How To · Writing

Refusing to Budge

Stalled. That is the word that best describes my work in progress at the moment. Some call this writers block but I’ve found that it’s not so much as being blocked as the characters refusing to budge. Somewhere along the way of creating the approximately 35,000 words, I made a mistake and the characters know it. And in knowing that, they refuse to engage in any scene until I go back and fix it.

The problem is usually finding where I went off on a tangent that will create real problems later on in the book. Was it in the first 10,000 words … or even the first 10 … or later in the manuscript. How far back will I have to go in order to find this writer lapse of judgment and correct it. Now, I could just keep pushing through and make my characters continue down the path I set for them, but then the dialogue sounds stilted. The actions border on unbelievable because it’s not coming naturally from the story but being forced by the author. Sooner or later, I’ll have to make the fix. And it’s much easier doing it now at the halfway point than when the draft is completed.

This time I could sense where the problem rested. The hero is willing to do everything that I ask of him. He’s playing his role perfectly. Stepping up. Helping to create the conflict and increase the tension. It’s my heroine that refuses to partake in the story. She is disengaged from the scene even though she plays a key role. She’s present. She’s speaking … but yet she’s not there.

When I realized that the heroine was the key to my lack of word count, I knew the problem. One sentence the heroine spoke a few pages back brought the book to a standstill. Danita dropped her notes back into her bag. “This town doesn’t deserve you. They’ll be better off if this place gets bulldozed and you leave. Fend off Wade Peake on your own. Or better yet, let your brother do it.”

She is abandoning the hero and after what he said he deserves for her to walk away. Except … Danita is a fighter. She’s loyal. Her job is her life. She knows that the town is in trouble and their defender, the local pastor, isn’t quite capable of handling the battle with the mining company on his own. Hurt feelings and insults would never direct her actions. 

Of course, she never does really leave. She finds herself detained and lands up sticking around but the situation I created isn’t sitting well with my heroine. I’d never leave. That’s what her character keeps telling me. Fire off a few choice insults of her own … yes. Ignore the man and continue the case without his trust and respect … yes. Become a wrath that the hero must face and acknowledge … yes. Walk away. No.

It’s amazing how one sentence — seven words — can stop the flow of about 35,000 other ones. Fortunately, my heroine is a headstrong woman and refused to budge until I made it right. Time to rewrite a scene.

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