Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who's the Puppet NOW?

Currently, I'm working on the follow-up to "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" (which I'm calling Book Two at the moment).  The new volume will continue the story of Alexander and his friends from about where the first book left off. Like any thirteen year old, Alexander is a work in progress, and I've been interested in exploring just where his life and his quirky personality will lead him.

I wrote a fairly detailed outline of almost the entire book. I had an idea of how Alexander would react to the events in the first book, and aspects of his friendships and his relationship with his parents that I wanted to explore. I've also been reading and listening to readers, and I'm taking into account those characters and situations in which they've shown particular interest.

I had it all planned out...

Then came Alexander.

The moment i sat down and began to work on the first chapter, all of my initial plans dissolved.  In the original book I was creating a cast of characters.  In this book, they already were established.  They have likes, dislikes, good and bad habits and histories (some of which I haven't yet revealed).  I couldn't adjust character traits to suit the story; I had to discover the story through their established personalities.

Alexander is a tricky character. He's at once sympathetic and annoying. He can be both compassionate and selfish. At his heart, though, he's a good kid nearly overwhelmed with the challenges of growing up, and is struggling, like most kids, to figure out the world around him.

The great challenge in telling Alexander's story is to keep that precarious balance. He tends to over-react to events in his life, but with a motivation and intimate logic that makes perfect sense - to him. What seemed to work in the outline seemed completely implausible the moment I tried to translate outline into story.

It’s almost as if Alexander is peering over my shoulder, watching my every word and making darn sure I don’t disrespect him.

Don't let anyone tell you that characters in a story are the author's puppets.

It's the other way around.

(Currently I'm about almost a third of the way through the first draft; if Alexander doesn't interfere, Book Two might be ready by spring!)

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