“It had a lot of characters,” he said, “which usually frustrates me, but the author did a great job of introducing only one at a time. That made it easy for me to get to know them and keep them straight.”
Then he gave me the look.
And I sank down in my chair.
‘Cause I know I have a problem. I’m a New Character Addict. Why bring in one new character when I can have three? Or five? It’s a problem that runs rampant through all my first drafts, and it’s definitely attributable to my being a pantster at heart. (I bet people who outline don’t have this problem.) But when you’re making up the story as you go, with only the barest glimpse of your target ending, a lot of unexpected and uninvited characters turn up along the way.
Some of them end up being important — maybe even show-stoppers — so it’s essential that I let this process run its course, even if it’s frustrating to my CPs. I try not to worry because I know in later drafts I’ll put on my Grim Reaper robe, get out my scythe, and start slashing characters.
Sometimes, I see the solution even earlier than that. For instance, last week I wrote a chapter in which three new characters appeared – a mother and daughter we’d heard about before – and a scientist. It occurred to me afterward that if the mother was also the scientist, three characters could be reduced to two. Now that I’ve seen the solution, it’s hard for me to go on writing this soon-to-be-merged-with-another-character scientist, but I feel compelled to do so for my own first-drafting brain, as well as the sanity of my CPs. He’s doomed, but he’s part of the first draft.
What sins do YOU commit in your first drafts?