Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Surprise! I'm Dead.

So, you’re whipping through your first draft. Your main characters are doing what you want them to do and saying what you want them to say. The action is flowing. And you’re coming up toward your big scenes. When you notice that someone is failing to talk.

We’ll call this character “A” for the sake of this discussion.

Now the truth is you noticed this a while ago, but you ignored it.

“A” isn’t a major character and doesn’t mean much to you. Though “A” does mean a lot to your main character.

At this point, you finally pause long enough before your big dramatic battle on the cliff scene in order to spare a moment of your time. Just to think to yourself: Really, “A” ought to be saying something. I wonder why he or she is not –

And then it hits you. “A” is dead.

Frigging dead.

You’re on page 160, and you have failed to realize that this character is already dead.

What’s the big deal? You may be thinking. This character doesn’t talk anyway. Just cut him or her.

Well obviously, BUT . . .

Remember how I said “A” means a lot to one of your main characters.

And now “A” is dead. Is this going to affect your main character?

Y . . . E. . . S.

How long has “A” been dead? Clearly throughout the entire book.

So how long has this been affecting your main character?

Throughout the ENTIRE book.


So . . . what are you going to do about it?

Well, you’re going to sleep on it. Maybe if you’re lucky, this epiphany is just a temporary one, and by morning you’ll be over it.

Then you’re going to continue your first draft, from right where you stopped. If “A” continues to be dead throughout the rest of this draft of the book, you’ll know this is serious.

And then you’re going to begin your second draft.

And you’re going to explore the impact upon your main character of “A” being dead. In chapter one.

And if you’re fortunate, extremely fortunate, you’re going to find out that “A” is FAR more powerful dead. And that this lovely little surprise you had no desire to have is already right there in your story. Just waiting for you to realize it.


  1. Heh. What an interesting development. . .especially if it's not just hypothetical. :)

  2. I had this in the very first chapter of a story I was working on. The Mom was standing in the scene watching the brother and sister fight...WHAT...? No way. Good thing I realized it, well, with the help of a critique partner ;)

  3. Hey! I got your email! thanks for emailing it to me! I will be posting our Interview soon! I will email you when I do!

  4. PS. it is me ( Noellea)! my blog is on here too!

  5. Hi Kim,

    Yes, I think it's quite common to realize you have someone in a scene who just doesn't need to be there! Though, generally mine aren't dead.


  6. This made me laugh....and feel more excited about the creative writing process and how stories can kind of write themselves. I love the feeling of discovery! That could be fun....or completely frustrating if it means lots of re-writing! Good luck! :)