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Throw It All In

It is my belief that there is a moment in every writer’s life when they realize they’re trying too hard.

Mine came not when I started work on Missing Stars in mid-January, but on a dreary November long before I “got my shit together"— when I started my love/hate relationship with National Novel Writing Month. In an attempt to write the new science-fiction young adult hit, I decided the best way to do so would be to cram every plot device, every trope, every iota of every sci-fi movie, book, or tv show into one 50,000 word novella. 

There was space warfare melodrama (of course), but there was also teen-angst melodrama, sloppily added lesbian melodrama, father/son melodrama, and my personal favorite (only because of how horrible I realized it was later), sad, orphaned children melodrama. The book was a train wreck. But not because I didn’t create each character with care, not because I didn’t spend time drafting scenes, and definitely not because I wasn’t dedicated enough. It was because I mistook “good story” for “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink story.” I recovered, thankfully. I realized my mistakes. I edited, re-edited, wrote and deleted. I learned, but even in my role as a path writer, I find it hard to not throw in everything under the sun— and other writers have the same problems.

Writing Missing Stars isn’t a linear process. We don’t plan a path to the minute details and stick with it. We’re fluid in how scenes are drafted and discussed. But it is hard, when trying to think of a way to hold our audience’s attention, not to try and make each and every character the star of the show— even Erik, our male lead. 

It may seem almost too easy not to go:

“Oh, let’s make so-and-so a hacker omnisexual hipster drug addict with a tragic past and a talking chimp!” 

Yeah, it’s an exaggeration to the extreme, but it’s pretty damn hard not to try and make your characters appeal to the audience in an eye-catching way. You want your character to be loved, and you want your work to be recognized. An exaggerated gimmick isn’t the way to do that, no matter how simple it is. That’s what makes it hard to write one character in a cast of many. You want them to be heard, but they can’t stand out too much. A cast full of gimmicks and outrageous characters is noisy.

So just how do you avoid this slippery slope? I’m still learning myself. But as a team, we’re working hard to make sure that while every character is a star in the world of Missing Stars, they should all be unique in their own way without overwhelming the audience. 

And for goodness’ sake, don’t write a character with a talking chimp.


credit to blackjack