Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Fricassee

So I've got a very specific writing-craft question for you today.  (Good way for me to get out of having to write a detailed blog post, eh?)  Seriously, though, I want to hear from you.

Have you ever decided to add a character to an already-finished draft?  If so, how did you approach it?  What did it take for you to weave the new character's arc (even if it's not very significant) into the existing plot?

I'm adding a minor character to my WIP, and while I've already got a good general idea of her role, I don't want to create havoc with my story arc.  I don't expect this to be easy, but I don't want to give myself a fit over it, either.

So I'm appealing to your collection wisdom.  I'll be combing the comment box all day for your answers!

In other news, my birthday is on Sunday.  (Any Easter basket jokes and I just may throw something.)  Hubby is planning a Day for me, and I'm not sure what's on the agenda other than his homemade pizza, which DEFIES DESCRIPTION.  It's made-from-scratch pizza perfection.  Best birthday dinner ever!

But...what if I want to WRITE on my birthday?  Would it be terribly bratty to say so?  I mean, not ALL DAY or anything.  Just writing because it makes me happy.

Of course you're all going to say, "OH OF COURSE IT'S OKAY TO WRITE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!"  Because you're all, yanno, writers.  You probably all write on your own birthdays.

I want to hear you tell me it's okay, anyway.  Then I won't feel guilty while I'm eating the perfect pizza.



  1. I know the dread of adding in or removing characters after the writing is "done." If there's a good reason and it will make the story better go for it. You may need to think about it for a minute though to make sure you see how the character needs to be carried out through the entire novel.

    happy birthday! I say write half the day and play the rest.

  2. No words of wisdom on the character insertion but I say go for the writing thing on your birthday. In fact, if hubby is organising your day I suspect he may already have built in some writing time for you. He wants you to have a good day and he knows what you love :)

    Happy birthday for Sunday.

  3. Happy early birthday! My birthday sometimes falls on Easter too, so Cadbury Eggs are my favorite gift ever. Hope you have a great day--and you're not allowed to experience guilt on your birthday (it's a law), so spend it however you want. :)

  4. Of course it's okay to write on your birthday! Mine was a just a few weeks ago and that was one of my birthday be able to go to my favorite little coffee shop and write. :)

    As far as adding a character, I can only offer how I handled it for my last book. Mine, too, was a minor character, and after lots of thought over whether I really needed her or not (I definitely DID), I ended up printing out my manu and taking a pencil and actually jotting little notes where I would add her ("Jane will walk in here, say such-n-such," etc). It worked pretty well for me. The hardest part was trying to NOT make it seem like she was just inserted to move along one of the plot points, so I made sure she had more than a single purpose.

    Anyway...hope that helps you out a little! Happy early birthday!

  5. Oh, YES! And actually, I have added several on a recent revision. I traced where the person would fit through several scenes, where they're mentioned by hand, and edited each of those. It takes a while; I won't lie.

  6. Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful day - and don't fret it being on Easter - that means easier access to chocolate!

    I've added characters in second drafts, but never past that point (I've removed characters after that, but usually only because I realized they didn't really have an arc, per se, and that makes them easier to remove). When I've added, I tend to "let" the character come into the plot where he or she wants to initially, and then in subsequent drafts it's a matter of making sure the character gets enough "stage time" to develop properly.

  7. Happy Birthday! I'm sure it will be fine to fit some writing time in along with enjoying the day planned.

    I've added a character before. The book had changed from a singular title to a quartet and I knew I had to set up a certain character (who would turn out to be a main villain in the next 2 books) in book one, so I went back in and wrote an encounter with her and my two MCs. Then I realized I had already written in an encounter with another new character in that same scene (this second new char. was meant to be a new romantic interest for my MC so I also had to add him to book 1) and that it didn't flow well to have them both in that scene, so after a lot of rearranging, I moved his encounter to earlier in the story and left the other one there, and it all worked out. But it took a bit of work to add them yet make it feel like they'd always been there and not just tacked on in the end.

  8. Happy Birthday Authoress :) For your special day I gift you a voucher.

    For Authoress:
    (Insert number here) hours of writing time. To be redeemed on your birthday (if the desire strikes.)

    Love, Casper.

    There. Mr Authoress wouldn't want you to ignore a birthday gift, would he? ; )

  9. I've added characters. I've removed characters, I've merged two into one. I've changed the sex of one character from female to male, and the corresponding relationship from straight to gay. I've been there, done that, worn the T-shirt. How did I do it? No idea. I've blanked it all from my memory. All I can say is my hair used to be brown, now it's gray.

    I would say, though, better make sure your agent/editor is happy with the idea of adding this new character. Otherwise, you might have to take him/her out again later.

