Writing Woes: More Axing

tumblr_opv9n93dxm1w0ecego2_540I wrote before about cleaning up the tangled mess of my first draft by axing characters from the story. I just finished the 2nd scene-by-scene outline of my 2nd draft and I realize that I *still* have a ton of characters, and for a first novel, it’s probably not a good idea for me to write all their stories at once.

In that previous post, I decided to remove the thread about the couple of cursed warriors. But for some reason, between outlines, they came back, and somehow their story seems better welded to the overarching plot. And because I already have their character arcs figured out, I don’t have any qualms about writing them at all. I’m actually excited to write about them.

So that means I have to pull out a different thread. At first I was confident that my recent tapering of the plot would be enough to squeeze in everything that I wanted, but after the outline I finished yesterday, that turned to be false. See, a few hours after I finished the outline, I realized there was one thread I forgot to resolve! And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be difficult to resolve it in the current state of the plot.

It seems as if there’s one perfectly good way to solve this problem: just delete that thread. Right? I mean, here I am struggling with all these threads, and I know deep inside that I need to remove something. Why not remove the one I don’t even know how to weave in?

As much sense as it makes, this saddens me more than it should. See, this thread that I’m referring to is the one about Xiehun Tan, the son of the merchant from the empire who is investigating his father’s mysterious death. I talked a little about him in that other axing post, and I thought about removing his thread before. At that time I found it too difficult to extract him from the story, because it’s so intertwined with the female protagonist’s past. I also didn’t want to lose the international dimension of the story. And because Xiehun is the only character I have from a totally different region, getting rid of him would be getting rid of the connection to that region.

But I found myself grappling with a more pressing problem. See, I like to write characters in dynamic duos. We have Sano and Anina, who are the main protagonists, we have the 2 cursed warriors, we have the father-daughter villainous duo, and another couple that I’m not going to reveal just yet. Then we have Xiehun, the merchant’s son, and a character named Makeni, who manages the largest port in the kingdom. This dynamic duo is supposed to be second to the Sanino team. And yet, I’m having a tough time developing Makeni as a character. Xiehun is pretty developed, and I like him a lot. But if his thread is going to be the second major thread, then Makeni has to be a pretty compelling character too, or else she’s going to feel like a drag.

As I researched ways to streamline long stories, one of the advice that keeps popping up is to combine characters so that you don’t have too many. Combining Makeni and Xiehun’s roles seems to be the best resolution to my problem. And while Xiehun’s character is more developed than Makeni’s, it’s actually his role that seems more dispensable if I really want to simplify things. Makeni can still go about solving his father’s death on her own, because she’s the one who has to help Xiehun with the mystery anyway. And with Xiehun out of the way, I have more time to develop Makeni’s character.

So, so, so… that’s probably how things are going to end up.

I might make allusions to Xiehun, but he’s most likely just not going to end up in this story. It’s a bit of a bummer, because I’ve talked quite a bit about him on my Tumblr posts, and unlike other characters, I’ve actually drawn him. Now I feel like it’s going to be weird if people who know about him won’t see him in the final product. There aren’t that many people who are following my writing journey at least. So yeah, for those of you reading, just know that the cast for this story is not set in stone. I might yet axe more characters.

And with that, I say goodbye to Xiehun.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Woes: More Axing

  1. How many characters to have is always a good question. My one friend frequently complains about “character soup” in book. And I once read a manuscript as part of an application to intern with a literary agency that had over 45 characters–in a short middle grade novel. (I suggested not accepting the manuscript, but apparently that was the wrong answer because I didn’t get the internship, but whatever.) But my problem is often when the characters seem thrown in, particularly when the book is episodic and the protagonist just meets character after character. If the character has an actual sub plot, I think I’m more open to it.

    • Thanks for the input! I definitely have less than 45 characters, so there’s that, lol. Yeah, I think it’s easier to remember a character when they have something important to contribute to in the plot. I strive for my characters to have meaningful contributions, but lately I feel as if the plot itself could be better streamlined.

      (Sorry to hear about that internship! It’s their loss, I’m sure. =))

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