Having finished the first draft of my novel and wanting to leave it simmer for a while, I decided to pull up an old character and flesh her out. The idea was simple; start a blog from the character’s perspective and see where she goes. The novel I started for this character was in third person, and obviously the blog would have to be first person, but I thought that writing from her eyes might give me a better handle on how she thinks and who she is. I saw this challenge as something akin to method acting, becoming the character in blog the way an actor might live as their character while shooting a movie.
The character I decided to use was something of a puzzle for me. I like her, she has a lot of heart but, as a marketer might say, no hook. She’s not a writer, dancer, or impressive professional. She has no outstanding talent. She is the everyman. While I decided that a story about your average person, without the sensationalism that accompanies some of our famous literary figures, could be fantastic. The problem in the writing was that her surrounding characters became overpowering. They all had hook, they couldn’t help it really, they just were that way, but poor mollycoddle got lost in the shuffle.
When starting this experiment, I fully expected to flesh our little Molly out by blogging from her perspective. I half-heartedly thought that no one would notice her, lost among all the many other blogs of writingup. What I found was astounding; my character fleshed herself out; not during the course of my writing her little blogs in her first person perspective, but from chatting with all of the other bloggers here! The comments section was where she really played, suddenly she just blossomed and chatted and showed me more of her world as if it was the most natural thing.
It was fun, because there were blogs that Molly was reading that I had a reaction to, but couldn’t comment that way in her persona. Why? Because she disagreed with me. (No, I’m not schizophrenic) There were bloggers that Molly met who I had never read before, what fun it was to find some of those.
Did it work?
Did it work? Was my experiment a success? I can say it was. I know the character better, but more than that, I think she was relatively convincing as a whole person. I noticed that many of the bloggers who I had interacted with as myself, responded to Mollycoddle in a completely different way. Some took her under their wings, and were mothering and nurturing to her – which I thought was wonderful, because Molly as a person is really very lost at this juncture in her life.
That was not the intent of the experiment; to see how other bloggers reacted to her. Though that became the most profound tool in judging her success as a formed character. The difference in this type of immersion writing comes from the fact that you have to write on your feet - the character has to react, in her own mind, rather than in the writer's vantage point.
I invite all of you interested in the process of it to take a look at Mollycoddle’s Blog most especially her character in comments. I’d love to hear any feedback on how well fleshed out she is, or where I’ve fallen short (I noticed more than a few discrepancies myself), or just a discussion about the process itself.
I am ending the experiment, not because there wasn’t more to learn but because my schedule has become too hectic and I’d like to get back to my revisions, which leaves no time for Molly right now. I will, I believe, pull that character back out at another juncture, and will, of course, let you all know if she goes anywhere. Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear what you think.