Questioning a character’s development in a sequel–tricky work!

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I wrote an earlier post about asking questions of my writing. I find myself doing a lot of that type of questioning the last few days.

In Disappearing in Plain Sight, Liam is a character who is portrayed as a laid back guy. He doesn’t give other people advice, he’s humble and quiet, a wounded-healer type. He’s human; God knows he makes mistakes, but for the most part he’s a likeable person.

The book does contain hints that Liam has purchased his peace at a price – he says that he may not always be at peace, but most days he can act in a peaceful way. He’s created, with Caleb’s help, a tight box of a life at Crater Lake where he can feel safe. He’s come to grips with his demons and he’s part of something that matters. In Disappearing in Plain Sight, Liam has honed his life down to the essentials.

Izzy does Liam a service when she helps him come to grips with his demons – at the same time she breaks down the wall of  the box he has built around himself.

Thus, the stage is set for the sequel – The Light Never Lies. In this novel, Liam’s life is blown apart – he’s plunged into a world where he’s forced to deal with multi-layered events and much is at stake – he will have to risk much to find his way through.

You must be asking yourself where the questioning part comes in. In the first draft of the sequel, Liam’s interactions with one character in particular, are coming off strident and overbearing. Everything he wasn’t in the first book. He’ll be described as a total nag and there’s some truth to this accusation. I know why he’s acting the way he is, but will the reader? I am convinced that people, and thus characters, are multi-dimensional and capable of acting in one way with one person and quite another way with someone else. Can I make this clear without being overly didactic or making Liam look as if he’s developed a multiple-personality disorder?

I also have to figure out how to deal with the way one character’s perception of Liam is not necessarily reliable. She hears his voice through her own filters. How do I get that across to the reader? I don’t use the omniscient viewpoint, so I can’t step out of everyone’s thoughts and explain.

Time to go for a long walk and see if the writing knot I’ve tangled myself into can be loosened and maybe even unravelled.

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(I always tell the kids – don’t go past the number 4 tree – that is where the trail ends)

9 comments on “Questioning a character’s development in a sequel–tricky work!

  1. Was set to comment on character development when your number 4 tree stopped me in my tracks–just like the kids, I guess! All joy. HF

  2. Maggie Thom says:

    I too am writing a sequel (maybe my last). It’s much tougher than I thought it would be. 🙂 I think as long as his character is clear in the first book and you make sure they get what kind of person he has been (for those who don’t read book one) and then as long as you make it clear as to what and why his life has been blown apart and his feeling out of control. I think it’s believable. Through his thoughts you should be able to show that he feels out of control.Or even through dialogue of other’s commenting on how different he is and his responding ‘that he’s feeling out of control’ kind of stuff. Not sure if this helps but I can sympathize with you. 🙂

    • Hi Maggie – good point, people who come to the sequel without reading the first book won’t necessarily know he wasn’t always a bit of a nag – hmmmm. It will certainly be better to show (through his inner dialogue and what others are thinking and how they are reacting to him) than to tell. Thanks.

  3. Gwen says:

    As far as Liam, I think you need to start with the norm – present him at the beginning of the novel the way readers already know him. Then once you start throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him, show the change in his personality as a gradual transition, until ultimately, readers might start to think of him as strident and overbearing with this one particular character. Readers will need to empathize with him, and I think as long as you let readers in on what Liam’s thinking/feeling when he’s around this character, it won’t come across as overly expository. Hope this all makes sense.

    I’m wondering if the character that makes him behave this way is Dan. I found him to be an intriguing character, and I’m hoping he’ll make another appearance in the sequel!

  4. Gwen says:

    Ha! Funny you say we’re talking about an old friend. I actually describe your characters in this way in my review. Look for the post tomorrow.

  5. Food 4 The Soul 93 says:

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