    Write on your birthday. Better yet, do some work on adding that character. That way, you can say you did some hard, unpleasant work on your birthday and everyone will think you're a saint.

  10. Happy Birthday! Yes, I think it's okay to write on your bday. What better birthday present than for someone to give you an hour or three of UNINTERUPTED time to write. LOVE that idea. (Maybe that's what I'll ask for coming-up birthday).

    As for adding characters...I'm not sure I'm the best to answer that. For my first book, I wrote the first draft in three months. And then took an ENTIRE year off from writing because I had a nauive moment where I thought anyone would want to publish it that way... Long story short, I re-wrote the entire thing without looking at the first draft, and added all sorts of characters. That's not something I'm sure you would want to do, but it worked really well for me. And I was ready for the change.

    But, if I decided to do that with my current WIP, I would only go back to the scenes that new character effected and re-write them one by one. Not sure if that helps, either, but you know... How big is this new character going to be anyway?

  11. I added a minor character to my finished ms. I started weaving the character's name into conversations or thoughts, had him make a few appearances, then a grand exit. It worked okay and didn't interupt the flow.

    Happy early birthday! I always take the day off from the day job on my b-day and stay home & write while the rest of the family is at work & school. Weekends are a little harder to pull off, but I hereby give you permission to write on your birthday. :)

  12. i have not added a char after completing, but if i was going to do this, i doubt i'd have a very accurate plan of attack (that's just how i roll). i'd just dive into edit #7298.

    main reason for post: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! EAT CHOCOLATE! DRINK WINE! WRITE!!! and please to be lazy and/or lounging about. it's practically required.

  13. First of all, happy early birthday! And if you want to write on your birthday (because it makes you happy, not because you feel you have to), then go for it. That's not bratty at all.

    New characters... I did exactly that with the manuscript that's currently on submission. When my agent read the finished draft, she wanted more expansion of the female lead's character and part of that included her work life. I introduced a new minor character and slid him into the new scenes that I was writing. That being said, he's a character that will continue to be included as the series progresses because he ended up finding a real place within the story. But this likely doesn't help you if you have to twine a new character through existing prose. That would be tricky. Doable but tricky.

  14. Stephen King writes on his birthday. Mmmm...homemade pizza...

    I've added characters before. It's a pain, but it usually enriches the story.

  15. Happy Birthday! It's totally fine to write on your birthday. :) For my mom's Birthday, she always takes a nap and goes shopping by herself, because sometimes that's just what she needs. It's not bratty.
    Actually, everyone in my family is sort of solitary. Normally on birthdays we eat breakfast together, split up for the day, then meet back for dinner. Maybe in the afternoon we'll go to a movie or something. :)

  16. Of COURSE it's okay to write on your birthday! My hubs is so well-trained now he just assumes that what I want for my birthday; at least an afternoon off (I'm going to start campaigning for two, maybe even three afternoons free to write next year! ;)

    I have to add another character; and not a minor one, either. At first I thought - no big deal. I'll just write him in and tweek a little. But when I started, I realized he changed the whole focus of the book. Yeesh!!! This is going to take a substantive restructure/re-write. At first, I bitch and moan. But then I think how much BETTER the result will be. It's worth it. He's a great character with a big impact on the MC and the final outcome.

  17. This happened to me recently when my husband (a.k.a. best beta ever) noted that he loved the tension between my MC and a certain "new" character at the end of the book, but wondered why she wasn't more present in the rest of the manuscript. *sigh*

    I call my process in this area patching. I go back through and highlight or circle points at which including the new character would make sense. Then I number them all and write a brief "patch" for that spot that includes the new character interacting with the MC. Sometimes patches are tiny, sometimes they're pages long.

    In reading the comments, my method seems similar to Vivi's method except that the marginalia would drive me nuts personally. I write the patches in a separate place and then insert them at the appropriate number when I revise. I find that this helps me to focus on a specific character arc without worrying about all the other technicalities that might go into revising a specific chapter.

    Now I feel that I may have rambled on and been unhelpful, but Happy Birthday anyway! :)

  18. In my last WIP (thriller) it was suggested I needed another red herring character to keep the suspense up as long as possible. I had to insert a new suspect. I chose his profession (lawyer) and how he would interact with the MC then went chapter by chapter and looked for natural places he could appear (police questionings, etc.) It worked beautifully and I was thrilled with the result.

  19. Jayme, your system sounds like a great way not to get lost while focusing on adding or redoing one character. Pantsers could use it for tracing plot arcs, looking for holes. Main Plot A, subplot B, subplot C...

