Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adding more characters to my WIP

I've been blogging about adding new characters to my work-in-progress, Through Charlotte's Eyes, so I thought I'd start a discussion about this very topic. Have you ever written a draft, only to realize that you need to add a character? Combine a couple characters? Or remove a character entirely?

I'm currently working on draft 3.5 (I call it this because I've rewritten/revised the first half of my novel more than I have the second half), and the idea of adding new characters seems a bit overwhelming. But then I think about how the novel will progress with these new characters and how these characters will influence the main characters, and it seems a tad less daunting.

Not only that, but as I revise my current draft, I notice scenes with plot holes that are filled perfectly by these new characters, as if I'd left a space for them at the dinner table and I was just waiting for them to arrive.

As of right now, I'm adding two characters in, each of whom play a pretty hefty role, along with a handful of minor characters.

One of the new characters is Leonoor, a girl from the States who is studying abroad in Paris. She runs into Anne a few times before they become friends. I'm still fleshing out her character's back story, but so far she's looking to be the antithesis of Anne's best friend from home. She's intelligent, driven, and always on the lookout to try something new. Unlike Anne's best friend, she knows how to take care of herself.

The second new character plays a large part in Charlotte's life. He is Aunt Bretteville's protector, who keeps track of the family's finances. But, unlike many people in Caen, he shares Charlotte's moderate views: he wants a revolution, but a peaceful one, and he doesn't believe in the authority of the king. While Charlotte never intends to marry, she finds a companion in Jacques [tentative name that will definitely be changed] that is nothing like the relationships she has with any other men in her life.

Biographies dispute whether or not such a figure actually existed in Charlotte's life, but as I write her story and the reasons for why she decided to murder Marat, it has become clear that Charlotte needed someone to talk to about what she wanted for France and why. Plus, her relationship to him adds an entirely new dimension to why she leaves for Paris in the first place.

As these characters develop and play larger roles in the lives of my main characters, my novel really feels like it's coming together the way I envision it. It's one step closer, and that's a great feeling.

I'm still not sure how I'm going to work on adding these characters in. Do I start from the beginning and work my way towards the end? But that means revising Chapters 1 through 11 again, without having touched Chapters 12 through 30. (I have the nagging feeling that I keep ignoring the last half of my novel, for good reason).

Or, do I add the characters in as I continue revising/rewriting the last half of the novel? But what if they change dramatically based on how they're introduced in the first half? Maybe, for now, I'll mark the spots where they'll play a large role and then go back? Then again, I worry, that will make the story too stilted. Ah, the decisions! I'm thinking I just have to suck it up and start revisions from the beginning... again.

Now, your turn! Have you ever finished a draft, only to realize that some of your characters needed to change in drastic ways? Have you added new characters? How have you gone about putting the characters into your next draft? Comment below!


Weronika said...

Oddly, I've never had this problem -- sometimes characters appear out of nowhere and help my story progress, but I've never looked back and thought, Oh, shoot -- I missed a character. I'm sure it'll come up at some point.

I wish you the best of luck with your revisions and I hope that your new character comes through.

The book, just by its title, sounds very intriguing. I look forward to hearing more.

Anica Lewis said...

That's really neat! I haven't had this happen when a novel was finished, though I've definitely had characters waltz into the writing when I hadn't planned to put anyone there.

If you need any help coming up with a name for Not-Jacques, my favorite resource is - although of course, there are always regular old baby name books, too.

Cindy said...

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. But very interesting, though. I've definitely taken out characters before and I think that would be easier than adding them in.

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