I’m trying to hit my word count every day to keep my writing habit sharp. But I’m not allowing myself to write any words for the upcoming November draft. For a few days, I floundered around trying to figure out what to do. I started doing character bios, but for some reason, it’s always seemed like a chore to me.
Instead, I decided to make a Scrivener sheet for the major and supporting characters and write a synopsis of the plot from their perspective. I wrote what they were thinking about or experiencing during certain scenes. I wrote what they were doing “offstage” when the main character was having his story without them. That automatically gave me loads of backstory for everyone.
When I wrote only from the main character’s point of view, I’d get stuck. I felt like sometimes the supporting characters acted or reacted the way they did because they had to do it for plot’s sake. It seemed forced and unnatural but I still wanted the scene to happen. Writing from the supporting character’s point of view has fixed so many issues I had. It was much easier for me to understand how it could, would, and should be realistic for them to act and respond the way I needed them to. The minor character’s actions made more sense to me and I felt like this November, I’m going to write a much stronger draft because of this exercise.
Here’s a specific example. I was having a hard time with my main character’s love interest, Barrie. Throughout the story, he needs to run hot and cold for Reddy. Before I wrote from his perspective, “didn’t want to to enter a long term relationship in the first place” was his only motivation for not fully getting on board to falling in love. That’s a really weak motivation. Barrie was starting to seem like a bit of a fickle jackass to me. I was getting ready to kick him out and replace him with someone else who was more sympathetic and likeable.
But then I wrote a summary of the story from Barrie’s perspective. And now I get it. I thought I’d need a complicated backstory to make his behavior make sense, but it was surprisingly simple.
Barrie is deeply attracted to intelligence. For him, it’s more important than someone’s looks. It’s even more important than gender. Barrie is a scholar. Both of his parents are professors and his siblings are all academics. He’s been brought up to believe that academic achievement is the best measure of intellect.
Reddy is very intelligent, but he has several disabilities due to being a certain kind of mage. One of his biggest hurdles is that he’s “text blind.” Basically, that means he’s completely incapable of learning how to read. Because of this, he’s been denied access to an education. And because of this, he has serious knowledge gaps.
Barrie has never in his life spent time with someone with absolutely no education. It’s almost impossible for him to wrap his head around the idea that someone could be intelligent, yet not know basic history, geography or science. Reddy can’t even identify all of the letters in the alphabet. There are many scenes I outlined from Barrie’s point of view, and I now know all the moments that Barrie inwardly winces, cringes and feels physically sick when Reddy says something that betrays his ignorance.
I knew all these things about Barrie beck I wrote this story from his perspective. I just didn’t feel much sympathy for him. Now, looking through his eyes, I sympathize for him completely. As a bonus, I also discovered several character flaws my protagonist has that I didn’t even notice when I wrote from his perspective. I invented the guy, so you’d think I’d know his flaws, but it’s funny. When I switched things up and made Barrie the main character, I found myself noticing things about him that most people don’t see when they look at themselves.
Anyway, I love this exercise and I can’t wait to write from a different character’s point of view tomorrow.