The idea for this new story I’m working on came from a dream I had in high school, and I wrote it down and elaborated on it a little at the time. Years passed, and I created a spreadsheet of all the unfinished stories I have (ones with at least a page synopsis, not the ones that live in my head unwritten). I asked Elena which ones she wanted dibs on for comics, and this one (I will call it Project C) was one of the first she claimed. But, she warned, there were going to have to be changes. Since the entire story was just a page at the time, I wasn’t worried. I’d made dramatic changes to stories before. I could do it again! But one of the changes she wanted was a shift in tone. See, the original dream was very dark. It opens at night, in the bad part of town. Even during the day, things are gray and dingy. There is danger and angst. It totally appealed to the high school me, but Elena has never liked working on that sort of thing, and I’ve learned that trying to push her in that direction leaves us both unsatisfied with the results. So, Project C must become less grim. I can do that! I immediately crossed out some the harsher elements (threats of death, ancillary forced prostitution, that kind of thing), but things were still leaning towards the dark side. I made some characters younger and changed the opening scene. Still gloomy. Then I had a eureka moment one night when I was obsessively watching a Korean historical drama. In it, the characters were really worried about something that seemed incredibly trivial, but to them it was vitally important. Suddenly it made perfect sense in context with Project C. I decided to change the item of contention to something more symbolic. It’s still of grand importance to the characters, but it also instantly lightens the tone of the story.
As the plot and tone have evolved, so too have the characters, but their development has lagged behind. For me, it’s harder to give up the concept of a character than to change a setting or even the whole trajectory of a plot. Even worse to get rid of a character completely; but that’s what I’m facing now. It occurred to me yesterday as I was brushing my teeth that I might not even need this one character. He’s one of the original characters from the dream, and he’s already undergone massive remodeling. But do I even need him in the story as it has become? He does play some functions in the story, but couldn’t those be taken over by another character? Taking him out would tighten up the plot for sure, but it will be sad to see him go.
I also have to focus on the personality of the main character. When I axed some of the earlier elements, she started to morph in my mind without any prompting. Her transformation made it clear that the romantic element of the story needed to get cut too, since she just isn’t interested in that sort of thing right now. But does she want it ever? Should I introduce the future option of romance? I have a way to do it, but I’m not sure if its warranted. I’m also a little worried that she will come off as too cold and introspective, and that will make the story seem slow. I’ll have to remember to let her smile from time to time. At least I finally realized she needed a best friend. It instantly made her less isolated and more open.
And finally, I’m wondering about gender. Why did I automatically choose to have a Crown Prince? In a fantasy story, why not a Crown Princess? Clearly I’m effected by real world monarchies. And I think to some degree I was holding on to the romance thing even though all the characters were telling me to give it up. But now that I’m considering getting rid of that other character, it might make sense to change the Prince’s rank and create a Walsingham character instead. Oh, I just had a great idea!!