Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Greyhaus Guest Blogger - Battling Themes Causing Bi-Polar Characters

Susie Sheehey really hit the nail on the head with this one. I have to say, I told you so, but this is again one of those issues where plotters will tend to be much more successful. Still, the problem Susie is facing is a very common one.

Writers have to find a way to keep in mind "the big picture" of their stories. This is especially true when we consider our normal way of editing and getting feedback. We never look at the full story, but small segments and blocks of the story.

I am reminded in this case of my mother-in-law. I will tell you, she was a great person but I hated the approach she took when it came to home decorating. She would focus on one part of her house but not look a the grand scheme of things. So she would change her dining room. It looked good, but it connected to the living room. So we would then hear complaints for months and then she would change the living room (but would forget the dining room). Now that room was out of sync. Writers do the same thing.


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I've realized why I'm stuck in my writing this week. After a few weeks of frustrating writer's block, and having to delete several chapters and revise several scenes, I read at my local writer's group who gave me another reason to be frustrated. I'm not frustrated with the writers group- not at all. They pointed out another serious flaw that I have to go back and fix. But it gave me the first insight into my much bigger problem that spurned all the others I was fighting.

My theme is all screwed up in my current project. Some days my theme is about my heroine trying to reclaim the life she wanted before her injury. Other days my theme is focused on the anger and frustration in trying to deal with the pain of her injury. And other days is all focused on going after the love of her life. So when I sat back and compared the scenes, my heroine seems strangely bi-polar. Extreme highs and lows in her emotions and behaviors from one day to the next, its hard for me to keep track. I can only imagine what the reader would think.

My writer's group told me that in the scene I presented, my main character is too nice. She was boring. I needed to *itch her up. And they were right. In that particular scene, she was trying to be too polite and accommodating. But in the next scene, she was a raging, chemically imbalanced drama queen that sparked from a phone call. And the cycle seems to repeat itself over the next few scenes.

After perusing a few author's blogs I follow and a several other sites, I narrowed down on my overall issue. I have too many themes and they're all battling each other. I need to get a handle on which theme I want the most prevalent in the book and write the scenes that way. In fact, its suggested to write my theme on a piece of paper, and tape the paper to my laptop or on my desk while I write. That way I'm constantly reminded of the MAIN THEME throughout my piece. Because the other themes are present in my mind and in the overall situation, they'll be lingering in the background, but I can't let those overpower the main theme.

So now my problem is picking the major theme.


  1. Ah, Susie...been there, done that. I really enjoyed your blog and smiled in frustration right along with you.

    And Scott, I hope your mother-in-law doesn't read your blog! lol Although, she sounds like the type of lady who would laugh and pat you on the cheek, knowing you meant no malice, as I did.

  2. This happens to me when I start a story, when the character is new to me. There comes a point when you become so accustomed to a character that you're able to own her, navigate her. That's when the bi-poral personality ends...or mayble it's just me. Hey, don't knock the pansters. Although, I will admit that it's easier to write when there's a set direction to the plot already planned out.

  3. Thanks for the post Susie! I really enjoyed it. I agree with you Laila. The characters begin to flow, come into their own much more as you go!