During my last writers’ critique group, we talked about the stories we’re all working on. It used to be that many of us worked on short stories – writing them down, editing and sending them off in a timely manner. Now, many of us are working on manuscripts – full length novel-type stuff. So we’ve all been with our characters for quite some time. It often takes years to finish a book and hours and hours of editing, rewriting, refining and restructuring. The “work in progress” starts to drag out and it seems like all we do is spend time with these imaginary characters.
And some of us are sick of these people. They never seem to do quite what we want them to and they frequently stray from our very detailed and precise road map. Don’t they know we have an outline to follow?! But, NO, they just go on living their imaginary lives, making choices we didn’t see coming and then we’re forced to rewrite large sections or rethink our ending.
And that’s when we leave them stranded. We let these characters, that had once been so near and dear to our hearts, out in the proverbial cold. (And this is often when some characters get killed off, too. We can do that, you know. We’re writers. We brought you into this world…we can take you out.)
When one group member complained that another member’s story was dragging out and she simply wanted to know the ending, she was asked, “Where are your characters?” She simply replied, “Still swimming.” (They’re mermaids.)
Another member said, “Mine are stranded in space! I bet their oxygen is running low…”
While some of our characters are languishing about trying to decide which boy to choose, which way they should turn or how to get back home, others are starting to take shape in our minds. As writers, we often start some new story, full of new characters, before ending the last one. Many of us have multiple “works in progress”… in progress. The woman with the space folks? She also has an unfinished teenage series, a biblical epic and probably several short stories just hanging around her computer space. I have a woman character hanging out in her apartment wondering what she’ll do next and a bevy of readers waiting (I hope) on my biblical nonfiction work aimed at negative thinkers. Meanwhile, I’m writing this blog.
All writers do it.
Where does that leave our characters? Stranded.
I thought about this a bit since the meeting and I’ve come up with a solution. We should get all our characters together for a party! The mermaids could take their first trip into space and the teenage girls and boys could have a swim party with the Tritons. Wouldn’t that be fun? Oh! Even better, we’ll splice all these worlds together into one mixed up book. Like one of those “pick your own ending” books. THAT would be some science fiction right there. And we could add in new characters to make it seem plausible – bringing their worlds together! Yes, that’s it! We can bring all our characters to life again in a new story where they all finally FINISH something.
No…wait…that seems like a whole new book.
Darn. I did it again.
Guess we’ll just have to push forward and try to finish off these pieces. Even if our characters do irritate us, it’s only right to give them a ride…since we brought them into the world in the first place.
Are you a writer working on something you think will never be finished? What’s stopping you? Go pick up your characters and remember why you loved them in the first place. And, please, don’t leave them stranded.