Writing Tin Men and Scarecrows – Part 1

I’m halfway through the first draft.

But I’ve just changed the text from past tense, third person limited, to present tense, first person multi point of view. While I was reading Holden Sheppard’s The Brink, I was taken by how personal his book felt with different characters narrating in the here and now. My gut kept telling me this is how Tin Men and Scarecrows should read.

I initially hesitated as so much of it was already written, but after spending a while reworking the first two chapters, I realised I could quicken the process if I just did the basic changes first – like swapping she to I and said to says – followed by revising in the voice of the particular individual.

Initially, Elton (formally known as Finn) was hard to alter.

He’s my himbo (the one who needs a brain, so to speak), so simplifying his language when I already had beautiful prose, threw me. But that’s why you kill your darlings.

Regardless, this new style has turned out to be right for this novel. I’ve recently experimented with third person limited on two other works, and they were right for those pieces. There wasn’t a lack of connection between reader and characters with those stories. That’s why I began in that style for this one, believing it was the best choice.

But I’ve been writing long enough to know when something isn’t right.

I usually have solutions on how to fix it, or who to turn to for help. With this novel I’m using The Snowflake Method, which meant I had more detailed outline and character notes before I began writing than with my previous books.

And while I knew who my characters were in my notes, the strength of their voices wasn’t coming across . Sure, the reader would have a good idea of who they were, but the initial style was holding them back.

This intimacy with my characters has helped my motivation.

Fresh thoughts about the story’s theme, and additions to the plot, have been added to the second half of the outline.

And rewriting what’s been done so far has made me see the inconsistencies I would normally pick up between drafts. Like the fact a minor character named Ken has curly grey hair in one scene, and dark straight hair in another. Or the particulars of two failed relationships which were panstered in the dialogue, but will be referenced in scenes to come.

And my character Finn needed a name change.

The Holden Sheppard novel I mentioned earlier has two female characters with similar names, and two male characters with similar names. And while Finn sounded nothing like the other characters in my book, I often confused him with Toby.

A friend suggested Day, but spelt Dai. I did this, then kept reading the name with the girl’s pronunciation (and not Day at all). As there already is a character named Jagger, Elton isn’t too far a stretch, and already comes with a different identity in the mind of the reader.

Now to write the second half in this new style.

Because my individual characters are demanding to be heard.


Other recent blogs about my writing projects:

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