I’m reflecting on my first attempt at writing The King’s Sons (which releases TODAY!), when I had to start over with a new plot after 100 pages. Yikes!
If this is your first stop to my blog this week–hello, and welcome!–, the first post of the series outlines four major ways I messed up in approaching that first “first draft.” Upon reflection, I realized I made a lot of mistakes that led to the need to rewrite.
This post today is about the fourth error: I kept writing about a heroine I didn’t particularly like, or respect.
Like versus Respect
First off, like and respect are two different things. I don’t think it’s particularly necessary for an author to “like” all her hero characters, especially when you have a group of them the way my novels usually do.
For sure, you should never like everything about any character you write. If you do, your character isn’t anything like a real person. Readers will scoff at how unbelievably perfect he is.
You can respect someone, though, without liking that person and subscribing to his or her life view. You can respect some aspects of a person’s approach to life while frowning upon others. That’s equally true of characters.
It’s possible to focus on how a knight character is a loyal friend and selfless protector of the people, even if he’s treated his wife like crap.
A man might not be a great father, but he’s a good doctor and devoted to the well-being of his patients, going the extra mile for them consistently. In fact, respecting the degree to which he cares for his patients allows you to invest in this character and hope that he will learn to be a better father.
RESPECTING “GOOD” CHARACTERS HELPS THE READERS (and the writer) CONNECT WITH THEM AND HOPE FOR THEIR IMPROVEMENT IN AREAS WHERE THEY’RE NOT SO RESPECTABLE
This is why you have to respect your characters. And I didn’t respect a major player in my original plotline.
She was a liar, and I didn’t appreciate that, because the situation in which she was lying showed her to have a streak of cowardice I really loathed.
She treated a good guy who cared about her like crap, because she had always been in love with another man. This man happened to be married.
The plot would have called for her to kiss the married man, a coworker, at some point, which really angered me and made me hate the woman even more. And I was supposed to be rooting for her to break up a string of slave trade kidnappings!
The plot was not for me.
My heroes are always people who, to a large degree, share my moral code. This woman didn’t, and I just couldn’t write a story that made me pull for her or care about her in the way I needed to. The plot I was writing–the first plot–never allowed her to let her selfless streak show.
For some reason, I couldn’t focus on the good things about her–and there were good things. I tried. I tried for one hundred pages, and then, I had to tell myself that enough was enough.
I advanced the action seven years in the future, changed the plot substantially, and came up with a way to put this woman (Francie is her name) in a situation where I could respect her. I also made her more of minor player.
I didn’t show her gossiping with friends or shunning a perfectly good guy. (That character got cut, unfortunately. I did like him! His hatred for the capital city of Podrar was modeled on how I hate Chicago so much and really amused me.)
The final version of The King’s Sons show Francie’s resiliency, her bravery, and her dedication to serving a good king. She isn’t perfect–she still never managed to get over the feelings for that married guy–but at least she doesn’t make a move on him.
So, what do you think about respecting characters? Do you have examples of characters you’ve read that you didn’t necessarily like, but ended up respecting in some way?
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Book I of my trilogy, The Crimson League, is free for download May 31 (today!) and June 1. This is a great opportunity, since the story of Herezoth will be complete for all to enjoy now! Don’t miss out. You can get the ebook at the link above.