I awoke at 5:00 a.m. knowing I had reached the stage of fatal flaws. Many parts of the writing process are difficult – beginning, getting through the middle, ending. As Hemingway so aptly put it – nothing hard about writing … just sit down and open a vein. I believe the fatal flaw stage has the biggest potential to derail a first draft. Not negotiating this part of the writing process is probably the reason many manuscripts languish in drawers gathering dust. Or, now-a-days, buried on our hard drives in a folder marked – Unfinished.
I’m 145,000 words in, characters set, storylines wound tight around one another. Then I wake up knowing that my credibility will be stretched beyond the breaking point if I attempt to have character A, as currently described, do this at one point in the story and that at another. It simply won’t work. Readers worth their chops won’t buy it.
Case in point: A quirky character who dresses oddly, who has crazy hair, who has a real edge and is at times decidedly snarky. This same character is also a cheerful daycare provider who loves kids and is someone who would be invited to participate in a steamy dance video.
It’s a stretch! Can one character truly be all these things?
What to do? I have a few options.
1. Exploring the character’s internal motivations is a great tool for getting reader to buy in. Maybe I can find a way to make everything fit based on what’s inside the character’s head.
2. Then there’s story arc. It could be that between one end of the spectrum and the other, this character has changed. Maybe all I need to do is make that growth more obvious.
I consider the above two options easy fixes compared to the next two.
3. Maybe the story requires a character B to carry one part of the plot while character A sticks with the other. Hopefully this mysterious character B is already part of the story and with a few tweaks can be made to perform. At this stage, I am reluctant to weave in a new character.
4. I may have to change the story to fit the characters rather than vice versa. That will be complicated and create echoes and repercussions backwards and forwards.
An option I’ll mention but do not recommend.
5. Carry on and hope readers have a high tolerance for inconsistency. This route is sure to irritate and remember the number one commandment of writing – thou shalt not piss off the reader.
How would you resolve the dilemma of the fatal flaw stage?