A good book is essentially about action, whether it be the heart-pounding type of The Da Vinci Code or the subtly-wound type of Gone Girl, or even how and when the protagonists are going to reach their HEA moment. Though it’s easy to think action=murder, explosions, whodunnit, sex, war, death, etc, action is also part of characterization–why does a mousy, conscientious librarian waive the overdue fine of a handsome, mysterious stranger? How does she react to her decision, and what comes of it?
Mine Is The Night is probably the first truly character-driven book I’ve ever written. My past MSS have been quite plotty, wherein I would set up a bunch of characters and scenarios and let them scatter across the place like marbles until they braided back into one another at the end. The novels ended up slighty episodic–rather TV series like–but with such a large cast of characters, as well as a lengthy time-line in which to develop them all, I could hold things back, tease secrets for a little while, and play the action with a sleight of hand.
This MS on the other hand takes place over a period of ten days and is all about my protagonists, Huw and Leonore. Since I’d grown accustomed to having lots of room in which to play with various characters, conflicts, and plots, whenever I experienced an Ah Ha! moment for my protagonists, I was tempted to save it for later in the book–or for the next book in the series. During my attempts to hold onto plot twists and character revealing moments, I would meander from the main plot–Romance Writing Don’t 101!–and accidentally set up dynamics that muddled with the characters and the plot. Quite frankly, I also bored myself, and if I’m bored, everyone else is going to be bored.
When I caught myself doing this for the umpteenth time, I just threw what I thought I should hide into my book, and what do you know: it ramped up the tension and conflict and it made my characters move, which in turn moved the plot. And my Ah Ha! moment was in finally understanding the mechanics of the character-driven novel. It also helped me see the pitfalls of writing connected books!
What about you? Plot-driven or character-driven author? Have you recently experienced an Ah Ha! moment in your writing? What are some of your favorite techniques for coaxing the book/characters into action?