Sometimes you just have to put your hands in the air and say “mea culpa” or “you have me sir like a treen in a disabled spaceship”. Ten bonus points to anybody who can tell me where I lifted that quote from. Why the exasperation I hear you cry gentle reader? Well basically I started my novel with an absolute humdinger of an idea, really good, and I’m not just saying that ‘cos it’s good. It really is! But, and it’s a really big but(t) I now realise I made a rookie mistake. Putting plot before character. This is not to say I don’t have characters, some good ones too (as others have kindly said), however due to rank stupidity/ignorance I neglected to establish the clear emotional and physical drivers for my main character Perrin.
Initially this was a conscious decision. I wanted him to be a blank canvas and emerge fully formed at the end of the book as the result of everything that happened to him. In other words the story shapes him and he becomes a real person, ready to deal with life the universe and everything in the next instalment. The problem with this approach in the real world of getting a novel published is that this flies against the accepted formula of creating a character, where you need to establish the physical and emotional drivers that motivate him and the conflict/issue that prevents him/her achieving those goals at the outset. To be honest Perrin has no other goal than surviving his first meeting with Babbage and Herschel. He has no idea what he wants and no idea of the problems facing him. He is naïve, innocent and clueless. OOPS! This is not what the literary world and agents in particular are looking for. They want the emotional hook that drives the hero understood and upfront. Something that will resonate with the reader and make them emotionally engage with the story.
So…..what am I going to do about it? Okay firstly I have signed up for some online training/tutorials on character development with this bunch of miscreants at WritersHQ. Well worth a look. No bullshit no arty farty stuff, just good advice dispensed with a sense of humour and the odd swearword. I am currently doing a course on character development and it has immediately identified where I need to strengthen Perrin’s character and create more of a relationship between him and the reader.
Secondly I have taken the plunge and signed up/paid for some one on one mentoring via the Cornerstones Literary Agency who specialise in helping authors develop their MS and identify potential agents and publishers. This will give me face time with an established author/editor/agent who will work with me to make the MS more appealing/saleable. It’s going to cost me significant money, but WTF if I don’t believe in myself and the book, why should anybody else. At the very least it will help ensure I don’t make the same mistake with the next novel. As always I will let you all know what happens, good bad and indifferent.
See you out there.