I’m going through a late edit of a supposedly finished book and receiving feedback from first readers. Once this is finished, I’ll send it out to fresh readers who have kindly offered to read through it for me.
The first readers have been really useful, honest and straightforward, not just marking up spelling or punctuation mistakes, noting differences between chapters. But it is the edit itself that has been the most interesting to note: a previously relatively minor character has come to the fore and insisted on taking a larger role.
Insisted? I know, characters you imagine cannot actually insist as it is just your own mind flagging something up to your (conscious) attention. But when the shape and structure of the book is considered, a hole can be seen into which the character obviously fits. Whilst she was consciously included in the first place to act as a foil and a liaison (a passive Ally), the character now helps bring the past into the present, helps support the principal during his worst moments, helps demonstrate an important aspect of his character and, as a result, is allowing me (forcing me?) to rewrite the penultimate chapters.
Feedback so far is that the inclusion of this character has been of immense help to the story.
Promoting a minor character to major status is a non-trivial task. They have to fit in with the shape of the novel so, of course, that has to change on top of any rewrites that have to be undertaken. But for me it is interesting to note that not only does the plot flow better with this character in it, but the new shape also has a closer fit with the Mythic Journey – which I’ve mentioned before and of which I am a fan. The whole book is stronger for her inclusion.
It makes me wonder how often such characters are lurking in a sub-optimal work-in-progress when all we have to do to lift the work is bring them to the fore. The lesson for me is to look out for such individuals in anything else I write.
Even if they are just in my imagination.