    Happy Sunday Birthday, Authoress! Why not ask Mr. A if his plans include time to write or not, opening a dialogue that might create that time :-)

  20. I have the opposite problem... I usually end up needing to take characters out. (Must not think about revisions until after finals! Must resist!) So, no particular words of wisdom from this quarter, but happy early birthday!

  21. Hey - my husband scheduled to put down hardwood flooring on my birthday! But I didn't mind 'cause I got to write all day long without any guilt!

    As for adding a character - I haven't done that. But I did change a minor character from male to female, which requird a lot of changes (interactions were definitely different). Made for better conflict, so it was worth the work.

  22. Happy birthday!

    About adding a characters, here's what I personally did. First, I made a list of all the scenes where the new character was going to directly appear. Then I made a list of all the scenes where I knew his existence impacted the story but where he didn't appear (like other characters mentioning him, the consequences of his actions etc) Then once I edited all those scenes, I went through the whole ms to look for scenes I missed. Hope this helps a little bit, and good luck!

  23. There's nothing wrong with wanting to write on your b-day. It's your day, you can do what you want :D

    I think with my one "finished" draft, I ended up adding one character. I didn't think he'd be uber important at first, because I just needed someone in between until my MC met someone really important. But he ended up having a scene with the MC that added soooo much to the whole MS, especially the ending.

  24. Happy birthday!!! And there's nothing wrong with wanting to write...though maybe have a discussion with your hubby on just how much time is alotted to you. :D

    Adding characters. I did that with my most recent WIP and it ended up being one of my favorite characters! Go for it! My only caution would be to at least do a quick glance throughout the rest of the ms, because you'll be surprised at the little nuances that you've made contradictory with the addition. Don't trust your memory to fix it for you!

  25. First of all, I'm a pantzer. So there's no planning involved for me.

    I once added a character, just to make it a little more difficult for my MC to make a decision. He was supposed to be a minor distraction, but he ended up being so interesting that I wanted to change my whole plot and have the MC end up with him instead of Mr. Right! I stuck to my original plot, but it was hard. (I think I'd developed a bit of a crush myself :)

    I was fretful for a couple of weeks, but It ended up adding quite a bit of interest and conflict to my story.

    The birthday rule in our house is: it's your day, do what you want to do! So, write, while your eating your fabulous pizza and have a guilt-free wonderful day!

  26. Yes, I've added in a character. I added it to an early chapters. I reread my whole manuscript - another good edit anyway, to look for where it changed my storyline. It took a bit, but I was happy with the effect.

    As for my birthday, well, I am sorry to say that I don't get to write. My family doesn't not understand my writing life. Your husband seems far more understanding, so perhaps he planned in some free-time. If not, then I am afraid you are stuck for the sake of your marriage and the man you love.

    Happy Birthday!

  27. never done anything like that before, but I've done some pretty major revisions. I imagine it's the same way--do the writing you want to do, let it sit a few days, then go back and read it all again. (Do you have an idea of all the scenes this person will appear in or affect? Maybe brainstorm-style notes like that would help...?)

    In other news, Hoppy Birthday! :D (I didn't say anything about baskets!) JRM makes a fantastic homemade pizza also--we're having it tonight. Will think of you~ ((hugs))

  28. Happy Birthday Authoress!

    It's okay if you write on your birthday. It's your birthday. You do what you want. I'm pretty sure I did "developer stuff" on my birthday, and also worked on my book. (Gee... I need to cram in my WIP during my computer hours. I have barely written lately. My story idea is too good to leave behind. Need to make a schedule.)

    Well, all that to say, just go ahead and write.

  29. Happy, Happy, Birthday you little easter bunny you! Sorry, couldn't help myself!! Have a wonderful day, make it a 'me' day and enjoy doing whatever you want to do. Of course a part of that will be allowing yourself a bit of spoiling. Enjoy every moment!
    As far as the introduction of a new character. I suppose imagine someone walking through the door just as you're about to sit down to your pizza. How many slices would you let him have? I mean there's only so much pizza to go around. You'll have to be polite about it, but you won't want him gobbling it up. There lies the problem. They can be sneaky those surprise guests arriving just in time for dinner like that. One slice turns into half a pizza pretty quick and before you know, it becomes their dinner!

  30. Happy Birthday. As a first gen-Italian, I totally approve of pizza and writing for your B-day.

    Copy and block the entire book as a Doc. with the day's date.

    Use that one to make all the changes. Always keep the other draft IN TACT ... so it becomes your reference point. Use word find to get to the places you want each interaction with the new charac. to happen.

    Weave the character in as though he/she was already there. Using your note file, define the character and where your MC meets them. Then make a short outline by scrolling to scenes where it makes sense to have the person interact.

