Tuesday, March 30

Lost and Can't Find my Way Home

I'm struggling.

I am having fits with my current manuscript.

I can see it in my head, down to the villain's sneer.

I thought I knew my heroine. Strong, independent. A little naive. But wanting a baby so bad she would give up almost anything to have a child of her own.

But I'm having trouble with the Big M. You know, Motivation. It turns out that my heroine isn't strong and independent. She's wishy-washy. She's weak. Willing to take abuse.

My CPs hate her.

I'm not sure I don't.

I've always prided myself on my heroines being tough, but willing to take a chance on love.

Where did I go wrong here?

I keep fighting it, until I'm at my wit's end. I keep struggling to tell the story I see, hear, feel. But it got lost somewhere. Do I tear the whole the manuscript apart? Do I keep going on, trying to make my vision fit when it doesn't work with what I've got?

I'm so confused.

I love this story. I've been unable to put it down for months. It's the one that calls me. I have several I could work on, two or three that are probably more commercial. But when I click on the computer, this is the one that I want to go to.

I just don't know what to do.


  1. Oh D'Ann, sigh I'm in the same boat. I ready to delete nearly 44 k words.. I'm in tears over this.. maybe there's a full moon somewhere. I don't know. maybe we are trying to hard. Go put it away before you hit the delete button. clean a cabinet, wash windows.. have sex with your husband anything to get away from the story..

  2. D'Ann, since you have other books you "could be working on," why not look at your female characters in those, see what their strengths read like, what characteristics you have them that you are somehow missing with this one?

    I can sympathize as I have a novella, completed, but have not submitted it anywhere. Because I feel the same about my female protagonist--I know what I want her to sound like, be like, and I think I have failed. The guy jumps out at me but she's kind of "just there" even in her action-romantic-filled slot. Best of luck at figuring this out.

  3. Obe and Barb:
    Thank you for listening. Just venting and feeling sorry for myself a little helps.
    Good luck to both of you, too.

  4. I've had this happen several times...what I've done is really go in depth, interview the character, write a couple of scenes from her back story, they won't get put in the book, but can help for you to understand her.

    As a reader, I love kick-ass heroines, but I also love the ones who need to grow through a book. Perhaps this is her character arc, to start out a bit wishy-washy, looking for a baby to fullfill her, not "thinking it through" because of something in her background.

    Then, as the story progresses, she can get stronger, overcome the wish and wash with a strong rinse cycle (okay, got a little carried away with the washing metaphor).

    Hope some of this helps.

  5. Hang in there. We've all been there at one point or another. Set it aside and come back in a bit. I'd go back and re-read what you've written. It may only take a few tweaks here and there to make her what you think she should be.

    You'll be okay.

  6. Thank you, Ericka, for coming by and giving me advice. I think I'll take the backstory one.

  7. Hi, Sandy.
    Thank you for coming by and giving me some helpful advice.

  8. As one of your CP's, I just wanted to say I don't hate Claire. I think once you figure out her motivation, it will all fall into place. And I'm glad that I'm on board for the ride.

  9. Hey hon don't tear it up. Take a break and a breather and get some thuoghts on how to bring out the part of her that's unseen. Wishy washy heroines do have some great aspects of character and drive buried under the muck and unresolved emotions. I bet her strength is lurking down there or she simply hasn't had enough yet but when she does watch out.

    I haven't read but that's my thought process *hugs*

  10. Thank you, Margie.
    That means a lot!

  11. Hi, Hales.
    I think I need to go way back to the beginning and try to figure out what it is about her that makes her want this baby so badly.
    That may be the key.

  12. I think sometimes you have to put it away, even if only for a day or two, until you can gain some perspective on it.

    Something else I've read about (but never done) is interviewing a character. Maybe if you do that with your heroine, she'll get gutsy like you know she really is.

    I don't hate her, either, but I admit to getting impatient with her sometimes. Just as you have. Sometimes we just have to let our people grow, I think.

    Good luck. We're all ready to read when you're ready.

  13. Liz!!!!!!!! What a great idea I love character interviews.

  14. *hugs*
    I know you'll figure it out...I have total faith. =)

  15. At the risk of making everyone hate me, I going to say, "Just tear it up. Cut it... slash it, have at it...! Oh, but make a copy first! Then, keep everything you cut, paste it someplace else. Turn the story around, play with it! Do something completely against your grain. Then, after you've had a field day, put it back together; like a puzzle ... finding pieces that fit. I know this sounds totally nuts. And it is, but it will give you some distance from the piece and let you see some forest instead of just the trees. Raechel

  16. HI, Raechel!
    Glad you stopped by!
    I have torn this thing up so many times it barely resembles the original!

  17. Thank you, Carrie.
    I appreciate your faith.

  18. Is your heroine passive about pretty much everything, or about one or two Big Things? If the latter, you might not have that big of a problem. The story you're writing may require her to be weak in one area of her life. So show her being decisive and competent at other things, at her job, at dealing with a jerk she sees bullying a child, or whatever. Even perhaps have her frustrated with herself over her uncharacteristic acceptance of being pushed around in that one thing.

    (I can imagine James Bond reduced to helpless confusion by having to baby-sit a bratty kid.)

    You mention motivation, and that's a key. Why would she be weak on that front? Lack of experience? Fear of losing something she cares desperately about? Solving the problem might not take a complete rewrite so much as some additional scenes to round out the character with some extra muscle.

