Some background: In order to maintain my focus on writing a novel (and basically give myself a kick in the pants), I signed up for an online class on Writers Digest University titled “12 Weeks to a First Draft”. I’m on Week 4.
I submitted my assignment last week and anxiously awaited the feedback from my instructor. If felt like I was on a writer’s high or something. I was feeling absolutely awesome about my story, my characters, and everything in my little world seemed great. I couldn’t wait to hear from my instructor all about my brilliance.
The next morning, I received the following comments: “You do a great job of defining these characters, what motivates them, what their conflicts are, what their strengths and weakness are and you write excellent dialogue. You have a great sense of POV…” (See, I knew I was brilliant! Hello Cloud 9!!)
And then she went on to talk about my main character, Bonnie: “sometimes her thoughts and actions come off unsympathetic…” And, in regards to her actions after her boyfriend died: “If she really loved Eric she would act far differently.” (And… my feet are back on the ground. Is that my heart in my shoe?)
So, after reading the comments from someone who obviously has way more experience in the craft of writing than I do, I did what any normal, well adjusted, 35 year old woman would do….
I spent the next 10 hours of my life having a tantrum inside my head. It sounded something like this: “What do you mean that’s not the way she would act? That’s exactly the way she would act, that’s why she’s acting that way! She can’t act any other way because that’s who she is!!! You just don’t know her, that’s why you don’t understand.” Only it went on and on in a circle for the full 10 hours. (I basically sounded like a two year old. So glad I didn’t let it come out of my mouth! My family would never have let me live it down.)
During my silent ranting, I pretty much convinced myself that if I could just find a way to put in everything that Bonnie had gone through up to this point in her life, that it would fix everything. Naturally, I considered putting in a prologue.
Searching the internet, I discovered that there is a big debate about whether a prologue should EVER be included. (Just FYI – I grabbed every James Patterson book I own and he seems to do great with them.) Then, I came across an article written by Chuck Sambuchino, What NOT do Do When Beginning Your Novel, and decided a prologue was a very very bad idea. I was lost. I had no idea what to do.
Eventually, after all my agonizing and giving myself a migraine… I had an epiphany. You’re not going to believe this…
Bonnie can do ANYTHING! She’s not real. I made her up. Her background, what she did, what she’ll do in the future… it’s all up to me. I basically wasted an entire day of my life insisting (even if it was only to myself) that this make believe person couldn’t act any other way because that’s just who she is.
And here’s the real kicker… I didn’t even look at my story for two days. After the two days were up, I reread what I had written and… Bonnie wouldn’t act the way I had her acting… it was definitely out of character for my fictional character. So I happily rewrote the scene and spent the rest of my week silently praising my instructor on how awesome and brilliant she is and how lucky I am to have her feedback.