In college, I acted in a production of Luigi Piradello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. I played the Child, the youngest member of a rather disturbed family searching for an end to their story and hoping to find it within a certain theater company. While I had no lines--the Child is mute--others in the family had plenty to say, especially about character development. They complain that the actors don't look like them and get the story wrong. When the Manager refuses to allow the Stepdaughter to tell the story of her affair with the Father, she is enraged. Her story can’t be told without it. In the final tragic act, the characters moan that the actors cannot possibly recreate the proper emotion.
As I work on my second draft of my YA WIP, my characters are as insistent as Pirandello’s that I listen to them and get it right.
My first drafts are very heavy on dialogue and not so much on inner thoughts and real character development. When working on first drafts, I try to stifle that inner editor and just get it down. I chop away in my second draft, losing more than fifty percent of what I originally wrote. I lose even more in later drafts.
But what I add in second drafts is character development. I look for places to let my MC think and feel. To give voice to what is deep within him. I’m not too focused on my secondary characters yet, but I find that in deepening my MC, I find additional motivation for those around him. Once I feel a true emotional connection to my MC, the rest of the work flows much more easily.
Right now, my MC still asks me for more. To dig deeper. To get down to the raw, real feelings he bottled up a long time ago. And unlike the six characters in Pirandello’s play, I hope my characters will be satisfied with their conclusions.
Characters become so real for the writers creating them. Have you ever, like Pirandello’s Manager, felt the truth was too powerful for your story? Particularly in writing for children and teens, have you ever felt the need to tone it down?