  19. Hi,
    D Gary.
    Thank you for stopping by.
    I appreciate you taking time to help out!

  20. Thank you, everyone, for your help and advice!
    I'll take each and every one into consideration.
    Something has to give!
    My sanity is at stake!

  21. I personally would recommend Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass. There is a workbook that you can also by and it has exercises in it that really help you, dig into your characters psyche and develop the layers that make the character believeable and human. He doesn't do character sketches like where they went to high school and what's their favorite color, but what is their biggest fear, not just on the surface, ie. fear of spiders, but the characters deepest fears, like maybe fear of abandonment, maybe that's why she so desperately wants a baby. Why does she fear this and then force her to face that fear at the end in order to reach her goal.

  22. I didn't mean to sound like I know how your character should be, it was only an example. I only think, from what you've said that your character's motivations, fears and goals aren't deep enough. Once you dig down, you'll get it and it will all come together. Best of luck.

  23. Hi D'Ann. I think you nailed the problem in the comments. You don't know why she wants the baby so badly. What having a child represents to her. It can seem like a strong motivation to have a character want something, but without the reason why (or hints about it along the way), the reader doesn't necessarily root for the character to win. If your character is showing weakly in conflict, then it could be that a reader starts to think she doesn't deserve her goal (the baby).

    Good conflict tests motivation. Jenny Crusie talked about conflict boxes on her blog a while back. I used that concept to re-examine a manuscript of mine that was having a conflict problem (at the novel, chapter and scene level). Very illuminating. You may want to try it here. You may find you just need to tweak the conflict in the scene and your character's motivation will become clear.

    Since you love this book, I'll guess that the answers you're looking for are buried in the manuscript (the reason she wants the baby, what being a mother means to her, etc.)


  24. D'Ann,
    Is it possible that she just seems wishy-washy? My favorite heroines are those that are silently strong. They may have to put up with a lot of abuse, but beneath they have a character that I admire.

    I would look at her motivation for taking the abuse and her inability to decide. Maybe she has no choice or she believes she has no choice.

    Just a thought.

  25. I think it's ok for her to have some flaws, but she needs to have some inner strength somewhere too.

    When you have her motivation sorted, I bet it will all flow. Look at something that she does that maybe your CP partners don't get and ask 'why'. I think you're supposed to ask it about 7 times to get down to the nitty gritty and work out what is really driving her.

    Hope you get it sorted!

  26. If the story is calling to you, why not go with the inspiration and just keep writing? There might be something to the heroine's motivation that hasn't revealed itself yet, but will if you keep writing. Remember, the first draft doesn't have to be perfect. Also, like some other posters have mentioned, your heroine might have the type of inner strength that isn't obvious to others at first glance.

  27. I don't hate Claire. Nope nope nope...but I think you're right - you need to delve a little more into her motivation so we get a clearer picture of what she wants and why she's willing to go through what she's going through. You'll get there, my friend, you'll get there.

  28. Thank you, everyone, for helping me! I'm really grateful!

  29. Guess what? I don't hate her either, but like Liz, I have gotten impatient with her at times. I think if maybe I knew a little more about her, I could root for her.

  30. Like your other CPs who've commented, I don't hate Claire either. I think if you make Garth a better actor so he really is hard to see through, she won't seem so naive. She wants a baby badly enough that she's willing to overlook the subtle things that bother her. Also, I thought of something else that could motivate her to stay in Big Horn. Maybe she has good memories of small town life from her past. As she starts to make friends in Big Horn, she starts reliving those memories and feels so at home there, she doesn't want to go back to the city. Maybe Kelly reminds her of someone from her past, so that she's attracted to him for more than just physical reasons. Let the two of them have things in common that draw them together. Maybe Claire tells herself she can be friends with Kelly, while determining to make her marriage to Garth work.
    If this is really pulling you to keep writing, I don't think you should put it away as some have suggested. Just get to the bottom of who Claire really is and you'll figure it out. Go back to her childhood, let her past life play out in your mind until you understand what makes her tick.

  31. I've had this same problem. I've had a few writers tell me "Write the story YOUR way". That may be well and fine when working in mainstream, but hard when trying to follow romance guidelines. I hate that romances assume you must always be a strong, assertive type woman. Not ALL women are that way.And aren't we trying to be a little more realistic in our characters? And I don't always see what you call wishy-washy as weakness; that's mental conflict. Now if we could just get editors to see it that way.

    Back off a little. You may be rushing this ms after working so hard to get your other one submitted. Slow and steady wins the race.

  32. Have you done a Goals, Motivation, and Conflict chart? Check out Debra Dixon's book and re-evaluate your heroine's GMC. That might help you discover what needs fixed.

  33. Hey Hon,
    DEFINITELY do not trash it. Even if you have to start her over, what you have may have a home else where. I whole heartedly agree with the interview advice to get to know her. I have done Tarot readings for my characters and they help me a little more then an interview cause I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what to ask. LOL A tarot reading is more unpredictale and reveals much. The other thing I find EVTREMELY helpful is what I call bubble brain storming and I am positive it has a proper name, but I don't know it. Write you char name in the middle of a sheet of paper. draw 3 lines off it and above 1, write past, another write present and above the last write future. Focus on your char and write the first things that come to mind place them in the appropiate branch and keep at it. Don't think too hard, just the first things that come to mind. THIS method may be followed by the interview. Hope these suggestions help a little.