Inserting Characters

A few years ago I was on a walk with my son when he was in seventh or eight grade.  He’d just finished reading a first draft of one of my manuscripts. “I really liked Sophia,” he said. “But you’re really going to have to introduce her earlier.”

I laughed because he was exactly right. My main character and I both met Sofia unexpectedly at the very same second while my MC was in the middle of his “darkest moment.” (That comes near the end of the second act in a plotting plan known as the step outline.)   If I’d let her, Sofia would have stuck to Thom like a burr and really gotten in the way of the story. Fortunately, her parents and I managed to stop her, but it wasn’t easy.  I liked her, too, but I wasn’t sure that I should keep her.  The talk with my son and feedback from my critique partners convinced me that I should weave her in fully instead of plucking her out.  I found a good place to introduce her and found a way for her to be a “mirror character” in the plot.  Her interactions with Thom would reflect back on the main plot and theme. This project hasn’t been acquired by an editor, but it was one of the projects that helped the woman who is now my agent decide to offer representation. 

Since then, I’ve inserted other characters into other projects.  In fact, I’ve been doing just that for most of the summer and early fall with the new fifty pages to a fantasy.  But now I’m doing it with STAND-IN FOR MURDER (working title), which could be coming out in Fall, 2010.  My editor felt that I needed at least one more teenage character.  She can’t be plopped in like Sofia was in that first draft.   Instead, the reader has to feel like she’s been there all along.  As far as my editor was concerned, the earlier I introduced her the better.  After ruminating on their past for awhile, I decided that at least a reference to this new character would actually work very well on the second page.  It would make sense, given what Id recently discovered about what had happened between the two characters.  As I said in an earlier post, this kind of revision really does feel like I’m working in one of those STAR TREK alternate time lines.  Maybe it’s the one where Mr. Spock has a beard…

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