    Often you can actually write out four or five separate scenes and then scroll around to find the best places to put them.

    I don't think it's difficult. Like the rest of us you probably know this story by heart.There is usually a word or phrase you used in each section that is distinctive enough to put into word find and make life easier.

    I've done this both ways. Putting someone into a completely finished draft and taking someone out.
    Don't think of it as work and have fun!

    Go enjoy your B-day ... your writing time and your pizza.

  31. I've combined two characters before (an aunt and sister) and turned them into one (stepmom). It was harder than I thought it would be combining two personalities into one. I'm still finding places where I say "aunt" when it should say "stepmom" all over my ms. Definitely use Find/Replace when you're all done.

    Oh, and happy birthday!

  32. I think that it depends on how big a role the new character will play. I added a new character in a 2nd draft before, but she only had a small role, I was setting the groundwork for her in a planned sequel. She got about 3 lines total, and it was such a small change that it was really easy to do.

  33. I added my minor character by (RARELY)dropping her name/info about her here and there starting at Chapter Five. Just a small sentence or two, where it fits. By 3/4th of the way into the story, she appears in person and the reader already knows who she is.

    I inserted this character to give the villain a stronger reason for being soo bad.

    Have a great birthday Authoress. Best wishes always.

  34. Happy Happy!
    I struggle with having too many characters. I just added one, but I did it so that I could drop one, fade two to the background a bit more, and strengthen my plot.
    I have also discovered that you can have a lot of people without too much confusion, as long as you keep them in their environment. The quirky librarian stays in the library; you can use him once in one chapter, to relay some neat info, and you don't have to go back to him, if you don't want to. But if you suddenly meet the lunchroom lady at the jewelry store, she becomes a person of interest, and there needs to be more reason why she is seen out of the cafeteria; she needs to affect the plot.
    Of course, these observations are from someone who waited until the third draft to remove the coffee drinking were-bear, and may be suspect.

  35. I've never added a whole new character, but I have certainly beefed up a couple minor characters. (umm... mCs, maybe, if Main Character is MC, the minor character would be mC?)

    Anyway, my tip is just to read through the MS, and find scenes where the character would be. Then, read the dialog, and decide: a) where would the character add something and b) can my character say anything that has already been said here? Take lines away from your other characters, and it'll balance out the scene easier without feeling like the character has just been stuck in.

    Oh, and happy birthday! :)

  36. Happy bday. Homemade pizza rocks. Growing up, my fam always used the extra dough to make cinnamon rolls. A bit ghetto, but so good. Happy eating & writing.

  37. I too have wondered about adding a character to a finished draft... as he would play a fairly major part, the thought terrified me and I never got around to it :P So that wasn't very helpful, but good luck!
    On another note, I LOVE homemade pizza, so tasty! And if you want to write on your birthday, go for it. It's like an extra little gift ;) I hope you have lots of fun!

  38. I added a minor character just for the sake of killing her. But in order to make her worth killing, I had to include her enough to show what she meant to my MC. It really ended up enriching my MC quite a bit to participate in that relationship. It wasn't easy, but I can't imagine the story without her now.

    Is it too late to say Happy Birthday? No? Then Happy Birthday!

  39. Darn it, late again. Happy Birthday!

    I've added at least two minor characters way past the third, or even fifth, draft/rewrite. They were there for a scene or two, briefly mentioned in a few others and the rest sort of moved on. It did much to show the innocent facet of my MC before he gets dragged through hell and back.
    Another character I added was a whole other story. It changed a straight two people interest into a triangle, added a chapter or two and, if I ever get to doing the sequel, a not-so-nice reunion. I found it strangely easy as the story was growing through another edit anyway and she was only there for a short time.
    For me, the trick seemed to be reminding myself to add her to the general narration every-so-often and reweave a few conversations to include her.

  40. First - Happy Birthday!
    Second - i added two minor characters on my final draft of my WIP. It actually wasn't that difficult. I tweaked a few scenes where i knew the characters would be mentioned by others, then i added two, small, scenes for each of the characters.

  41. Happy belated birthday hope your pizza was good.
    After finishing a first draft of a novel, I realized I really didn't like any of the people I'd written about and wouldn't have minded if they all perished. I had to go back to the beginning and add a likable person who as I rewrote became the main character. It took time but not as much as you might think. The way I see it, once you get the first draft down the rest is gravy.

  42. Actually, I did add a character to my WIP and that's why this rewrite is taking much longer than I expected it to. But... it seems it was a good decision, so I can't complain.

    As for your other question: I dont wan't you feeling guilty either way, so I'm keeping mum.