Revision Tip #19

Beware of echoes and doppelgängers!

Maybe I am the only writer in the world who suffers from this bad habit. It makes me crazy. I do it in every blasted book, no matter how hard I try to be aware of it early in the process and avoid it.

I always create characters that are identical, both in their core characteristics and the purpose they serve in the book.

(I may have mentioned this earlier this month, but it is such a big pain in my writing butt, I must rant about it again.)

I spent all day yesterday and the wee hours of this morning extracting one of those characters from my book, and turning over many of his scenes to a different fellow who – I can now see with the blazing clarity of humiliating hindsight – should have been driving those scenes in the first place.

It was a bloodbath, I tell you.

How can you perform this radical surgery in your manuscript?

1. List all the characters.

2. Define – using only a few words – that character’s relationship to the main character.

Examples: comic foil, trusted friend, villain, complication, love interest.

3. If (like me) you have two or more characters that serve the same purpose, get out a magnifying glass and sharpen your scythe. Is it possible to have one of the characters take over scenes from the others?

Example: in the early draft of SPEAK, the character who is now called Heather was two separate girls. Each girl was a “sort of” friend of Melinda for a few months. Each friendship died. Their personalities were a bit different, but not in a strong enough way to affect Melinda’s interactions with them. By melding them together, the story was cleaner.

I am crossing my fingers that the work I am doing this weekend will have the same effect.

9 Replies to “Revision Tip #19”

  1. Twins

    My first novel had not one, but two of those twin characters. Thanks for this and all the tips you’ve shared this month. You encouraged me to go back and read Speak again in order to help me with my unreliable narrator and her black and white view of others. Thanks for sharing your gifts.

    Angelina Hansen

  2. Agreed

    I agree completely. I had to do the exact same thing–I had two characters who could serve the main purpose, and one wasn’t getting enough spotlight time. So I cut the other character. It was incredibly difficult and incredibly liberating.

  3. thanks for the tips

    The revisions tips have been great. Thanks for being such a generous person and sharing them with me, and the rest of the writing community.
    I’ve got another question off topic, but I’m so curious to know how the wind turbine and the solar panels are working out for you in the writing cottage. Is the system anything that you would consider for your home? I know you have wood heat, and I’m assuming that you have a water pump at a well house or spring house, so would the wind or solar power keep the water flowing when the electricity goes out in bad weather?

  4. Re: thanks for the tips

    The wind turbine is off line at the moment while we address some logistical issues. Even with our cloudy/snowy weather, the solar panels produce more than enough power for the cottage’s small requirements. Currently the battery bank would not support the well pump. The necessary upgrade is in our future and when it happens I am confident that Laurie will be posting the news. BH

  5. Thank you so much, Laurie, for these revision tips. I usually lurk and silently soak up your posts (and e-mail the URL to my critique partners when there’s a tidbit that speaks to a problem they face), but I thought it was time to momentarily come out of lurkdom to express my heartfelt thanks.


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