Radio Silence: A Character Dissection

I’ve used the word “dissection” so many times in my other manuscript, I can no longer spell it without thinking about it.

One of the main issues I had with my first draft of The Killing Type was letting my MC’s voice fade out. Charlotte took a backseat to a much louder character, and now that I’m in the process of rewriting the book, I realized I’m having trouble hearing her. At first I thought it was just me failing to reconnect to the story.

Here’s where I let the crazy eek out. Are you ready?

When I met Henry, from the other book, I met him. He sat down at my table with his fox skeleton and began speaking to me about the moral implications of medicine. He was, simply put, a pretentious git. The Mortality Vice is his story, and it’s written in first person. I had unlimited access to his mind, past, present, and future. I could see all the doors, and all the possible realities for him. We still chat, even though I’ve finished the draft. We’re making plans for revising. Anna, too, is very much an open book to me, though she’s a secondary character in the story.

I thought my problem was switching back into third person after so long. I’d tried writing The Killing Type from Charlotte’s point-of-view, but each time I felt it was too muddled and messy. I brought myself back, but there was too much distance. Now I’m writing a very close third person, with more of Charlotte’s feelings and inner thoughts broadcast to the reader.

Unlike Henry and Anna, Charlotte is very much an internal person, in her book and in my head. She doesn’t chat with me. She doesn’t tell me what’s happening. Instead, she drops hints and let’s me follow to my own conclusions. She has an isolation that none of my other characters have expressed.

I’m not her confidant: Lizzie is.

Charlotte, like me, is an introvert. She keeps her cards close. The problem with her voice in the first draft stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t honoring her feelings by continuously trying to reach her. She didn’t want to be reached. Lizzie wouldn’t say a word in deference to her friend. When I read over what I’d written in that first draft, I see just how much I got wrong.

There are things Charlotte wants to stay hidden. Things she can’t face, things she doesn’t even tell Lizzie. She’s guarded, and she has every right to be.

I don’t feel like I’m fighting her voice anymore. I don’t feel like I’m dragging out her secrets.  Yes, I’m crazy, and I treat my characters as though they were real people. I finally feel like I understand her, and in turn, she’s been more forthcoming. She’s more present, more involved. We’re not resisting each other, and I have confidence that this time, I’ll get it right.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Radio Silence: A Character Dissection

  1. Shelly Tennyson Taylor

    Listening to your characters is what makes your novel stand out. Writing their story and not yours!

  2. Pingback: Is there a padded cell in my future? | Life Happens

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