For the past many months I’ve worked on rewriting and extensively editing my manuscript until recently, as I neared the finishing point. Even though I’d discovered and repaired several contradictions in plot, greatly increased the character development, cut out several thousand words and added many, many more, something was still wrong. I could feel it as I worked, and this made me almost want to avoid the story.
It wasn’t until very recently, when visiting my friend Sam, (who’s given me valuable tips on writing) did I discover what it was. As frequently happens, the topic of books and stories came up. Sam shared with me a quote from G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:
“Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dullness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure forever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of today discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.”
As we’d recently been talking about my own stories, it finally occurred to me what was wrong. I’d given my main characters too much power. The heroes and heroines were under-appreciated teens, but they had high intellect. They were too smart, too good at what they did. It made it too hard to connect with them, and the story didn’t have the punch it deserved.
So we talked some more and brainstormed, which is always a fun process. I highly recommend it if you write. Don’t be afraid to share with someone else who will have different takes and can inspire you. In a way, it was hard, deciding I needed to set aside the manuscript I’ve written and edited and rewritten and edited. More than that though, it is exciting to take a few of the characters out of that story and make them normal. Of course, this greatly affected several major plot points so much so that it effectively voids most of the first book, but the main theme and over-reaching plot are still there, and several of the main characters exist. The difference is they’re more human, and I know them a little better now. I am loving the art again.