Don't you hate it when characters leave out pertinent information?

I’m writing a romantic comedy. While it is a comedy, one character has a secret. I’ve written this story believing his secret was nothing too heavy, just an ahhhh poor guy sort of thing. Why? Because that’s what he told me.

I’m in the process of second round edits, which for me is where the complicated writing begins. First draft is bare bones, then I go back in with a naïve belief that I know exactly what my characters need to do to get from point A to point B. Yeah. Wrong.

As I got deeper into second edits, I realized my character was much angrier this go round. At first, I went with it. I mean residual stuff does follow you, so okay, whatever. If this is what he needed right now then so be it. Then it got a bit darker. I started to bite my lip and stare at the screen in confusion. What in the world was he doing? Well, this week his behavior had me scowling. There was no way he was that screwed up over what he’d told me. It was not possible. Let me put this into perspective for you: Mountain meet mole hill. Yeah, that bad.

So we had a chat last night. It went something like this:

Me: Dude, what the hell?

Character (we’ll call him Luke) stared me down, jaw rigid. “I told you everything that happened.”

I banged my fist on my desk. “If that’s the case, you need major counseling. Because,” I waved my hand at the computer screen, “that pile of crap you gave me to begin with is not going to fly with your current attitude.”

He shrugged. “Not my problem.”

“Not your…Ooh! Listen, you pain in the butt, you came to me. If you want your story told, then I need the whole story not half truths, Luke. It’s all or nothing. Which is it?”

A vein ticked at his temple as he glanced away. I was relieved to see this reaction. I was worried I was embellishing things just a tad bit in my interpretation of his story. But nope, there he was in all his angry glory. What seemed like a freaking eternity later--man, silence really can be deafening--he finally looked back and met my eyes, doing the whole if-I-look-furious-enough-maybe-she’ll-back-off-thing. Been there, done that, doesn’t work on me.

I looked at my invisible watch. “It’s late. Kids have school in the morning. You know the way out.”

I stood and walked toward the door. As I opened it, he finally spoke. One deep, sharp word. “Fine.”

Now that could have been taken one of two ways: fine, leave or fine, I’ll talk. But knowing him the way I do, I closed the door and returned to my chair. Picking up my pen and pad of paper, I said, “I’m ready to listen.”

Then he told me his story. And what a story it is. Now if he’d just told me this from the dang beginning we wouldn’t have had this conversation. But I guess he needed to work through it some before coming to me about it. Can’t begrudge his silence, we all have our secrets and they're not easy to tell.

So any of you have to have a stern talking to with a character?



nicbeast said...

Yes. I have two stand-offs going on. First, I don't like the names Character #1 keeps picking. Second, Character #2, she has hangups and won't tell me what they are. I suppose this is where the conflict in the story comes in, but hard to write it when she won't tell me what it is. I hate her...with love...but right now, I hate her...

Magdalen said...

I have a character I believe to be smart. I had a lovely, heartstring-tugging final scene in mind for her. A scene so lovely I'd already shed a tear over it, and it's not even written. But when I had to write a synopsis for the entire story, I discovered that my ending wasn't consistent with what my smart character was going to have to do. In this regard, she turned out to be smarter than me.

I'm just hoping she'll be equally smart when the time comes to write the new ending. I do love to have my heartstrings tugged.

Suzie said...

It's just as bad when they give you that sympathetic smile just before they turn away, refusing to speak to you at all. I had one like that. Guess I had to prove myself trustworthy. It took him a long time to whisper his secret into my ear, but when he finally did, so many things fell into place.

Carol Ericson said...

Esme, ahh, my characters jabber in my head all day long! Sounds like "Luke" is a stubborn one.