I discovered this week that it’s important to finish world building before going onto the huge, plot-changing edit that is draft two.
Over the last Camp NaNo, I worked on editing. Most of the beginning needs to be rewritten, so that’s mostly what I did—lots of rewriting, and only editing the occasional scene that I thought I could keep. Around the last week, however, and in the weeks following Camp, I got stuck, though. There was this one character, Tiri, who’s voice I just couldn’t quite capture. She has a personality, and a sort of strong one, and she seemed to be pretty willing (mostly) to do what I wanted her to do, but it never came out right. As if it was forced.
First off, when does a well-developed character ever willingly do what the author wants them to do? I don’t know about other writers, but if my characters seem real, then they never do what I want. Ever.
Secondly, if she was willing, then why did she sound forced?
It occurred to me that the problem, or at least part of it, was that she had no motivation. Sure, she had reasons for doing what she was doing within the story, but not really motivation. I’m pretty sure there’s a distinction. I might have a reason to eat lunch, considering that it’s lunch time, but I’m not motivated to get out of my chair and actually eat something until I start feeling hungry.
So then I got to work backwards. This was what I wanted her to do, so what could make her want to do it?
After lots of rambling at a friend, who’s probably dreading looking at her email and NaNoMail now, I finally figured out how to motivate her. Turned out to be something as simple as taking advantage of her “the more you want me to do this, the more I’m going to do the opposite” stubborn attitude, plus introduce the stakes a little earlier, and I got her exactly where I wanted her.
The other problem with her was that I realized I was trying to put her into situations where her personality was struggling to show through. She’s very hands-on and physical, and probably an extravert, and so sticking her in a situation which forced her to isolate herself—yes, that caused a little bit of conflict, but not quite the kind I wanted, and it only allowed me to show a small portion of her personality. As a result, in the first draft, she was horribly flat and I actually quite disliked writing her.
That last problem isn’t completely fixed, but I think I might be able to tweak it somehow to at least be better. Hopefully.
What does any of this have to do with world-building? Well, nothing, apparently.
Mm. Those stakes I had to introduce to get this character where I wanted her? Those stakes didn’t exist up until, well, a couple of days ago. The first draft had absolutely no stakes at all. One character almost had stakes, but then I didn’t actually integrate them in, and so…there were none.
So obviously, I had to figure out what the stakes are, and then figure out how to integrate them into the story. For each individual character, too, since most of the characters don’t even meet each other until like 50k into the story.
For this one character in particular, the best way to introduce the stakes was actually to throw a party. Well. The world she lives in, the people there are known for being somewhat sort of obsessed with festivals and parties and celebrations. So, I throw a party, and introduce some stuff, and voilà!
Wait. I actually know nothing about how these people throw their parties. You know, things like, is it indoors or outdoors? Do they dance? Is their music? Food? How long do they last?
Most people who know me in real life know that I’m not a party-person. I tend to avoid them if I can, actually. So this sounds kind of backwards, me writing about a society that loves their parties.
Eh. The point being, I had some world building to do before I could go any further. And, of course, by figuring out how the party goes, it actually affected two other chapters that I’d already finished rewriting and editing. So what do I get to do now?
Go fix them.
Basically, the lesson learned here is that it’s kind of pointless to edit something without really knowing what you’re doing, because you will end up going back and fixing it again soon. That’s all fine and dandy for first drafts, but not second drafts.
Anybody else make that mistake?