. . . our characters!!!
What I didn't know about my characters? Oh, let me tell you what I didn't know about my characters for this project. Everything! Yes, everything. Okay, it really wasn't that bad. I, like my main character, just had these preconceived notions about the supporting players. I mean, I was creating these supporting players, so surely, surely, I knew absolutely everything about them.
Boy, was I wrong.
Like my main character, I suddenly realized that everything I thought I knew, was a tad bit off base. Okay, a bit more than a tad, just a bit, and I realized (well, I already knew this, but I needed a jumping off point for this post) that characters do not leap fully formed from the brilliance of my mind to the Word Document on my computer screen. The characters emerge partially sketched and it is up to me, the creator, to turn that partial sketch into a full work of art throughout the entire writing process, from first draft to final draft. Yes, the characters will continue to change and grow through the various draft forms.
Now, I'm only in rough draft phase right now. I'm typing along, minding my own business, and that of my characters, and suddenly the main character learns some things about his mother. He's shocked, surprised (no, she wasn't running an escort service on the side) and realizes that the image of his mother he had in his mind is more ficitonalized then he likes. In fact, his mother put it so much better (well, it was me, but . . .): You just can't handle it that I'm not the unaccepting bitch you imagined I'd be.
In a nutshell, the illusions are shattered and the MC realizes that, unfortunately, his mother is right.
Now, all through the manuscript, up to this pivotal point, I painted the mother in a fairly harsh light. I had no clue about her outside activities (who knew she worked for a covert operations team and - kidding, she didn't, but . . .) until one character spilled the beans. I hate when my characters keep secrets from me. It's really not fair. Then, suddenly, even I was seeing this character in a different light and - bingo, bango, the light bulb went off that: I really don't know my characters completely when I first begin the story. I, like the future readers of my novel, get to know this character slowly, over time, and not in one, fell, swoop!
Then, there is the character without a name. Yes, he is nameless. At this point, he's always referred to as the youngest son, your brother, your father's clone or some other reference. Why? Well, I'm not sure what purpose he serves and, until he serves a purpose, he shall remain nameless. I know the basics of this character, as sketched out by the other characters, and I see the potential for one, big, dramatic, scene that, if the book were a movie, would be an Oscar winning performance. Okay, maybe not, but a guy can dream!
The thing is, as much as we (I) sketch out our (my) characters beforehand in a nifty little Excel worksheet, there are times when these characters will do or become the unexpected. The mother of my main character did just that, and boy, did she surprise both the MC and me! Now, her motivations for what she did (think Mother Teresa but on a much, much smaller scale - okay, not really, but . . .) weren't golden in the beginning, were a bit selfish, but, over time, the reason changed. She changed.
So, as you're writing along, and one of your characters does the unexpected, don't go WTH, but rather, go hmmmmm and keep on writing. For, as much as we think we know about our characters because we created them, we really don't know that much about them until we actually finish our manuscripts of brilliance.