Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet revenge

So, a few posts ago, I put an author on blast for writing Mr Perfect. (much to my astonishment, she's an author who frequents a blog I comment regularly, but that's a story for a different day) Two days ago, my hero put me on blast for making him too damned nice.

In the lingo, I'm a pantser. For those who don't know, it means that I'm an author who does not pre-plot or outline. I write "by the seat of my pants" and let my characters guide the story however they see fit. Writing this way can get an author into all kinds of trouble. You can write yourself into a corner, you can wind up with major inconsistencies that you have to fix on the back end during re-writes and edits, and you can wind up like I do - with a character that won't play ball, and you're stuck because you have no outline to guide you.

I started this second book off from the heroine's POV. I had this fantastic image in my head of this woman at a major turning point in her life. Her backstory didn't exactly write itself, but it came pretty damn close. All the things that fucked her up and lead her to this point make for a complex, vulnerable, resiliant character that is more than ready for a Good Man [tm].

So that's what I did. I gave her a Good Man [tm]. That was great for the first 100 pages or so... then things started getting a bit stale. The interactions and scenes had 2 - 3 times as many crossed out words as usual (a sure sign I'm not feeling the flow of the story) until finally, two days ago, it ground to a halt. My hero had what would be called a "hissy fit," if he weren't so manly.

Mr Good Man got in my face and said, "I'm not just a placeholder you know! I have problems of my own. I wasn't put on this earth just to serve the needs of your heroine. If we're supposed to be a perfect match, she needs to help me too." He was right. I had been treating him badly. He and I had to get together and spend "me time" on him.

He's not a bad guy. He's kinda beta, a risk avoider, likes to be prepared - just like a good Boy Scout, and turns out he's stubborn too. The heroine knocks his socks off, and he has some deep insecurity that he's not good enough for her - at the same time, he knows that there's no other man in the world who would ever treat her better or love her more than he does. Quite the pickle; insecurity and arrogance and humility all in one package.

We have more work to do, he and I. I have no doubt he will dig his feet in again if I try to paint him as too much of a white knight. He came back into the story fighting, and I wound up writing a love scene that I didn't know was coming. All in a day's work for a pantser such as myself.

But for now, I'm just amused and chagrined that I could recognize so clearly in another woman's work what I was unable to see in my own. I really need a critique partner. Any takers?


Anonymous said...

Hi Venus,
I always thought I was a plotter. Plotting is efficient. It fits with my analytical personality. But the more I write, the more I realize I'm more of a pantser. Oh, I still like to create a general outline, but my characters too will occasionally mutiny.

Recently my heroine said, "Are you kidding me? I'm not going to let the hero carry me off to save me while there's a kid in jeopardy."

I still don't know how I'm going to work this into the plot. I may have to back way up. I may save this complication for another book. But I've come to realize that this is one of the reasons I write: the delight of having a character come to life.
-- Frankie Robertson

Venus Vaughn said...

Good to see you. I hope things work out with you and your heroine. Maybe in the re-reading you can find a few spots to stick in a couple of sentences that will make all the difference.

At the end of a scene I was writing last night I realized that I hadn't written down something that changes the reader's entire understanding of my contrary heroine. I was lucky enough to be able to fix it with just two words - but those words belonged three pages back. It opened up a whole new level of complexity for her.

Maybe you could let that moment of stubbornness be a redemptive moment for the heroine? Maybe she never knew she was the selfless type, or always worried that no one would accept her because she always looked out for number one.

I hope you find a way to spin it that lets you finish the book.