Characters and Human Relationships

I’ve been working on a novel since the end of November:

I had a strange dream that really should be considered a nightmare, but Ke$ha was playing in the background, and there was too much contrast for it to be disturbing on a personal level. It inspired an idea that would have made for a black comedy in very poor taste had I not decided that the characters involved – who developed at a snail’s pace, except for the antagonist – were worth more consideration that I had initially given them. I am still in the process of developing them.

The original idea (after I dismissed the black comedy idea as far too crass for the topic of sexual assault) was a series of short stories, told from the perspective of young women in different locations, at different stages of maturity, who encounter a man – a serial killer and rapist – who believes he knows who she is and wishes to possess her. Eventually the reader will learn that all of the women are actually the same woman, but under different identities (or sometimes a random woman who looks just like her, and the killer is just wrong. It happens.). The project would be called My Name Is Not Heather Stokes, since denial is always the first line of defense.

I write in fragments, as a habit. Stories play out in my head like movies or dreams, and I watch a scene or so at a time. It rarely comes to me as a whole. That being said, I sat down and hashed out a few scenes from various identities, and realized exactly what I mentioned in an earlier post: My plots are not conducive to short stories. Perhaps some of the later ones are, but my characters demanded to be better-developed than I had originally intended, especially my killer, who finally, after years, wants to share his history (but only with my heroine).

My project is now an initial novel, comprised of three parts, then shorter sequels, maybe.

I pounded out the first draft of part one, mostly in spiral-bound notebooks, post-its, and the memo app on my phone (because I don’t have a booklight, and ideas often come to me very late or very early). I finished typing it up in late January/early February. I was so excited, because I often start projects and drop them before I can finish. But this story could pass as a finished project, one that simply ends on a cliff-hanger with lots of questions unanswered (along the lines of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”). It is currently just shy of 60,000 words.

However, one issue became apparent: I hadn’t fleshed out a couple of my characters enough. Yes, you can tell what kind of people they are, and you can see what motivates them, but you are not compelled to care about them. I realized this when one of my beta readers suggest that I cut out one of the characters, to make the story more focused. This upset me the most because, in my head, this character was the most tragic.

Since I was so wrapped-up in narrating the relationship of the protagonist and antagonist, and developing them into fascinating, hypnotic characters, I had failed to show the complex connections and interactions between the other characters.

The story is not a soap opera (even though the antagonist calls it that).

My current goal (besides the short stories) is to write scenes that illustrate the interaction between the more minor characters, their interactions with the main characters, and how my killer plays on each of their personalities to manipulate them.


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