Characters in the mist
December 18, 2005

In the early chapters of my WIP I meant to introduce a character named Aine who was going to be important to the main character, Caius, in his early years, weaving in and out of his life. As the writing progressed, I couldn't see a way of working her into the later chapters, which already seemed over-crowded with plot. So I wrote her out of the story, leaving her in only one scene as an introduction to a profound change in Caius's life. All the purpose of her, most of the dimensionality, faded in the mist to the land where characters come and go. 

Then one day, about two-thirds of the way through the manuscript, she returned, older, and with plenty of ideas about how important she was and how I could work her into the story without crowding out the rest of the folk. She brought with her resonance to the other two timelines in the story, connecting tissue that could not be ignored. Yes, I had to use her, she was right. So I did. Which means going back in the second draft to those early chapters and fitting her back in. 

Characters come and go, sometimes fully formed like Athena from the brow of Zeus, sometimes just a nucleus that has to be built upon. Sometimes when they show up, they want to hijack the story and must be put in their place. Other times it's a good idea to let them hijack the story because they bring juice that the story sorely needs. But it's always difficult when they first appear to know if they are a distraction or an inspiration. 

Somehow I've got to manage adding those extra scenes and still cut this manuscript down, as it's getting perilously close to an unmarketable length. I can feel the fat: chapters and scenes that can be telescoped and combined, language to be deflowered.  Opportunities for slimming will come clear once it's done, but my early estimates of length were optimistic. Aren't they always? Perhaps that's why my friends who have been through this process with me before turn a skeptical eye to my early estimates. 

I'm at the penultimate stage for each of the three timelines, writing the scenes I've been aiming for all this time, but there's still so much to go, it seems. I still don't have a good sense of how many chapters are left—but at least now I know it's a finite number and I will finish.  

God willin' and if the creek don't rise.

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson