Who the Hell Are You?

September 15, 2011

I sent the first chapter of a rewrite to my CP yesterday. She’s tasked with the impossible—to read a familiar story with familiar characters but pretend it’s fresh. (I give her a lot of credit. Life with my whims isn’t always easy.) Her critique pointed out something I’d missed: Who the heck is the heroine anyway? Not her name, not her profession, not her family and friends. We get the basics. What we don’t get is a sense of who she is as a person, as a character.

At one point, my CP addressed a paragraph that outlines the heroine’s attire: What are you trying to tell us about her here?

I had no idea.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my heroine. To start, I combed the Internet for pictures that would illustrate her personal style. Next, I picked my brain for real-life people whose personalities matched my heroine’s personality. As I went through lists of friends in my mind, I heard phrases like this: the flighty one, the funny one, the friendly one, the depressing one, the manipulative one, the outrageous one. I realized I couldn’t find a phrase that fit my heroine. The flighty one? Some people might see her that way, but not really. She’s a Ph.D. She’s very intelligent. The introspective one? Maybe, but still not quite right. I tried to fit a dozen tags to my heroine, and I ended up the confused one…which made me realize she was a confused one too.

I’m not sure confused as a personality trait makes for a strong heroine, but that’s what she is—always questioning and searching for answers. Part of it is because of her unstable childhood with a free-spirited mother who subscribes to some alternative theories about life. Although those beliefs don’t completely resonate with my heroine, it’s what she knows, what she’s used to, and there’s comfort in that (written by a former Catholic school girl who spent much of her life struggling too). Still, how old is too old to not know where you’re going in life—or at least where you want to be?

My heroine is twenty-nine, living at home and still trying to be what her mother wants her to be. Is that too old, too pathetic to be sympathetic and likeable?

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3 Responses to “Who the Hell Are You?”

  1. taristhread Says:

    I think it makes her relatable.So many of us are still trying to be what our mothers wanted us to be. Yet trying to find ourselves at the same time. Great feedback though, the better we know our characters the more real we can make them.


  2. I think she’s at a perfect age to start wondering why she’s still trying to be what her mother wanted her to be. She’s not a child still forming, but not too old to “grow up”. I don’t remember at what age I started questioning what my father wanted me to be, but it was older than that. Some start younger, but we all go through it. As taristhread says, it does make her relatable. Sounds like your on a good track.


  3. Thanks, Tari and Eugenia! Now I just have to weave enough of this into her character for the reader to know what’s going on. 🙂

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