This happens to me on every manuscript: I get about 2/3 of a story written and then I begin to doubt everything. I’m currently working on a Christmas stand-alone I’ve titled Cole in My Stocking. It started out as a sweet romance, and now it’s trying to be a romantic suspense. Hence the leotard. I need to grab onto this piece, pin the characters to the mat, and figure out who they are and what story they are trying to tell through me.
Cole in My Stocking is about a girl who returns to her hometown to deal with her deceased father’s estate and finds that the cop she had a crush on as a teenager is just as hot as he was back then and he’s got more than a professional eye on her, despite the bad reputation the town unfairly slapped her with. But will a shameful secret about her past drive her hot cop away forever?
That’s the jumping off point, anyway. I’ve got 65k words written from Mandy’s first person point of view. For the writing layman, a full length novel is 80 to 100k words, so I’m almost there! I’ve never done first person before, so this has been fun and exciting. I love trying something new! But the more I get to know Cole, the more I’m wondering if he should have a voice in this piece.
Part of my wrestling this week will be penning a scene or two from Cole’s point of view, just to see how that goes. It’s entirely possible I’ll fall in love with his voice and need to change Mandy’s first-person voice to my usual third-person.
I’ve read a few pieces lately that mix first and third person. Kristen Ashley does this. So does Kary Rader in A Taylor Made Life, a wonderful, sweet new adult story about two cancer patients who fall in love. While I’ve seen mixed first and third person, I always do find it jarring. I’m not sure mixing voices like this is a creative decision I want to make.
As with most writing decisions, I’ll noodle this over with my wonderful critique partners, Amy Raby and Julie Brannagh. I’ve also got an awesome network of writer friends who are always willing to advise.
After the voice round of wrestling, I’ll need to wrestle with plot. At the moment, I think I’ve overly complicated the story. I can probably cut a few thousand words just by simplifying the story. I need to make sure everything that happens to the characters drives them forward in the development they will have that is vital to the story I want to tell.
I need to think about how the reception Mandy receives when she returns to her hometown reflects the challenges she’s faced all her life and how she will be challenged to become a better person through overcoming people’s perceptions of her. As the manuscript currently stands, I haven’t given enough weight to this aspect of Mandy’s character. I also need to think about what unique aspect of Cole’s friendship and their romance will push her to grow in character.
So that’s a couple of rounds of wrestling right there. There are more, but that’s a good starting point.
I’m looking forward to what my characters reveal to me as I grapple with them and their stories. As always, I know it won’t be ME to emerge victorious from the wrestling match but THEM. The problem is usually ME being too prominent in the story and the characters not being allowed to shine though all the ME in the way.
Off to the mat. May my characters kick my sorry butt!