I’m sitting in Starbucks, taking my few hours a week away from all my distractions, brainstorming my outline/pre-draft for the third book in the Elysian Chronicles Series: The Sword of the Vanir. Today, I’m trying to organize all the notes that I’ve compiled across the years (has it been that long?). I’ve been looking at the plans I had for Gabriella’s character, and… Have you ever just had that slightly sickening feeling inside that you aren’t heading in the right direction? I know many writers, artists, movie makers, actors, and other creatives have experienced this while working on a project, and I’m sure others have experienced it in other areas of their lives.
I’ve learned (the hard way) that when I start feeling like a plot or a character is heading in the wrong direction, I need to take a good, hard look at what I’m doing and why it makes me uncomfortable. Usually, I end up throwing a figurative grenade at the whole plot point or story line and starting fresh. Sometimes, this has involved dozens of pages being deleted, but each time it has been worth it. I’ve also found that if I continue to ignore my instincts and push forward, I end up scrapping the idea anyway, only I’ve wasted more time and had to delete more words.
This afternoon, I threw a pretty big grenade into the Elysian side of The Sword of the Vanir. As in, I scrapped the whole plan for the first quarter of the book and about 20,000 words.
Totally. Worth. It.
My original Gabriella storyline turned her into a whiny, annoying character that I really didn’t want to spend much time with. I had even prepped the readers for this change at the end of Out of the Shadows. However, if I had continued down that path, it would have negatively impacted the story:
- Making Gabriella more whiny would turn the reader against her. I need readers rooting for my main characters. It’s a delicate balance of giving the character real weaknesses but in such a way that the reader still likes her. Think of Harry Potter. Sometimes, he could get a bit annoying, especially when he and Ron got in their girl fight during the Goblet of Fire, but Harry never became so annoying that the reader stopped rooting for him. Gabriella was starting to annoy me, and I had barely started writing her…
- Gabriella is not the character I was writing. This is the chick who dove into freezing cold water to rescue Tommy in a blizzard. This is the woman who looked Salla in the eye and refused to betray her country, bracing herself for whatever might happen and knowing full well the potential consequences. This is not a woman who would stoop to whiny, lovesick, and bitter for very long. Forcing characters to become something they really aren’t will always feel wrong and the reader will pick up on it.
- Gabs is a hero. Honey, she’s a decorated soldier and for good reason. This personality trate would come out. I can’t force it away as the author just because it doesn’t fit into my original plans.
- Davian wants to win. At the end of the day, Davian love Gabriella and wants her safe, but he also has to keep Elysia safe. He always achieves his objectives. Gabriella is far too valuable as a soldier to be used as arm candy or even to be stuck in Hawk Tower. We all know she would be annoying him about getting a good position within the military, and he would probably relent. I have to take into account other characters and how they would react. Davian is still Davian. Mr. Achieve the Objective is not going to shed those spots anytime soon.
Each of us uses different methods to brainstorm our way through a novel to get ourselves back in track. I am visual. I read through my notes, knowing my original ideas were off track.
Suddenly a mental picture flashed into my head. Gabriella, black hair flowing, wearing the white cloak Cassadern gave her, sitting on top of a unicorn in the snow in front d the scribes library. I can’t tell you why this is important without giving away a few things, but I realized then…
She’s a spy for Elysia. She’s an “ambassador” who is in fact a spy.
You know you’re on the right track when your pulse quickens and an entire plot unfolds before your eyes in a matter of seconds.
So I am back at my desk, basically redoing all of the Elysian sections of this novel. It feels refreshing, and I’m finally excited to face this section of the story.
How about you? Have you ever found yourself off track? How did you fix it?