Dear Friends, This is David Telbat with a page from my Writer’s Tablet. I recently dealt with a manuscript that required some serious character development. As I read through it, I was left with a deep sadness that the lengthy story I’d written ten years earlier wasn’t as complete as I’d thought! For you writers out there—and you readers who enjoy an inside view of the craft—consider my problem and the eventual solution I found through prayer.
Characters that Don’t Inspire
So, there I was, staring at the last page of a novel I’d written and rewritten, and read a dozen times, realizing that it was lacking inspiration. I was devastated. And a deadline was fast approaching to get the manuscript back to Dee, my editor. But I couldn’t send it to her like that—so incomplete, so . . . blah. The main character wasn’t inspiring, and that made the whole adventure uninspiring.
Sometimes we authors aren’t honest with ourselves about the books we write. We focus on the good things, like all the creative research we did, or the high-octane adventure—and we think that ornamentation will pull the story through. The flaws won’t be noticed next to the shiny pebbles, we hope.
But when we apply the microscope and consider all the elements—particularly the characters of the novel—then we can see the heart of the matter. It is, after all, the characters of a story that readers will grow close to—or be pushed away from. And that’s where I was, realizing that, regardless of all my hard work, there was more work to do or the book would flop, great story or not. But what could I do to develop a character after the novel was already written?
Affliction that Develops
I took my problem to God in prayer. Prayer, I’ve found, saves me from unnecessary and prolonged grief. I could mourn my problem, or I could pray through my problem. God presented the solution almost immediately: affliction!
Affliction was the answer to my character development problem. I needed to afflict my lead character with something so horrible that he would be forever endeared (hopefully) to readers’ hearts, because he would have this affliction as he lived through the story. Not only did I give my hero an affliction, I gave him a secret, subtle affliction, which made him even more of a hero. Now, he was an inspiration for not giving up on life or others. Finally, I had before me a character who readers could say, “Look what this character does with this affliction!”
The Personal Side
The affliction I gave my character is real to the world. I have a close personal friend in Christ who has this same affliction, so it’s something dear to my heart, because someday, this affliction will take his life, unless our Lord returns first, or heals him. And this character in the book will now memorialize my friend, as the character inspires others through his affliction.
So what was the affliction I gave my character? Well, it took some serious book-surgery to trickle the new insertions throughout the manuscript, bringing me closer to the deadline, but—I can’t tell you what the affliction is, or to which character. That would ruin the story for you. It’s all in the latest COIL book, Distant Contact, Book One of The COIL Legacy.
The point is this: I believe giving this character a tougher life will make the whole read more enjoyable, and the adventure more meaningful. And certainly, what challenge doesn’t add a little color to each of our lives? I pray you enjoy this story.
See you on the next page!
You can read other writing posts by D.I. Telbat here.
COMING UP: Join us next time for another new short story by David Telbat, “A Heart for America: Time is Running Out.” And for our following post, we have David’s Author Reflection, “Do you Hate Darkness?”