Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Wrong Couple

Welcome guest, Alexa Bourne!

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but only in the last few years have I had the biggest annoying issue. I have a tendency to start writing a story, get through 1/3 or ½ of it with a giant struggle and then guess what? I realize I’ve got the wrong couple.

The first time it happened was over a decade ago. I literally wrote over 150 pages, which was like pulling fingernails out with a pair of pliers. I couldn’t get behind the relationship I was supposed to be creating and the characters, although great, strong people on their own, had no chemistry. After much whining and complaining to any writer friend who’d listen, I chose to change the hero. Once I changed what I’d already written to fit the new couple, sparks flew and I had a blast bringing them to their Happily-Ever-After.

You’d think I’d learn a lesson with that, right? Uh….no.
The next few years I didn’t have any trouble so I thought I’d beat that writing monster, but then came my next full-length suspense. Oh yeah, for that one I wrote the ENTIRE ROUGH DRAFT with the wrong brother for the hero. Then last year with one of my novellas it happened again. Same crappy situation, different folks. After my critique partner kept shooting down my versions, I broke down and worked out a whole new hero. So maybe I’d learned my lesson THIS time?

Nope. Last month it happened again.

I’d already promised my editor I’d have the third book in the series to her by June 4th. I had lots of notes on the couple I’d planned to use. In the previous 2 books (1 out this month, the other awaiting a release date), I was careful to build up to their book and the beautiful discovery of their relationship.

But it wasn’t working. For 2 months I tried to write that story and only wrote 8 pages. I was in danger of missing my deadline. I couldn’t write and when I had the time I didn’t want to write. When I started analyzing why the story wasn’t working, that same old niggling feeling returned. Yes the characters cared for each other, but maybe theirs was not a romantic love no matter how much I wanted it to be. Out loud I finally said, “It’s not their story.” I agreed to give myself one day to explore the other relationship I’d kept balking at. And you know what? I wrote 13 pages that first day. But it still didn’t feel completely right. I thought this new couple was the right one though and I insisted they end up together. My characters again stopped talking. Finally, I brainstormed with them (Yes, I talk with fictional characters. Don’t judge me.) and when I truly listened, I finished the rough draft in a week, took another week to revise and I submitted it on time.
In the end, all my books have worked out with awesome reviews. Once I ID the correct couple, their relationship explodes across the pages. But how do I avoid wasting precious time writing and start with the right couple to begin with?

Maybe I should listen to my characters more closely. As soon as I recognize one of the signs that something is wrong, I should suck it up, stop writing what I think is right and let their words flow. I should trust that they will guide me to their happily-ever-afters. Yeah, I think next time I’ll listen to the voices in my head. 


Jessica Subject said...

This has happened to me before. In one of the stories, I killed the hero off, and set the heroine up with the one she was meant to be with. And in another, I wrote the story over again. Glad I'm not the only one. LOL

Alexa Bourne said...

I know, it's GREAT to hear other people do this too! Thanks, Jessica! But have you learned your lesson yet?

Anthology Authors said...

That may be the issue I'm having with my WIPs. Not necessarily the wrong couple but I'm trying to force a story in a direction the characters don't want to go. Hm... Much to think about.

Alexa said...

Yeah, anytime I try to force what I want, the characters refuse to work with me, sulk with their arms crossed and wait until I see their light.