I’ve been working on my WIP, and I hit a sticky spot. It kept me stuck for a bit and I realized that my issue with the scene was that my characters were flat. I stared at words for awhile, went away, thought, returned and tinkered and stared and tinkered and left again. I did this several times. Many times. I couldn’t figure out how to unflatten them in this scene. I’ll admit that I know how to do this. But in this instance, the how of how to implement totally escaped me. I have multiple characters in the jungle trying to get somewhere by a certain time in a terrible rainstorm while carrying a mostly dead person and trying to not get killed by many monsters. The thing is, though I’d introduced the characters, I hadn’t built them well enough to feel like their dynamic and interactions made sense together this situation. It felt a lot like a bad play acted out by wooden sticks.
Well, finally I decided what I had to do. I had to shade. My characters felt about as flat and complex as stick drawings. Maybe less. But in this scene, how could I do that shading in a way that didn’t stop the action? With four characters? And a mostly dead body?
I started by examining the dialog to see if I could do more to make connections and raise tensions between characters. I also tried facial and physical action descriptions to help indicate thoughts and feelings. In order to keep the pacing, I could only hint at things, trying to make more out of the details than they actually were. I then added a bit (a tiny bit) of introspection. Too much and I end up with info dumps that interrupt the flow and action and drag the story down, but I need a bit to lend shading detail to characters.
I don’t think I’ve been entirely successful in this particular scene. I still have one character that’s still fairly flat. But then, she hasn’t really come much into play. One of the things that Charles Dickens was able to do was to take a character and pull them into a round character when he needed to, then flatten them out again until he needed them to be round again. I’m working on being able to do that. Right now, I don’t know if the one flat character is good enough yet. I’m still contemplating, but at the same time, I can’t stay in the one place. I need to progress. I know, I *know*, that writing always gives the answers eventually, and keeping on keeping on is the best choice. I stopped when I ran into a flaw because I couldn’t figure out how to progress, but I probably should have pushed through it quicker.
I guess you’re never too old or too experienced at this stuff to learn new things (course I feel like a perpetual newbie).
And on a final note, first, Blood Winter, fourth in my Horngate series, is coming out December 26th. So far it’s getting rave reviews and if you want some “dark urban fantasy at its best” (RT Reviews), then you need to pick up a copy. Encourage your friends. Give them for Christmas.
Also, since there’s many of you I haven’t met, I’m doing a Shindig Event next week on Weds, at 6-7 EST. It’s an online event where I can see you and you can see me. I’ll be reading a bit from Blood Winter and doing some chatting. So please RSVP and come!!!!