I made a rather humbling discovery a week ago. I have a writing weakness. This, in and of itself, is not that startling. All writers have weaknesses, and usually have more than one. It was more the nature of the weakness that was so startling. My main characters have no character. They are ciphers – empty. They have fears and objectives, but no voice that stands out or outstanding characteristics. Almost like wallpaper.
I had struggled with this in my Mercia story during my last draft and realized by the end that it was going to need to be the next thing I tackle. Then I picked up a different story, one that I haven’t worked on in a while and is only partially written. Guess what I found? My main character … wallpaper. That was when I realized I have a problem.
As one of my friends pointed out, when I confessed this to her, characters develop over time with the story. They rarely spring into being fully formed from the first moment the story starts to take shape. It made me feel a little better, but I wonder why it’s taken me so long to recognize. I’ve been working on these stories for 5 years in one case and 17 years, on and off, in the other. That’s a long time to go without developing the main characters. So, what is the deal?
I think part of the problem is that I immerse myself in my stories, to the point that I see everything as if I am the main character. I’m sure that’s not unusual, but it means that I don’t see the main character until much later in the process. Until I realize that I don’t have one and the story doesn’t work as a result. I think fear is also part of the problem. If my story doesn’t work, I don’t ever have to risk sharing it with the world. Self sabotage. Classic.
Fortunately, I have brilliant and helpful friends. In this case, another of my friends recommended enneagrams - https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions/. She types her characters, using their enneagram as a guide to form them. Incredibly smart and helpful. And for the fear issue, I have to decide whether or not I want to write a story that I’m proud of, or not. An easy decision, I’m proud to say.
We all have weaknesses. I doubt this is the last one I will discover. Knowing what they are makes me stronger. In this case, I will be keeping a closer eye on my characters as I write, and hopefully become a better writer in the process.
Do you have a weakness? If so what is it and how have you worked to overcome it?