A couple of weeks ago, Alexis Morgan came and spoke at my local RWA chapter meeting. She was great, had some constructive things to say about finding time for writing in our busy schedules. And she was especially nice to me after her talk when I picked her brain about writing in the paranormal genre. As you all know, I have a new paranormal series starting in May 2010. It follows the descendants of the seven greatest heroes from Greek mythology. I wrote the first book – MARKED – last year, fell in love with the hero and heroine and was very excited about the story. When it sold, I was elated. If it does well it has the potential to be at least seven books, possibly more. Obviously, I really want it to do well!! Now that I’m working on the second book in the contract, though, little issues are popping up, things I didn’t need or have to think about when writing the first book without a contract. Things like…keeping my sexy warriors consistent from book to book, making sure my world building is strong enough and makes sense, differentiating between my Argonauts so they all don’t sound the same.
I’ve never been one for character sheets. Characters come to me fully developed when I sit down to write their books. But this series is different, and a few things Alexis said really hit home for me. We chatted about her strategies, how she uses the hero archetypes to differentiate her warriors, and she sent me some character charts that I printed and have been using. And while it’s all great and has helped and I’m using them (to some degree), I’m realizing that even when I plot or graph out parts and pieces of my book, things never go the way I plan.
Case in point. I’m several chapters into DECEIVED (working title for book 2 in the Eternal Guardians series) and all along I’ve been thinking my hero is a warrior. I IM’d my awesome CP the other night, ready to pull my eyebrows out because my hero is doing anything BUT acting like a warrior. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: I’ve really had it with this guy.
Joan: What’s wrong?
Me: Zander is not acting like a warrior. He’s acting like a lost soul. Nick is supposed to be my lost soul!
Joan: Hm…I hate to break this to you, but Nick is very much your warrior. Didn’t you read the book you wrote?
(Hear me sighing?) Some days, the more I write, the more I’m convinced I know nothing about writing. And yet, at the same time, I know what works for me is not over-analyzing how I get to the end. Sometimes I think writers are so overanxious to label their writing as this way or that, or follow someone else’s directions on how to write that they lose that magical element that makes their writing so unique.
I’m not tossing the charts. I think, for me, they’re a good starting point. And definitely helpful to refer to as I try to recall which Argonaut has which powers and which direction his personality favors. But characters are as unique as real people, and for me, I don’t think I can classify each one into eight basic labels. So Zander may be a lost soul. But I guarantee he definitely has some warrior in him too. (At least that’s what he’s whispering in my ear at the moment.)
Have you ever had a character pull a 180 on you mid-way through a chapter or book? And what do you think about labeling characters?