My WIP’s Fourth Revision
Reshaping Character Arcs (2)
Well…it’s not new, just kind of different.
My Beta Readers didn’t like how she changed when her world fell apart. She is Native, thrust into a Colonial world to save her people. When her world fell apart, she grew more emotional and ineffective as she dealt with grief and stress. And readers thought she should become more Native, embracing her heritage values and letting go of her adopted values. And…now she does.
I wonder how well I did? Ha.
Where Did I Start With My Main Character?
Just as a reminder, I used Myers Briggs Type ENFP as the starting point for my Main Character. Then I used Ackerman’s Positive Character Traits Thesaurus and Negative Character Traits Thesaurus to fill out four layers – Socially Aware Moral Core, Honorable Achievement Layer, Confident Interactive Layer, and Charming Identity Shell. I also tossed in Pride and Superstition as flaws.
I went down into each of those six characteristics and picked three strengths and two weakness that I wanted to emphasize through my story. At this point I needed an Excel spreadsheet. I put those strengths and weakness into the rows, and her sixty scenes into the columns. I color coded the boxes, with green being good and pink being not so good.
I circled two places where story events changed for my Main Character. The first change comes at Plot Point One when my Main Character learns her husband, the Duke, is dead. The second change comes later in Part Two when she learns her brother-in-law assassinated her husband, and that her father has also been murdered, independently of the first assassination.
I searched my heart, trying to decide how she would react to these huge shocks. And that’s where the Thesaurus came in so handy, and the idea of shells. I decided the loss of her husband would hit her really hard in how she dealt with people, while the death of her father would strike at her across the board.
When she learned her husband was dead, that meant she had lost status in the Colonial society, and her son’s succession to her husband’s title was no longer assured. I decided this shock would show up in several ways. Because she was tense and defensive, she would become more awkward and not be able to put people at ease or make them feels special. She doesn’t want to be the center of attention anymore, and everything that is happening are problems she can’t solve, and not challenges she can rise to. In this case, she begins to withdraw from the world and the hurt she’s just endured.
When she learned her father was dead and she couldn’t go back to her own people, she lost her support system, save those few around her. She feels like she’s lost control of her world, can’t afford to do the right thing if it costs her too much, and obsesses about what other people are thinking about her. This is very much a survival response as she suddenly fears for herself and her son and doesn’t feel like she can afford to take chances.
What did I change?
In my earlier version, once these things started to happen, she became emotional, self doubting and basically threw herself on the mercy of those around her…almost all of whom were Colonials. And my readers hated it, saying this was utterly out of character for her. They pointed out that she would fall back on her old ways, Native ways, and not embrace Colonial ways.I gritted my teeth, but I knew they were right. I also knew I’d have to rewrite almost half her scenes.
So, how did I do that?
I looked at those points where the story changed her, and the emotions I originally picked. I looked harder in the Thesaurus at the recommended emotions for each character traits and change some of them. And I toughed her up, and helped her begin regressing back to her Native ways, forsaking adopted ways. And, in the process, she begins to disengage from her duties to her adopted country and people.
Some of the scenes changed only a little. Others changed a bit. In a few days I will read them in a single setting and see how I did. Then I will let new Betas have a look at what I did.
And that brings me to the end of story structure changes.
I hope I’m done with story structure changes, but at least a few of my scene structures are different from I want. I’m not worried about my Action or Contemplation scenes, but I don’t know if my Dialog, Dramatic, and Suspense scenes are right anymore.
After that, I have to edit the scenes, one by each, to scrub out SPAG errors kill unnecessary filtering, and check all my non-LY adverbs to see if I need them. What fun.