Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Know It’s Time To Rethink The Book When The Characters Start Arguing With You – C.L. Ragsdale

Okay now that the fourth e-book in my Reboot Files series is finally out of my head and out on the publishing sites I can vent a little about my writing process. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a writer, most of the time, but when I’m trying to get a plot to work that isn’t working I wonder if writing likes me. Especially when my characters start arguing plot points.
Now I do know it's really just me, myself and I arguing out whatever it is that I’m stuck on, but when you’ve got an imagination these make believe people can get downright obnoxious. Especially when they’re right.
In the case of The Wrong Ghost, the trouble started when I finished the book about six months ago and determined that I was going to have to either write it again or get rid of it completely. Now I’m not talking about a first draft, it was the final manuscript, and something was just not right. The problem was that I didn’t know what was wrong, aside from the fact that I had failed to notice how bad it was.
You know this is why I never work with outlines. The book never turns out the way I originally plot it, so why bother? But I digress. Back to The Wrong Ghost going really wrong.
Rather than follow my original impulse, which was to forget the whole thing and start over with a different plot, I decided to try to figure out if I could save it somehow. Mostly because I had locked myself into this particular plot in the previous book of the series. Anyway, I discovered that the first quarter of the book where I had set up the plot was fine, but then I got to the critical section where it had gone off. I knew it was the section because it was there that my main characters decided to put in their two cents. As a side point, it’s usually my male character, Troy Stenson, who picks the fight.
Imaginary men, don’t get me started.
Anyway in the original story I had this nice little romance all plotted out for Troy to take place in the series. It involved another character who had done him wrong, but had reformed. It was a beautiful story of redemption. I cried a few times when I wrote it was so good.
Troy, however, did not agree.
"This isn’t going to work,” he stated, “She’s not my type.”
“What do you mean by that? You’re the character, I’m the writer. I will decide who your type is. Besides this is good,” I argue with him, well myself really.
“I don't care,” he retorts. “This isn’t going to work out, she doesn’t belong in this story. Besides she’s not that nice, and she hasn’t reformed, you're just wishing she has. I don't buy it, because you don't buy it and that means no one else will either. Face it, she’s the reason the whole story is not working.”
"But I can't get rid of her," I insist, "If I do I will have to tear out pages, and I hate tearing out pages. I worked hard to write those pages!"
At this point my main character, the wise and reasonable Irene Waters, decides she is going to take Troy’s side by pointing out, "You know how he is when he gets like this. He doesn’t like the woman. She’s got to go. Besides there are some other characters that aren’t working either and it’s throwing the whole story off.”
“What do you expect me to do rewrite everybody?”
“Just change their names, that’s how you make a different character. We’ve been through this before, the longer you wait, the harder it will be. You’ll think of something else. Remember, you’re the writer.”
Of course, I don’t listen, at least at first, but after days of trying to save a plot that’s never going to work I do have to lose the beautiful romance that will never be, delete and rename a few characters, and tear out those pages I wanted to keep. Once this is done I do think of something else and it does fix the plot, and my characters shut up. Until they decide there’s something else they don’t like that is.
I know this make believe conversation is a device I use to work through my plot issues, but it’s still aggravating. Especially considering the fact that if I would just listen to myself in the first place this writing thing would go a lot smoother.
Oh, and in case you were wondering the book was originally entitled “The Ghost In The White Satin Dress”, but I changed it to "The Wrong Ghost". It just seemed appropriate.


  1. Cindy, you are hilarious! I've never had my characters rebel like yours - perhaps they're too controlled and I need to let them lighten up. Funny the way the title morphed!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    "The Jillian Bradley Mystery Series"

    1. Just wait until you do something they don't like. It's amazing the way they come to life.

  2. Cindy, this was a great story in and of itself.
    Una Tiers

  3. Another great post Cindy!

    "Death in Dahlonega"

  4. I just uploaded "The Wrong Ghost" on my kindle after reading your post! I'm already on Chapter 9 and loving it.

    ~Nancy Jill

  5. Thanks for the encouragement. You guys are all so knowledgeable and I'm picking up so much good info. Also I'm beginning to get the hang of posting everywhere. Practice makes perfect!

    1. There's strength in numbers, I always say. I'm learning some good writing skills just from reading your books. They're such fun!

      ~Nancy Jill


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