there. Yesterday rocked!
  • Goal 3 -Still posting!

Hope ya’ll are doing well!

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14 Responses to Foils & Finesse @ Forty

  1. “…a weapon with more finesse…”

    Hmmm… And, even though I think I know what that weapon is, what is that weapon 🙂

    My WIP has lots of characters, too; though, mine are because the plot winds through about nine generations of a family…

    As far as supportive characters revealing aspects of major characters, I had an artificial intelligence who was only going to be in the first scene of my WIP. She successfully negotiated her way to major character and, because she’s android-ish, she got passed-down through the generations. Very handy “mirror”-character–helping me draw the generations together even as they change 🙂

  2. CathrynLouis says:

    The weapon? Hmmm… What could it be? 🙂 It’s a rapier.

    The AI is a great idea for revealing characters. Nine generations? Wow.

  3. I like using characters as a supporting cast for the main ones, revealed in various ways.

    In my current WIP, I have fewer characters than in my previous works, but there are some minor ones that prop up the storyline.

    Here’s my ROW 80

  4. Linda Nelson says:

    Very interesting use of characters. Hang in there. The turtle race will continue for all of us.

  5. Katy Bennett says:

    Sounds like you’ve got editing nailed, you know what to keep and why and what has to go I can see all that red ink spilling down your computer screen. keep going you are almost at the end.

  6. CathrynLouis says:

    Laurel, I think there are fewer characters in my next WIP – but that’s because I’ve only written about a quarter of the first draft. I put it aside to revise this one. It’ll be interesting to see how it really turns out.

    Linda, I sure feel like the turtle – baby steps. 🙂 Still, there’s progress.

    I hope I have it nailed – or has it nailed me? 😀 Thanks Katy for the encouragement!

  7. benmind says:

    I very much like how you analyze the needs of you story versus what’s expected or the norm the the genre you’re writing toward. Always good to watch a writer’s mind in operation. Continued success with your character surgery!

  8. alberta ross says:

    wow- massacre – I can just see the blood on the screen- you have a job there to juggle all those characters – good luck and well done on being ruthless

  9. mariebwolf says:

    40 characters sounds like quite a bit of work, but it sounds interesting too.
    Good luck with the editing!

  10. C.Farrell says:

    Re: Tuesday being difficult – maybe allow yourself a break or a smaller goal on Tuesdays, that way anything you do will feel like an accomplishment. After all, you’re still doing well on the other days and we all have one of those days where it’s impossible to get a minute to ourselves.

  11. Shari says:

    I’m personally in awe of a balancing act like this one – but wow, sounds like you are very, very up for the challenge! I’m starting to enjoy some of the fat-trimming aspect of self-editing, hopefully I will have the discipline to keep it up!

    I always learn something from your posts – as usual, thanks!

  12. I’m impressed that you can keep up with so many people. It sounds like you have a handle on it. Keep up the good work!

  13. CathrynLouis says:

    You’re right about Tuesdays. I’m trying to make it fit what I want instead of going with the flow. Thanks for the suggestion – it’s greatly appreciated!

    As for the characters, many are bit players. It’s been fun writing in just enough of a personality to show them as distinct people. Thanks for all the encouragement and kind comments. I hope it all turns out well!

  14. 365andMe says:

    Wow! You are doing super awesome. I’ll see you in a month when we cross our first finish line. 🙂

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