Writing Fiction: Forcing Mind, Letting-Go Mind.

So, my task: to rewrite a character. To be fair, it’s not one that’s been set for me. I’ve just decided to do it. The problem being that I have no confidence in the main male character in my second novel. I was told, recently, that he was cold. When I started re-reading the novel, I thought it was more than that, he was bitter and aggressive.

The key word in rewriting seems to be ‘warmer’. So, I could either hammer him into a warmer shape – which would feel a bit like neutering. Or I could start again.

Then, I remembered the husband of a friend. A truly warm, enthusiastic, pleasant man. And a phrase, ‘An angel with low self-esteem’ came to mind. My inner self said, yes.

Good. The problem is, I now have two voices in my head. Not the characters, but the parts of myself that would either like to force a quick solution to this, or are prepared to give up control, see what feels right, and work from there. I have loyalty to both.

The first voice says, ‘Can’t we just use some of that great writing from the many previous versions, and then fit the new character around them: best of both worlds!’ The second says, ‘This will only work if you’re prepared to truly let go and follow the character. New writing will develop; old writing will find its place, or fall away.’ Then first voice comes back, ‘But that will take ages! And you can’t hang around. A properly revised novel needs to be ready quickly. Agents don’t wait.’ The second voice, ‘It won’t be great unless you let it grow at its own speed.’

And on, and on.

My favourite comic characters, as a child, were The Numbskulls. Little thinkers inhabiting a cutaway brain. Turns out, it was a psychologically accurate portrayal of the mind.

The battle will go on. If my comic is to be believed, the usual way it is resolved is by an outside force. But, in the absence of a falling television set, I will just have to work it out for myself.

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