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Friday, April 27, 2012

Revision and Character Growth

Dave Amaditz

When writing for children and young adults we all know of the rule that says our characters should grow throughout the story, to come to some new realization about themselves, the community and\or the world in which they live. But I've been wondering how many of you are like me and have had your characters change from your first revision to your last.

The current novel I'm revising, (see post entitled, When Is the End, the End?) has seen my character change. In the first few chapters of my first draft my main character was an eight-year-old boy. Fortunately, I discovered quickly the story I planned to build around him did not have the necessary details to make the story interesting. After rethinking the vision for my story my main character leapt from an eight-year-old boy to a thirteen-year-old boy. This worked a little better, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. Would fourteen work? I tried that. I thought he was getting closer to developing into the character that met the needs of my story. So, in my next revision I made him a fifteen-year-old. That seemed to work and that's when my story really took off. All the parts of my story began to fit together because I made discoveries about my main character along the way that were necessary for my story to develop correctly, things I didn't know when I began. For example, I know he no longer likes to listen to music since it reminds him of the day he found his father in the basement attempting suicide. I know he doesn't like to drink alcohol because his father is a drunk, yet any time he's given the opportunity to have a drink he can't pass it up. I know how angry he gets when he sees his ex-girlfriend walking arm in arm with his ex-best friend. And I know the little details, too, like the fact that lasagna and meatballs are his favorite food because his grandma makes that for his birthday meal.

I've attended breakout sessions at conferences that talk about how to better learn your characters. I still have the handouts I was given with questions designed to help discover your characters wants, needs and likes. Blue eyes or brown? Rock 'n roll or jazz? Afraid of the dark or not? Some writers don't need the forms. They have a solid vision of what their characters like and need from the start. But my discoveries about my characters come as I revise. In that sense, the dreaded revision is not so dreaded because I can look forward to finding out new and exciting details about my novel, the characters and how they interact.

Is there anyone out there in the same boat as me?

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely, my characters are constantly morphing and growing as I write. I'm working through a similar experience now with my ghost story (which I believe you've heard pieces of over the years). What started as a middle grade story is now solidly YA, with all of my characters maturing in ways I hadn't anticipated. It's a fun process (but one I hope will be finished soon!)