NaNoWriMo Report: When Your Characters Won’t Divulge Their Dark Secrets

As of this moment, I’ve amassed about 2600 words towards the 50,000 that dictate victory conditions for NaNoWriMo.  It’s a modest start, but a promising one, and I think I’ve got a decent first chapter written.  I’m planning to write more tonight, and every day, until I finish the story.

characterization-clipart-super-hero-cartoons-mdOne of the longer-term issues I’ve had with this particular story centers around one of my main characters.  She’s the main antagonist for this story, a former ally of my protagonist who has betrayed him and his group.  I’ve also decided that she’s irredeemable at this point, someone who has crossed a moral threshold from which she can’t return, necessitating the conflict between herself and the main character.

The problem is, I can’t get her to tell me exactly what it is she’s done.

That’s important information, and while it may not play directly into the conflict that I’m writing in the NaNoWriMo story, it will provide one of the main drivers for my main character to match wits and lives with her.  It’s a fuel source for their conflict.  I’ve tried to sit down with her and nail down what it is that makes her so beyond the pale in terms of redemption, but every time I ask, she just kind of smiles coyly, her eyes narrow slits, as if she’s about to say, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

She has a number of character traits that make her both complex and interesting, but she’s using some of them against me.  Damn her.

I could try to arbitrarily come up with some big, bad, terrible situation she’s done or engineered.  I’m her creator, after all, and I could do that easily enough.  But I find these situations are so much better when your creations are so well formed and independent that they can almost take the proverbial pen from the writer, push you to the side, and go, “No, dummy, that’s not what I would do.  Here, gimme.  I’ll take it from here for a little while.”  Oftentimes, when I try to mandate a situation for my characters, it feels clunky, out of place, and in need of a lot of editing and revising.

In the meantime, I’ve got a story to write.  I plan to push on, and hopefully sometime in the near future I can actually find the time to psychically sit her down, treat her to a sumptuous meal and a glass of wine, and get her to tell me what her deep, dark secret is.  Until then, as long as she continues to play coy, I’m hoping that by plumbing the depths of the current story, maybe I can uncover a nugget or two as to what she must have done to make my main character despise her so much.

She’s enjoying the chase in the meantime, and for now I’m willing to play along.  I think she’ll eventually relent.  I would hate to think she’d be happy being a two-dimensional character–or, even worse, trapped in an underhanded scheme that wasn’t already of her own devising.


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