I usually hate unfinished projects. Whether it's reading a book I'm not enjoying, a sewing project I've lost interest in, or a dance choreography without a deadline, I generally try to push through because you never know what gem you'll find at the end. (I mean, was it just me or the first time through, did the beginning of Outlander seem to drag a little?)
So I'm a little disgruntled that I have a half-finished manuscript that I walked away from several years ago. I liked both main characters, but about the middle of the plot, I discovered that the hero was a bit of a prig and the heroine was way too passive. Don't get me wrong, they were completely correct for their time period, but as a modern reader/writer, I didn't want my hero to judge his love interest based on religious strictures and I didn't like that my heroine was allowing herself to be pulled into sixteenth-century politics without at least voicing some opposition.
Normally I would have done a hard print (for some reason I cannot edit on a computer screen) and enlisted some hard-core re-writes. But these characters overwhelmed me. I didn't see how I could reform their personalities without reforming them. So I hit "Save" and stashed them in my generic writing folder on my desktop.
For some reason, lately I've been thinking about them... I think it was when Aunt Constance (see earlier blog post) took over in my current work that I was reminded of their intractable nature. Aunt Constance has proven to be useful in deepening the plot in which she was before only cursorily involved. And, she's been remarkably tractable ever since she established her dominance, if you will. Perhaps my Elizabethan characters will be willing to renegotiate how they come across to modern sensibilities
So I am a list addict. I make lists for the grocery store (obviously) which are on the same page right under my list of meals I intend to make that week (so I can cross-reference at the grocery store and see if I forgot anything). I make weekly to-do lists (broken down by day and with little boxes to check off...I know, I know).
On those daily lists of things to do, I include WRITE. It usually gets crossed off, though that doesn't necessarily mean it was a terribly PRODUCTIVE day.
With each successive book, I've tried to become more organized. I have lists of characters and lists of chapter summaries. Then as the writing progresses and editing commences, I start adding lists of things to add, check, or fix. So on the book I'm currently writing (Wherefore Art Thou is the working title simply because the lead character's name is Juliette. I hate coming up with titles...), why oh why didn't I include a list of what exactly each character looks like? I know I planned all that out--it must be buried in the manuscript somewhere, but suddenly I can't remember if our hero's eyes are light or dark. Pretty sure his hair is (if for no other reason than I prefer dark haired men!), but no so much on the eyes.
I think I need to design a database template for each successive book. In it I will be forced to answer questions such as height, coloring, distinguishing marks of all characters. Also immediate family, alive and deceased. That would be helpful. Also, whether or not they are allergic to peanuts. Oh wait, that's the kiddo's field trip form. Still, might come in handy for a character too.
The long and short of it is I don't think you can be too prepared when it comes to details and background material on a char
Nothing like success to motivate you to succeed, right? Saw yesterday that a prolific list creator on Amazon.com had included The King's Rebel on her list of favorite medieval romances. Duly motivated to engage in not one but two writing sessions as a result.
And was promptly caught unawares when a heretofore background character stood up and announced, "I believe I shall have a starring role for a spell!" This happens frequently--someone you think is important fades into a minor role in a book while someone else takes over. And yes, I know I'm the writer, but seriously, sometimes you just feel like a funnel for this, this Thing, which is your story/book/muse and it's best to simply sit back and watch it unfold. Besides, you can always edit later (although something tells me Aunt Constance will not be edited quietly...).
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...