When characters come to life

Image from Refinery29.com

Image from Refinery29.com

This spring and summer I rewrote a YA novel that I started 10 years ago. Just going back to an older piece of work was an adventure in embarrassment and wondering what the hell I was thinking. And, to add to my whole I-want-to-hide-under-my-bed-forever feeling, one early reader pointed out all of the typos, stupid phrases and character flaws — including the many ways in which the main character wasn’t engaging.

To that reader I am forever grateful, and should the book ever see print, he will be properly acknowledged. Every writer should be so lucky as to have a reader who cares and takes the time that this guy did. Criticism — especially thoughtful, sensitive, constructive criticism, as I received — is a gift. But sometimes even the squirmy, mean kind of criticism is key to growth.

So my character grew. She got tougher and sassier. She got a point of view and a better wardrobe. And, at the book’s conclusion, I even dared to gaze four years into her future and see who she’d be not as a high school kid but as a college grad about to start her own life. I found that I liked her then. I liked how who she had been set up the groundwork for who she’d become. Continue reading