I will freely, openly admit to having been in a rut for the last several weeks. It’s probably more accurate to say it’s going on months. I’ve been writing, it just hasn’t been the same. I still make a point to try and participate in at least one weekly writers chat on Twitter. But there’s just been something off, something missing, and it took me the longest time to realize what. It took even longer to realize how to start to fix things.
The problem begins about four months ago now. I’d found a prompt in the Wattpad universe for a side character who had managed to slip himself into not one story but three (all different series). I loved him. He was dark, troubled, but with a good soul and the chance of redemption that did not involve any sort of cliche romantic arc. He did things that weren’t necessarily lawful, but he was always on the right side of history. I loved him. I still love him, but in trying to tell his story, I did him a great disservice. He was a Secondary Character, a great one at that, and he wanted to be heard. The problem was, that when I started to enter into his world, I found a whole new host of secondary characters who also wanted to be heard, and I had to shut them out in order to finish in a set time.
I wrapped up Castor’s story in a shadow of what it should be and embarked on another. But as much as I love that other – it’s been a constantly adapting storyline for the better part of twenty years – it just wasn’t right. Then it hit me, another Secondary Character needed to be heard. I was able to make progress in leaps and bounds, but then sputtered to a stop again. Why? I asked myself again and again as I stared into space instead of banging my head against my desk.
I stopped writing and just tried to figure out what had gone wrong this time. Each time I would think I had figured it out, another roadblock would show up. This happened for the better part of the month of July. And then, about four days ago, I figured out one of my biggest hold ups. I figured out what my Main Character wanted out of her entire story arc – what her end goal would be. But that didn’t offer the clarity I had been so hoping for. Two more days passed, and then another epiphany occurred. Of course it had to be yet another Secondary Character, and he had a new story to tell.
When I first created the character, he was a mirror of another author’s character but with differences that I wanted (so that I could get the ending I wanted that I had been denied in the series). He morphed again and again based on what was going on around me, but he stayed rather one dimensional, two at best. He was the gallant White Knight – with character flaws to be sure, but not with a story of his own.
Flash forward to two days ago. I finally realized that I had so altered his story that he could no longer fit into the cookie cutter mode that had been built all around him. He needed his own side of the story. He needed his own chance to grow. This shattered the previously crafted outline of four books for the MC – moving the very foundations until I found the happy medium I was searching for. Rose can have her story, Liam can have his, and then they can have their story.
There’s an amazing amount of peace that can be found in finally fixing a problem with your story. In my case, it was a problem with a bunch of stories, but it boiled down to this: sometimes Secondary Characters need a story all their own, and sometimes they just need a chance to be heard in the course of the story that was already envisioned. It’s up to us to not only know the difference, but respect the characters voices and give them the outlet they need.
Until next time –