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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who are you Sadie Thomas?

Do you ever wonder what happens to your characters when you leave them alone at night?

Do they just power down or fall into stand-by mode until tomorrow or whenever you return to them? Maybe it’s more like when the director calls off the action on a movie set. They drop their character personas and demand a bottle of Evian as they wait for the next take. I’m not really sure. All I know is that they haunt me like some weird form of schizophrenia.

Every one but my leading lady… I need a Behind the Scenes pass into her life because she’s not speaking to me yet.

I have to think that means I don’t like her. She doesn’t stick with me when I leave the keyboard. Sure, she pops into my brain in concert with others, as part of a scene or when I know I need her for something, but she’s just taking up space. Unlike the rest of them, I don’t see her or things she would do in my daily life and she certainly doesn’t whisper to me or invade my dreams.

I want her to be a well-rounded person. Really, I do. I just don’t know what she needs. Do I need a better picture of her in my head? Does she need more personality? Perhaps she’s fine and her time simply hasn’t come yet. In other words, the story hasn’t progressed enough for her to be mature.

I know she’s the right girl for the job. She has been from the start, but she’s really got me perplexed. She’s like the mystery guest on a game show who’s still only a silhouette behind a screen. The figure is opaque and the details haven’t emerged.

The worst part is that it has spurred a nagging feeling in my stomach. It’s made me feel like a neglectful parent, one that would rather have an affair with another book at night then get to know her own faceless introverted daughter. That’s because I’ve known my other characters intimately since we all began this journey together, even before they had names.

Why don’t I know who Sadie Thomas is yet?


  1. Wish I could help with this. My characters usually go into a coma until I come back to the story and reread what came before. I think I look at characters a little differently than you do. For me, I play act them. They don't live on their own until I come forward to play their role. Still, you have to know that character before you can act them out. Have you written out any kind of character sheet for her? Do you know her background? Her motivation? More importantly, what's wrong with her?

    Good first post, by the way. I'll be sure to heckle you for more. :)

  2. I would echo what the above poster said in finding "what's wrong with her". Even if your narrative is focused on another character, Sadie needs to have an arc.

    It sounds like she's more of a device at this point, she's there to provide conflict and to motivate your main character.

    If you already have her actions written, then find her motivation for those actions. Is she just an instigator? Or is the conflict she creates an unintended result of something else?

    Good post btw, creating a believable character doing believable things in an unbelievable story is a struggle to be sure.

  3. Maybe take Sadie for a ride: Pull out a map, find a spot at least an hour away. Turn off your stereo and cell phone, open the door for Sadie and buckle her in and take her for a drive. Hang out with her for a half hour or more wherever you took her, then drive her back home. If you listen to the stereo on the way home,choose some music she'll like too, even if you think it sucks. You can even drop her off at her house in Richmond before you head home. Then sit down and write a half hour on your trip with Sadie. Should do the trick, and it'll be fun.
    Glad you're doing this.

  4. Actually I am Sadie Thomas. Yes, I googled my own name :S