Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Growth, character arcs and that sticky stuff you get beneath the surface

I've been doing a lot of what Kaige would call "pre-writing". Thinking mostly...about stuff in Dead Gorgeous, Connor and Jacey. And how everything works toward the end whether it's laid out or not. I'm a fan of outlines, or at least general ballpark (you are here style) outlines. But I've started noticing the more depth I give to Connor, the fewer options he has.

Back when I created Connor, he was the too-good to be true, kid brother, plot-driver for Hot Contract. Keegan needed a reason to agree to Art's demands. Poor Connor. I threw everything at that guy. Former Delta, ripped, drop dead gorgeous, good with weapons--all sorts, wears nice clothing, smells good (hey! It goes with the territory...). Like I said--too good to be true. He wasn't supposed to have his own book.

I have over half of Tris's story already done.

But...the more work I put into Dead Gorgeous, the more Connor grew. He'd already started inching away from the template, and as I created background and motivation--and thought, and thought and thought about why he'd be the way he is...the more fully fleshed he got. He started creating, not his storyline, but back story. He made one choice which influenced every choice afterward. And once he took that final step, that mental look into the mirror, everything flowed through that decision.

The character traits, the reactions, everything he says and does--and the bits and pieces that were in place at the time he decided to turn inward, became his overriding personality. He has a strong sense of responsibility, and his personal honor won't let him walk away. He hates himself. Seriously. He has self-loathing down to a science. He doesn't want to be with family because he can't understand why anyone would want him around for anything other than his looks--he can't leave DalCon because they "do" want him around, but staying--with Jen and Keegan so happy--hurts.

Putting them in danger triggered his sense of responsibility, and his need to get away became overwhelming, but he can't walk away, and next thing you know--every option is gone.

This guy is so fully formed, there aren't more options. He would only react one way. The way true to his growth--at this point in the story.

Despite self-hate, he would go off to save his family--even knowing, or thinking he knows, that he isn't going to be able to do it. After all, didn't Keegan have to rescue him from the Samoy? Doesn't that prove how much of a loser he is? What about the nightmares? Keegan doesn't get nightmares. Why does Connor? Hell--even his sister is better. It's a wonder Delta let him in, he obviously played them for chumps, and then when they found out about his problems--they kicked him out.

No wonder Dante created a circular Hell.


Alice Audrey said...

This could be an even better book. I'm looking forward to it.

Unhinged said...

Love these kind of posts. They're like writing/creative lessons. You make it easy to read and understand.

Miss Mae said...

Do you have a post relating to Hot Contract? I just wanted to give you a "congrats" on reaching number six in the "overall" bestselling list. Wow! Great job!

jodi said...

lol--Lula. I didn't do a thing to help that book along. It was all thanks to my fabulous friends.

And thank you, it still amazes me that anyone is reading me at all. :)

Kaige said...

This is why you're such a great chunk wrapper, Jodi. =) The bit about how each choice made reduces his options really resonated with me. The other comment that caught my eye was how you said you threw so much at Connor. Tris sounds like he's had a lot thrown at him as well.

Anyway, I think these are both places where I need to look deeper. I like giving options based on my background. I need to get away from the mindset of "emergent behaviors" it doesn't work in fiction. The other thing I need to do is get tougher on my characters. I need to get past the idea that I like them and want to see them succeed. I need to see them succeed despite something and I need to provide the existence of that something.

And I have to be more specific about what those somethings are.

Anyway, thanks for making me think yet again, Jodi!