Sometimes you have to go through a lot of sh*t with someone to really know who they are. Not only is this true in life, but it's also true in the fictional world.
As I stated in my last blog post, I've been busy editing my current project. During this process, I've had more what-the-hell-was-I-thinking moments than I care to admit to. I understand this is normal (at least I'm hoping it is), but there was one oopsie that really stuck out in my mind. It had to do with my main character and her reaction to something said by her friend (a.k.a, future love interest). Her reaction in this particular scene was totally uncharacteristic. It was as if she had multiple personality syndrome, and one of her alter egos wanted to come out and play. Seriously.
One of the first things we learn about writing fiction, is that we have to know our main characters inside and out. We have to know what kind of music they like, what kind of food they eat, favorite colors, political views, hobbies, etc., etc. Before I even start a project, I do character sketches--nothing fancy, just a hand written page for each character, briefly describing them. I thought I had done my homework and had a good idea who my main character was, but when I encountered that particular scene mentioned above, I realized I hadn't. And to be honest, I'm not beating myself up about it.
Just like with real life, you can think you know everything about someone, but often, you don't really know what he/she is made of until you go through some rough times together. Think of relationships you've had with people in the past, and I'm sure you'll find this to be true.
It took finishing my novel to really realize who my character is. She's still the same girl I dreamt up in my mind seven months ago, but I now have a better understanding of how her life experiences have affected who she is and how she reacts in certain situations. Sure, I have ideas of how I would like my character to act, but just like we can't control the people around us, we can't make our characters act the way we want them to act; we have to let them be themselves (some of you will get this, and others will probably think I'm losing my mind).
To clarify what I'm saying, let me give you an example. I'm currently reading a book, and I'm really confused by the main character--I can't firmly grasp who she is. The author has her acting one way around her friends and a totally different way around her boyfriend--and not in the intentional way either. I almost get the feeling like the author was more worried about the individual scenes as opposed to staying true to the character.
Sometimes we become so concerned with mechanics and plot, that we forget about the characters. It's okay to have your characters change/grow over the course of the novel, but just make sure the change is a natural progression due to circumstances in the story and not because you want a more exciting scene. If that particular scene in my WIP hadn't been so in-your-face horrible, I might've breezed by it; but because it was, I now find myself paying closer attention to my mc's actions and dialogue.
Well, I'm off to fix some more identity-crisis moments. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week! :o)