You Know What’s Hard?

Sure you do. Lots of things are hard! Wood, rocks, disguising yourself as Mickey Rooney. But the thing I’m thinking of is this: trying to add a character to 100+ pages of manuscript.


I’ve deleted characters before and that wasn’t hard, because you know why? Usually, if you need to delete a character, they’re not in the story much anyhow. And really, if you have to add a character, their storyline is probably already in there somewhere. That’s how it is with this character. Here’s the basic rundown: Audrey, my literary YA protag, is dealing with the consequences of EVENT A that happened before the book. EVENT A was caused by Ian, who was not in the book until recently. His sister, Trudy, was. At my most recent school residency, we workshopped a few chapters of the MS. and everyone said this, “Cut Trudy. Add Ian.” Brilliant idea! I loved it! I wrote it all over my notes in ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT WAS AMAZING FEEDBACK AND IT TOTES WILL CHANGE MY LIFE FOREVERRRR. Then, a few weeks later, I reviewed my notes and said, How the heck do I add a whole new character?

My first plan of attack in Operation: Incorporate Ian (whose name may change now that he’s actually making appearances and what not) was to re-read the entire manuscript thus far. As I read, I made notes of scenes that would be good to add him in. These were often scenes that included Trudy. DOWN WITH TRUDY, IN WITH IAN.

What next? It was reading a little clunky. So I started to add more hints of Ian. More Audrey thinking about Ian.

The result? So far, I think it’s working. I like the story more and find it more engaging. (We’ll see what my prof says in a few weeks.) And while it’s been hard, it hasn’t been as hard as I anticipated. Remember like five seconds ago when I said, “If you have to add a character, their storyline is probably already in there somewhere.” (We were so young back then…) This was so true of Ian. EVENT A and its consequences were previously one of the driving forces of the novel. One SL in a novel with a plethora of SLs. Now that I’ve added Ian, it’s become the main SL (which my story was lacking terribly… but more on that later!).

Now just to incorporate more tension with Audrey’s mom …

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

4 thoughts on “You Know What’s Hard?

  1. I thought A’s Mom was pretty tensioned already, ya know? But, adding a character, other than how you describe it, (which I like) may be as simple as adding some air freshner to a room. You may be able to spray a little here, a little there, with nothing visible, but a clear after-presence.

    Or, it could be like chewing rocks. What do I know.

    1. I love the smell of after-presence in the morning. And I took out some of the tension with A’s mom last semester. I’m adding it back in, but in different spots and caused by different things and … and … andit’sbetterthiswayIswear!

  2. Been here! Although in my case it was more extending a storyline backward so it didn’t seem to come out of nowhere. The strategy you described works, but it definitely is clunky at first. You often need to start subtle, with hints here and there adding up to a point where you can inject the character or storyline more solidly.

    (So young back then!)

    1. That’s a good way too! With Ian I wanted to see in exactly which scenes he makes an actual appearance, and from there I’d see where to add A’s introspection/musings/reminiscing. Next time I need to add a character (please let it NOT be in this ms!) it might make more sense to start subtle and build from there. ^_^

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