Construction Zone: The Right Character

Last Thursday night I sat down to write the latest chapter for my serial novel. Because the scenes just pick up from where I left off the week before, I often don’t use character names until the third or fourth sentence. So there I was, trying to describe what it would be like for my hero to wake up in a hospital – and having a heck of a time. I couldn’t figure out why it just wouldn’t work – why it didn’t seem to “fit” like it should. Normally I can “experience” things through my characters pretty easily while I write, so after twenty minutes or so I was pretty frustrated.

And then it hit me. I was still in Ben’s head – which doesn’t sound like a problem, except the hero of Indelibly Inked is *Adam*. Ben is the hero in Hearts on Trial, which I’d been working on the night before. The thing about Ben is, even though I don’t know him all that well yet, he still experiences things differently than Adam, and his reaction to waking up in the hospital would be much different than Adam’s. He’d feel, smell…notice different things.

I usually don’t have a problem jumping around from character to character – I think that’s why I like reading/writing in multiple points of view so much. I think that’s also why I can generally work on multiple stories at once. For some reason though, I wasn’t quite done with Ben last week. Or maybe he wasn’t quite done with me (and doesn’t that sound delicious…).

Normally I “get into” a story by reading at least a few paragraphs of what I wrote last. In the case of the serial novel, where continuity is of the utmost importance, I read the whole last scene and am constantly checking back on previous scenes (I probably should treat my normal drafts like that, actually). I still did that last Thursday, so not sure why Ben just didn’t want to let Adam have a turn…

Have you ever found yourself writing one character into another’s place, accidentally? How long did it take you to realize that’s what you were doing? Do you do anything to try to “catch up” with your characters before you start working on any specific story?

10 comments on “Construction Zone: The Right Character

  1. Samantha Hunter

    I’ve been having a wicked time with this lately — I have the proposals and the wip, and I keep switching the names, LOL — and then I changed the name of a female secondary, and had to go and do a search and replace because I wasn’t sure that I did them all right.

    Funnier, because I was talking to a reviewer about Dan in Make Your Move, when I was writing a scene the other night, I kept writing the hero as Dan.

    My only excuse is old age and not enough sugar in my diet lately…


  2. Dolly

    Can’t say this has happened to me, but because even my fantasy though essentially are one genre, are still very different kinds of fantasy, so I suppose that makes it easier.

    But what I do find is that sometimes trying to get to know several main characters at once, doesn’t work. If they are all in the initial stages, then they often become similar. And I don’t spend enough time with them to dig deeper, so I am working on that. I love multi-tasking, but I am learning in some instances, it might be better to take things one at a time, especially because my fantasy books are supposed to be quite different from one another, set in different worlds.

    Ben not being finished with you does sound delicious 🙂 I am glad I not the only one who thinks like that. Mind you, my muse helped me carry the shopping home other day. Okay, he didn’t actually help me, but he was very supportive of my plight (yes, my muse is a HE).

  3. Shannon O'Donnell

    I usually only work on one MS at a time, so I haven’t had that problem. I think it would be an easy trap if I was doing more than one, though. 🙂

  4. Carol

    Even though I usually have several stories on the go at the same time, I don’t normally mix up my characters. I think this is because they’re all so different.

    And yeah, I agree, Ben not being finished with you sounds absolutely delicious! 😉

  5. Terry Lynn Johnson

    I can only concentrate on one at a time. I envy anyone that can do more than one thing!

  6. Jamie DeBree

    Ack! Changing the name of a character scares me…I know it has to be done sometimes, but I’m sure I’d miss it somewhere!

    Pesky characters anyway – why can’t they keep themselves straight?

  7. Jamie DeBree

    That’s too funny, Dolly. I’m too analytical to acknowledge a muse as if he/she/it’s something outside myself, in any but the most generic way. My brain corrects itself all the time, “No, there is no muse, it’s all you, good or bad.”

    Thankfully, I’m not so literal when it comes to characters who, even though it’s only on paper, *do* actually exist in my head. 😉

    And yeah, I need to step back from the other WIPs sometimes before I can get a handle on new characters.

  8. Jamie DeBree

    I sometimes envy people who can stick to one at a time. I’m sure that has it’s own challenges though…the grass always being greener and all. 🙂

  9. Jamie DeBree

    I think that’s my problem. I don’t know Ben well enough yet…and maybe that’s why he didn’t want to let Adam have his turn. 😉

  10. Jamie DeBree

    LOL – Careful about that…it’s kind of a pain in the butt sometimes. 😉

    Thanks for stopping in!