Learning to write well is a road of peaks and valleys. At the moment, I am plunging into a valley. My story is unraveling in front of my very eyes. The cause? Too many characters.
My critique partners all say the same thing. The work is too confusing, and the characters have essentially become talking heads in their minds. At first, I brushed the comment aside as coming from a partner unfamiliar with the fantasy genre. I thought of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, a fantasy close to bursting at the seam with bodies. I thought of Tolkien, King, and Rice, and the league of imaginary men, women, and children littering their stories. But, since other people stepped up commenting on the overabundance of people in the sentences I’d strung together, I had to face the truth.
Old Souls is a novel narrated by Lucien Navarro; the content is 100% limited to his perspective: the world as he sees it and the characters he encounters. Maneuvering the story through his narrowed view is a challenge. It’s not like television or the movies, where other cast members can simply linger in the background of an important conversation while throwing in the occasional line. This is a book, a hallucination I’m luring my readers to imagine in their brains. The reality is, if the characters in the background of a scene are not referred to often enough, they will, in effect, disappear.
So, how do other authors get away with their plethora of players? Usually, with an omniscient point of view, where the narrator is a god able to dip in and out of the consciousness and histories of any character they wish, building scenes which focus on various cast members independently.
My book won’t work like that. The only solution? Seek and destroy.
In addition to the surplus of characters, I also have to gut and revise my first three chapters, and that’s hard, too. I also have to change the way the political system works, and THAT’S EFFING HARD TOO, okay? Sometimes writing comes easy, and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s one of the rules of the game. In the past I have spent months away from my book, trying to rally the willpower to tackle it again. Right now, I am doing my best to avoid another spell *shudder* not writing.
The reasons to put on the brakes are piling up. My house needs a deep clean. My children are off school. My husband could use some support while tackling his new career, which actually brings in a paycheck.
Added to all of that is the ever present, first-time-author doubt that my book will suck, nobody will buy it, and all of my work will have been for nothing.
But, my book doesn’t suck. It’s pretty good, actually, and after a couple more rounds of edits, it’s going to be pretty freaking great. And that’s what I have to keep telling myself. If you’re struggling, that’s what you have to tell yourself. Not giving up in this stage of the game is what’s going to separate me from the millions of authors who attempted the very same thing I’m trying to accomplish right now.
Getting the bloody thing finished.
(Which I will do, after this short break.)