Friday, September 24, 2010

Third Times the What?

Revision is a necessary skill for any writer. Sometimes, no matter how carefully we plot and plan, the character dynamics just don't work out the way we planned them. It can be hard to know when you're going off the rails in the middle of a first draft, but if you're lucky, you can spot the trouble areas and fix them before you get all the way to The End.

Last week Serengeti Lightning, the third novella of my lion shapeshifter series, came out. Three is really the number of this book. I actually started writing it three different times before I finally hit on the right heroine to match the youngest Minor brother.

I knew from the start that I wanted her to be older than her heroic counterpart, but in her first iteration Mara was a tough, independent outsider introduced to the pride for the first time. She wore leather and rode a motorcycle. She would eat a sensitive (albeit muscle-bound and manly) guy like Michael Minor for lunch. In a short novella, I didn't have the pages to bring her into the world and crack the shell she'd constructed around herself. But the kiss of death was that even though I had invented her expressly for Michael, I just couldn't see them together.

Then came Mara 2.0. She was already a pride member, and while still older, she was a softer, gentler woman. This heroine was defined by longing. She wanted intensely to be loved, to have a family, to find the One. But when I tried to draw her into a relationship with Michael, I realized I couldn't figure out how I could get Mara to consider dating a guy she wouldn't take seriously as mate material. It had to begin as a fling, but in only 23,000 words, did I have the space to start a fling, have it grow into love, and then deal with the emotional fall-out of reconciling that love with the longing?

Enter Mara Ver3.0 (the keeper!). Already in the midst of a no-strings fling with Michael, Mara believes he isn't the settling down kind and decides to break it off with him in order to go after the life she really wants (with the picket fence and two point two kids). But Michael won't give her up so easily. This Mara is the pragmatic one of the relationship. The goal setter. The organized thinker. These traits contrast Michael as the emotional core of their twosome - and provide plenty of conflict. And in the end, they balanced one another perfectly, providing a match we can believe is going to go the distance.

I'm very happy with the way this pairing turned out, but it was definitely a longer road than I had anticipated to find Michael his perfect mate.

Have you ever changed a hero or heroine mid-stream to adjust the plot or relationship dynamics? Do you ever think a hero or heroine in a book you are reading would really be better matched with someone other than their author-designated significant other?


Donna Cummings said...

I enjoyed reading how you went about getting your heroine "just right". I went through a similar experience with a current WIP. It was really frustrating until I found the right heroine for my hero (whose personality was already pre-defined from being in another book). Sometimes it felt like I was setting the poor guy up on a lot of blind dates! LOL

Vivi Andrews said...

That's it exactly, Donna - character blind dates! Poor guy. :)

Anna Richland said...

Loved that - and have done complicated dances like that myself. In my first book, I started with the hero time-traveling from the present to 1881, and the heroine being a widowed ranch owner. I couldn't see my way to having a woman of 1881 free enough in her thinking to be open to the time travel, and to cast aside conventions and take in this man, so I swapped their roles. A modern woman had a lot more space to maneuver in my plot, and it was more fun to bring the 1881 hero around to believing in the heroine than vice versa.