Lessons from the Monster: Character Limits

I mentioned a few posts ago that I would be writing on a new story while I was writing the third draft of Summer Rush. Well, I’m re-outlining The Monster until I can figure out which new story I’ll be working on (because it is hard to choose; so many shiny ideas!).

The Monster, for anyone who doesn’t know, is what I’ve nicknamed the Angel Saga, because it really is a monster. It got completely out of hand since its humble beginnings in NaNoWriMo 2009, and doubled from its intended size. You may have read a bit of it, since I used a scene from book four as my entry in the Tension Blogfest.

I’ve gone back to the drawing board with the first book, since I’m cutting out the biggest plot thread and replacing it with something else entirely. That means I’ve been digging through old notes that I wrote literally years ago, looking for the bare bones of the original story.

The more I look, the more I’ve come to realize: this editing project just might kill me.

My writing style gets better the further you get into the novel, but the plot also starts going haywire. Dark Angel Rising, book number five, is particularly bad, because there was a lot of the butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard-you’d-better-get-words-out-or-else method used.

Writer’s block ran rampant on me with that one, so I had to force myself to just start writing. It didn’t matter what was coming out, as long as I wrote something. It got straightened out somewhat towards the end of that book, but I still cringe to read it.

So, we’re going to use The Monster as an example of what not to do.

Rihanna lunged at my throat. I threw up my arm to protect myself, and she tore into my arm again. The pain was excruciating.

The giant lake was quiet enough it didn’t interfere with isolating and analyzing other sounds.

My mind went into analytical mode.

What’s wrong with these three paragraphs, besides the fact that they’re first-draft material? The narrator, Angelica Fulleri, got a second grade education. That’s all. Since she was nine, her only constant interaction has been with a girl with a similarly small education.

So how does she know those words?

Clearly, she doesn’t. But I do, so they crept into the narrative. Time and time again, I caught myself having Angel show knowledge that she couldn’t possibly have had – for instance, movie references, when I clearly stated early on that she almost never watched television or movies.

The lesson here: remember your characters’ limits. Angel knows nothing of popular culture, and in the first two books she has the most basic of syntax. No more Batman vs Superman references! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Monster: Character Limits

  1. Great post here!

    I must smash these words into my brain for later use! I WILL NEED NEED NEED this post when editing BTE, the crazyness that it is. I have trouble with “character limits”. I must focus to really know what i’m doing, or I say things they can’t possibly mean! Or maybe it’s they say things I can’t possibly mean? Hmmmm…. that is something to think about lol!

    Nice post!

    1. I’m glad I could help! I feel like I made every mistake in the book at some point while I was writing The Monster, so while I’m learning from my mistakes, I may as well try and spare other people the same grief.

  2. Girl, you’re not the only one who’d this kind of problem here.
    I wrote Hybrids years ago, and now I realize there’s a bit of problem in there…I ended up editing the whole thing again.
    Problem is, should I continue? It seems to drag on which makes the whole boring somewhere…
    Shamefully, I abandon the editing halfway again…

    1. At least you started editing! Of everything fiction I’ve ever written in my life, I’ve only edited two stories.

      Whether or not you continue depends a lot on how much you love the story, I guess. I love the Angel books to bits, and although I’m not up to the task just yet, I know I’ll edit them all eventually.

      If you think the story has potential, I’d say go for it. If not, there are probably still some bits of it that you can save and use in other writings.

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