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.