Characters Speak Louder than Words
When I create a story, it begins with a dramatic circumstance that impels me to write. Almost immediately, my characters’ features come to mind. I imagine their appearances, their personalities, and their motivations, even their initial paths and their final goals come pretty easily. The hard part comes in designing their circuitous journey through the mazes of uncertainty, secondary characters’ interferences, and unexpected hazards and crises along the way. What I see as the most important and what I feel I know well, is my characters’ hearts.
My characters, however, sometimes prove me wrong. They develop characteristics I didn’t plan on at original creation. They might speak to me in the most unusual places—in a dream, in the shower, on a walk, or in the midst of baking cookies. They tell me where they want to go, or argue with me if I’ve placed them in a situation that isn’t of their choosing.
Recently, I changed the cover of my newest historical fiction release, The Diary of Narcissa Dunn. Throughout the time it was promoted and published, I had a niggling feeling something wasn’t right, but it appeared to be well received. My discomfort remained despite my attempts to shrug off the feeling. It took me some time, but I finally realized my main character, Olivia, was not happy.
She is the one suffering in the story; she is the one having strange recurring dreams that make little sense to her; she is the one who is being deceived by the one person she should trust with her life, and she is the one being forced into a marriage not of her choosing.
Yet, she wasn’t on the cover.
I finally got it. It didn’t matter about high sales, it didn’t matter if I heard varying opinions, what mattered is feeling comfortable that I had done the best for my character; that I could ease my character’s strife and, perhaps, cause readers to go along on her journey and root her on to find the love she deserves.
She is now on the cover, appealing to the world to solve the mystery of her recurring dreams and to help her overcome her worst nightmare, the loss of all she holds dear. Olivia must discover the secrets hidden in Narcissa’s diary, secrets that will bring her unimaginable sorrow before joy can emerge from its depths.
Olivia must choose her own path, not only in her story, The Diary of Narcissa Dunn, but as she continues her journey in the upcoming sequel, Seeds of Hope.
Yes, an author’s words attempt to manipulate a character’s actions, but the characters can speak louder and the author must, humbly, follow their lead.