Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Drafts & Character Control

Sorry I've neglected my blog this summer. I had rotator cuff surgery, and it's tougher to type when you're rocking a sling. The sling's still on, but I couldn't wait to discuss this with you.

Tonight, I explained to my church small group one of the reasons I wouldn't let my girls read my current work-in-progress: Language. It's a young adult book, mind you, and as those go, it's not too scandalous. But it's a first draft, and although I'm hoping to replace the bad language during the revision process, I refuse to censor it now. Here's why:

In the first draft, I'm not really in control.

I have ideas, mind you. Sometimes I jot them down ahead of time-- a new concept for a former pantster like myself. But my characters lead me... and sometimes it's a wild ride.

Mazie, my current main character, is fresh out of juvie and now hanging out in a tattoo shop (Most fun field research ever). Needless to say, we've met some interesting characters. Not all of them speak in language my grandmother would approve of, but I'm typing fast and trying not to interrupt.

First drafts should be real and raw, in my opinion. I'm happy to let my internal editor help with revisions, but find if I listen to her at this stage, my characters clam up and my story stalls.

How about you? Do your characters lead you during a first draft? Or are you the puppet master, feeding them their lines and controlling their every move. Leave a comment to share your thoughts.


  1. I admire your style and appreciate your approach. "First drafts should be real and raw..." makes a lot of sense. I battle myself every day when I look back to the previous day's writing with the eye of an editor. I'd like to make my next first draft a real first draft, as real and as raw as it can be.

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Thanks, Todd. It's still a struggle. I start my writing time by rereading my last chapter to get back into the mood of the story. Sometimes touching up the previous days work is enough to awaken my inner editor. Good luck with your next draft. Let us know how it goes. :)

  3. I get what you're saying - but I am think I am one of those who still feel "in control" of my characters. I like to think outside of the box when it comes to their actions, though, because I might not be writing them correctly.

    I like to play the "what if..." game:
    What if the little talkative little girl decides not to say anything for a whole day? Would if the kind young man in my story is really an outrageous bully? What if I switch my main character from a girl to a boy? That would make the whole thing a different story.

    There's my $2 worth. :)

  4. Thanks for chiming in, Donna. I like your "what if..." game. :)