It has finally happened. The baby is napping regularly — and I’m back to writing regularly! I was hesitant to declare victory at first, but it’s been a few weeks now, so I think it’s safe. Hooray! Imagine the cheers I’ve been doing. While continuing to teach with the baby has been great, writing is also a big part of who I am and I’ve missed it.
This week the major hurdle has been a particular scene with my main character’s mom. The scene as it currently reads is pretty blah: we get a slight feel for the mom’s character, but it doesn’t show us at all Wendy’s conflict with her mom.
So I decided to go back to the drawing board, sort of literally.
Last summer, when I created avatars of my characters, I only did the main ones. Like, the ones that show up on more than just two pages. When I started agonizing over the scene with the mom, I realized that I didn’t have a clear picture of her in my head.
As I mentioned in a post earlier this year about the movie Easy A, I believe how you portray the parents in young adult fiction is a crucial element to the story. I have been very turned off by flat parents in otherwise great books. And yet the parents in my own manuscript are incredibly flat! Oops. But I swear I’ve always meant to round them out; I never intended to leave them that way. This week I’ve finally started to get around to it.
While I was at it, I decided I better create every character that has a speaking line in my book. Suddenly my cast of eleven ballooned into eighteen portraits. The setup below shows the hierarchy: top tier = main characters, second row = secondary characters, third row = minor teenage characters, bottom = minor adult characters.
Some of them I tweaked from the original portrait, like Brianna and Abuelita, who needed just one or two different features. Some of them don’t even have names that are absolutely solidified. (Peter’s mom, currently labeled “Karen,” has been fluctuating the most, and the craggy-faced gnome doesn’t even get a name in the manuscript right now, so I threw “Vydin” on his picture just because those were the syllables that came to mind first.) And some of them, like “Mitch,” still don’t look right but are close enough for now.
It’s helping. There’s so much you can tell about a character by how they look. Once I can picture them, it’s easier to see how they might act and react in a given situation.
My next job is to try a tactic I heard on the radio last weekend, which is to come up with five adjectives for each character and have at least two of them be positive. Such a great way to make your characters complex. Wendy spends such a large chunk of the book upset with her dad that I want to be sure he has redeeming qualities too. Hopefully between the portraits, the adjective exercise, and all the scene blocking I’ve been working on, I can round out these minor characters of mine.
That is if I can quit getting distracted making avatars . . .
What can I say? My attention is starting to stray to my next book. While for other writers this might happen any time, for me I get so fully immersed in each manuscript I work on that I don’t think about the next one until I’m ready to push the current one out the door. So this is a good sign! It’ll give me more motivation to wrap up Wendy and the Lost Boys, especially since seeing these two new main characters makes me so excited to start working on their story.
They are going to be cool, let me tell you. But I’ll keep my ideas for them super secret until I have a full draft, probably by early 2012. Consider these avatars a sneak peek and an assurance that soon WLB will be off to solicit an agent.
In the mean time, I’d love your thoughts about minor characters in general. What are some of your favorite minor characters — especially favorite parent characters — in books or movies? What makes them great?