Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Too-Absent Hero

Have you ever noticed while writing a story that when certain characters walk into a scene the whole tenor of your project changes?

I've been working on a sequel to my first novel (which has had a lull in querying with all my health issues and the holidays). There was a certain way the plot had to go that kept the hero from wandering in until about page 65. I knew I missed him, but I didn't realize just how much I needed him until he finally appeared and started talking to my heroine.

The whole story takes on a new depth when he arrives. Not that there aren't other characters that bring plenty of their own goodness to the tale, but it really doesn't feel truly 'alive' without him. When he's not there, it's obvious that he's missing.

It doesn't even have much to do with Romance because that whole element hasn't come strongly into play yet (I'm a fan of drawn-out romances). It really is that he is a character that adds a needed edge to the story.

So now I need to figure out how to handle this lack when he's not around. I think there is a certain part of it is that is good. The readers need to miss him when he's not there and feel what an important character he is. If my pre-readers tell me that they missed him, I'll count that as partially a good thing.

But I also think that a complete absence of my hero for the first 65 pages is a problem. So I need to determine how to bring him in or strengthen the other characters to hold the weight better. Actually I need to do both.

That's why we have second drafts.

Anyhow, I wrote eight pages today and I feel immensely satisfied with the fact. I've been in a rut where I haven't been able to write more than a page or two at a time and it has been very frustrating. My writing retreat really forced me to sit down and write for a long period of time and got me back into the groove.

It also helped that my doctor identified one form of caffeinated tea that my body can handle. Which is lovely because it gives my brain that extra jolt and focus I need to sit down and seriously write some quality focused material for two or three hours.

Anyhow, draft one is currently 79 pages and 23,000 words long. Considering how long I've struggled to start this sequel, I think that's a pretty significant start.


Morgan said...

I finally got back into writing more than a page (or so) recently too. It's a great feeling, isn't it?

I wish I had advice on how to amp up the first 65 pages, but it's always hard to do without reading the work. I have the hardest time with the opening of a piece... it seems to be the part I end up revising more than any other. The good thing is that, once the entire piece is finished and I know exactly where it's going, I get great ideas on how to improve the opening. Good luck! :)

Victoria said...

If you've ever read the Scarlet Pimpernel, you might think about how Baroness Orczy handles her sometimes-absent hero. That might give you some ideas.

For me, if the hero isn't there, his personality and mental processes are being mulled over and dissected by my frustrated heroine. :p That's how I handle the absent hero problem...

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Morgan -- that is so true! I'm holding myself back on editing the beginning because the further I get in the story the more I develop the changes I'll need to make to the beginning. I do keep notes though so I don't forget!

Victoria -- very good comparison! I'd started to do that and it is definitely one of the techniques I plan to use in revision. :)

Anonymous said...

what is your first novel called?

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

It hasn't been published yet so there technically isn't an official name yet. This is because the publisher always has the right to change a title. Rest assured I'll be blogging about it when I secure a home for it!