Last week I finally got back to my WIP after almost a month fighting the good fight of Real Life. I was hoping I’d get my head back into the story and power forward, but the reverse happened. When I read my pages I realized I’d fallen into a familiar trap – I’d invested too much time and word-count establishing a secondary character and he was hogging the limelight.
I had this problem with Sasha, the super-rich super-bitch from Dealing With McKenzie. Sasha was trouble with a capital T and I wanted to understand what made her so damaged. I gave her a family, developed her backstory and established her goals, which were strong ones. Then I got over-invested and I didn’t want her to come across as one-dimensional, so I gave her a POV and a powerful sub-plot that took up a big chunk of story real estate (see blog posts passim). Fortunately I was saved from myself by two things: contest feedback (this woman is fascinating, but she’s getting in the way of the story) and comments from an experienced editor (lose the POV, take out the Sasha scenes that don’t impact the main plot and save them till you’re ready to write her book).
I thought I’d learned my lesson, but when I settled down to read the beginning of Cam and Mary’s romance, I found myself down a rabbit-hole marked Leo. Like Sasha, Leo is larger than life and twice as colorful. I have pages of notes about his stellar career, his childhood, his bitter break-up with his lover, his desperate financial situation, and his dog. I didn’t get suckered into giving him a point of view, but it was only a matter of time.
When I took a cold, hard look at the story I realized I was also using Leo to protect Mary. She was blithely embracing change and he was giving the story the injection of oomph that should have come from her struggles and actions. Rats. Another carbon-copy of a mistake I made last time around.
At least I caught myself before I wrote the whole damn book, and I know how to fix it. I’ve put Leo in quarantine. I’m focusing on Cam and Mary and I’ve turned up the heat under both of them. Things have got much, much harder now I’ve taken out the middleman, and even though I haven’t figured out what they’re going to do about it, I feel a lot happier.
I want to keep Leo as a supporting character because he’s fun. I like him a lot and I have plans for him that go beyond the current book, but for now he’ll have to back off. I don’t usually write out of sequence, but if I have to put in placeholder scenes for him, I will. I’m not letting him back into my head until Cam and Mary are front and center, locked into escalating combat from which there can only be one winner.
I’d say it’s lesson learned, but I expect it’s only a matter of time until I do it again.
How about you? Do the same things trip you up repeatedly, or is it just me?