Can't tell you how many people think being an author is an easy job. You make stuff up, you write it down, easy peasy. Right?
I've been working on comments from my editor for THE MIRROR and I'm exhausted! And I'm still not sure I got it right. We'll have to see after I get the next round of edits back.
The word for today is characterization.
When I wrote RETURN TO HOFFMAN GROVE, I challenged myself to make an unlikeable secondary character likeable by turning her into the main character. That took a lot of work, and I spent a lot of time studying personality traits and psychology and emotional history. And then, when I wrote COOKIE THERAPY, I challenged myself to do the same thing with a hero. Those were some of the most fun books to write. I was stretching myself and I created three-dimensional characters with character flaws along with endearing traits. So I should know what I'm doing by now, right?
When I started THE MIRROR, I envisioned secrets and flaws and all kinds of things, and then I got caught up at the day job and had to set it aside. That was probably the best thing that could have happened, because when I came back to writing, I realized what I'd written wasn't very good. So I started over, and I thought I'd done a much better job the second time around. Unfortunately, some of the first draft problems carried through into the second draft, and most of what's wrong is that the unlikeable heroine I sought to redeem is still unlikeable. She has plenty of psychology and background to justify her personality, but I didn't bring that forward soon enough. Basically, she's a hot mess.
Rule #1. Main characters need to be likeable. If they do something UNlikeable, they need to have a reason. Maybe its something from their past that shaped the way they see the world today. Experience. Maybe its family history. Whatever the reason is, a good author needs to build sympathy for that unlikeable character early on. Consider the movie REAR WINDOW. Jimmy Stewart is a peeping tom. He spends his days with binoculars watching his neighbors. Not very neighborly. Even his girlfriend thinks he's a bit off. But we can excuse him a little because of his ennui, sitting alone recovering from a broken leg. And then we can excuse him later when he uncovers a murderer. He brings his little apartment community together at the end of the movie where all the neighbors watch out for one another. Who knew happiness was waiting right outside their courtyard windows?
And so I'm busily addressing editor comments so that the book will be ready for publication on time.