Characters, Editing, Fiction, Group, Novel, Revision, Writing

Your character did WHAT?!


Not so long ago, I confessed that I’d rushed and ended my novel before it was finished. Then I went back to work and filled in the missing pieces. And yet … I later commented that I had a nagging feeling that something I’d written did not ring true for one of my characters. Finally—two weeks after I’d submitted the revision to my once-a-month critique group—I realized where I’d gone off-track.

Yesterday, the group met and, of course, they called me on it. They were very nice. No one said, “What were you thinking?” Then we brainstormed a solution. Renee’s a fighter, she wouldn’t do this. What if she did that? What if this happened? And then Jalal would do this. Oh, and then …

I loved it. And—most importantly—I did not panic. I did not see this scrapping of this long scene as a tragedy or the rewriting as a huge undertaking. That I had written this nicely crafted, but wholly inappropriate scene was not evidence that I’m a bad writer.

So, as soon as I could, I sat down and started the revision. It’s going well. The new scene will sustain the tension between Jalal and Renee. It will stay true to Renee’s character. It will make sense.

Now, please tell me you’ve all had this “what was I thinking” experience in your writing, so I won’t feel alone.

20 thoughts on “Your character did WHAT?!”

      1. Oh, you want details? I was trying to be concise. 😉

        Yes, my re-write prior to this one was a smorgasbord of characters saying things they wouldn’t, doing things they shouldn’t, evening having thoughts that must have come from an alternate reality.


  1. Oh yes.

    Okay, confession time: About five years ago, maybe a trifle more, I started my second novel. My first was a joke written about…mm…say, 12 years before that. I started off with one thing in mind but when I reached the midpoint, I decided the book wasn’t very interesting and I changed directions.


    For the worse.

    I ended up writing about 140K words of useless, nonsensical, going-nowhere-fast tripe. I don’t even have the manuscript anymore I don’t believe. And I darned sure ain’t gonna read it again. It’s not rework-able. It’s not salvageable. It’s a lost cause I spent about five months pounding out.

    It made me set writing aside again for almost three years. When I took it back up it was to jot down a series of short stories from my childhood. Then I decided to address one of my dreadful weaknesses from my last “book” (if you can call it that): dialogue. I started an exercise wherein I wanted to ensure I could distinguish between two speakers without speaker tags. I did the exercise in something like 1200 word bursts.

    …and those exercises grew into my last finished novel. Which I’m supposed to be (ha!) editing right now.

    So yes. I’ve gone off-course with a story before. Ahem.


      1. That, and the fact I didn’t share anything really deep and personal about my demented nature or my bodily functions. Looking at that tome of a comment I left, I can just see you rolling your eyes and hear the dripping sarcasm from your “Thaaaaaaanks for sharing. No, reeeeeeally, thaaaaanks.” 😉


        1. You’re joking, right? You are one of my favorite commenters here. Long or short, you’re invited to comment on everything.

          And your blog has become a daily read for me. Not in a stalker way, of course. 🙂


          1. Aw, darn. I was looking forward to adding to my stalker-stable.

            I’ve grown pretty fond of your blog too. If you don’t mind, I’ve added you to my blogroll. 🙂


  2. Actually, I’m still insecure about my idea I had with my inserting present day scenes into my past tense novel. What works for John Irving may not work for me and later I may be the picture of your little old man slapping my forehead and saying, “What was I thinking?”

    I was hoping the writing group would talk me out of it, tell me I’m insane and to leave well enough alone. But since no one did, I shall cautiously make or break my novel.

    Wish me luck; I’m going in with both feet.


    1. Okay. Tricia, you’re insane. Leave well enough alone!

      Seriously, you have to do what seems right to you. The structure of Brevity is not really standard either, but I had to write it the way it seemed best to me.


  3. I do this quite often actually. Just today I cut 2,000 words from my WIP because I felt like my character was taking a wrong turn. Does it make me cringe to cut that much? Yes, but do I feel better? Extremely. It’s one of those things where even as I was writing it I was fighting with myself. So, it’s gone.

    You are definitely not alone. And I had so much fun brainstorming with you yesterday. 🙂


    1. And here I thought you only threw in a typo once in awhile just so we have something to mark in our critiques.

      I’m thinking maybe I’ll just brainstorm my whole next novel with you guys. 🙂


  4. I always find it interesting how often a critique simply brings focus to what I already knew was wrong. And yes – yay! – it was only one scene!


    1. Yes, it could have been worse because I’d added quite a few new scenes in that submission, but they had no problem with those. And I really can’t complain about doing a rewrite … I get to spend more time in Jalal World! 🙂


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