A couple weeks ago, I concluded the first draft of Operation Second Cousins, and started the editing process using what I had learned about writing, specifically, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress.
Initially, I had 175 pages to edit, but when I recently arrived at page 175, I discovered there were 184 pages in the novel. I must admit, it has been fun adding to Operation Second Cousins.
I have made it all the way to Chapter 5 of Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint. Chapter 5 is titled “Showing Change in your Characters”.
The first question asked in Chapter 5 is: Are the emotions of your characters dynamic or static? Do your characters have the same emotions on the final page as they had on the first page (static), or are they continually evolving (dynamic)?
According to Ms. Kress, characters come in four flavors:
— Those who never change in personality or emotion. They are what they are and want what they want.
— Those whose basic personality remains the same but what they want changes as the story evolves.
— Characters who change throughout the story although their motivation does not.
— Characters who change throughout the story as well as their motivation.
Operation Second Cousins is an amalgamation of characters introduced in the four previous Pendergast series of books and the Ryce Dalton series. I have a new main character, Dan Leavenworth, but reintroduce Oliver Pendergast II (O2), Ramona Pendergast, Ryce Dalton, and Doug Farnsworth, among others.
Dan is mostly static in his emotions and motivations, until he gets married. At that point, his motivations take a huge shift toward keeping his bride safe.
In addition to some of the character’s motivations changing, the author’s motivation or purpose for the editing process is changing. I started out just making sure I didn’t have any spelling errors, lousing punctuation, or any of the problems my editor discovered in previous books. After reading Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint, I am looking for a few more things in my editing process:
— When I put a character in a location, for example, a room in a hotel, do I create the room for the reader, or just gloss over incident?
— When I introduce a character, is the character given dimension, color, details, or does he or she live only as a stick figure?
— How do my characters react to trauma? To success?
— Can I use the activities of my characters to portray motivation, emotion?
In my reading, I have come to a very sad conclusion about writing: The books of John D. MacDonald, specifically the Travis McGee series, have gone the way of the carrier pigeon — they are extinct. Mr. MacDonald carefully developed the plots, precisely created the characters, and pulled the reader into the pages of his books. The reader was sitting on The Busted Flush as Travis considered his next move.
I recently finished reading a couple books just to see how far the author would take the plot and characters past any known line of credibility. The plot for both books was beyond realistic. The novels were simply an attempt to cram as much action into a page as possible. Eventually, both books became laughable. And, they are both on my list of ways not to write.
I am learning. I still have to get past page 175 of Operation Second Cousins. What happens when I reach the last page of the book? I start at page one again and try to let the reader see more of my characters. I want my readers to know my characters as well as I do. And I want my readers to love my characters as much as I do.